Category Archives: Henry DeVries

How to Hire Top Candidates with Storytelling

By Henry DeVries

Henry DeVriesA tough challenge for many executives is convincing top talent to join their company. A second challenge is training newcomers to understand the company’s core values.

To become better at hiring and training, it pays to know how humans are hardwired for stories. If you want the prospective employees to think it over, give them lots of facts and figures. If you want them to decide to join your company for the right reasons, then tell them the right story.

Now any executive can easily use proven techniques of telling a great story employed by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and Wall Street by employing six simple steps to storytelling to attract the right candidates and properly train them on your company culture.

These stories must be true case studies but told in a certain way. The process starts with understanding your core values.

Core Values are Key

Top candidates don’t want to work just anywhere. They want an organization where they align with the core values.

Every business has core values, although some have not formally stated what they are. Basically, core values are the guiding principles that drive and organization’s conduct both internally with employees and externally with customers. Here are a few examples of core values of small to medium-sized businesses:

  • We go the extra mile for customers
  • We do whatever it takes to get the job done
  • We value integrity, which means doing what you say you are going to do
  • We are honest and transparent with employees and customers
  • We value quality as job number one

The list of possibilities is mighty long. Core values are a decision that company leaders make. But just naming a core value is not enough.To become better at hiring and training, it pays to know how humans are hardwired for stories. Click To Tweet

The Core Value Storytelling Formula

For every core value, the company should capture a true story of that core value in action. Here is a quick overview of the core value storytelling formula:

  1. Start with a main character. Every story starts with the name of a character who wants something. This is your client. Make your main characters likable so the listeners will root for them. To make them likable, describe some of their good qualities or attributes. Generally, three attributes work best: “Marie was smart, tough, and fair” or “Johan was hardworking, caring and passionate.” For privacy reasons you do not need to use their real names (“this is a true story, but the names have been changed to protect confidentiality”).
  2. Have a nemesis character. Stories need conflict to be interesting. What person, institution, or condition stands in the character’s way? The villain in the story might be a challenge in the business environment, such as the recession of 2008 or the Affordable Care Act (the government is always a classic nemesis character).
  3. Bring in a mentor character. Heroes need help on their journey. They need to work with a wise person. This is where you come in. Be the voice of wisdom and experience. The hero does not succeed alone; they succeed because of the help you provided.
  4. Know what story you are telling. Human brains are programmed to relate to one of eight great meta-stories. These are: monster, underdog, comedy, tragedy, mystery, quest, rebirth, and escape. If the story is about overcoming a huge problem, that is a monster problem story. If the company was like a David that overcame an industry Goliath, that is an underdog story.
  5. Have the hero succeed. Typically, the main character needs to succeed, with one exception: tragedy. The tragic story is told as a cautionary tale. Great for teaching lessons, but not great for attracting clients. Have the hero go from mess to success (it was a struggle, and they couldn’t have done it without you).
  6. Give the listeners the moral of the story, which is the core value. Take a cue from Aesop, the man who gave us fables like The Tortoise and the Hare (the moral: slow and steady wins the race). Don’t count on the listeners to get the message. The storyteller’s final job is to tell them what the story means.

Six Ways to Put Stories into Action

After you build an inventory of stories that demonstrate your core values in action, you are then ready to deploy the stories. In storytelling, context is everything. You should never randomly tell stories, but instead use stories at the right strategic times.

Here are six perfect opportunities to persuade with a story:

  1. During a job interview. No, don’t start the interview telling stories. However, once the candidate has shared about themselves, then the interviewer can share stories about the core values of the organization.
  2. During a training class. Core values should be taught during training. First, state the core value and then explain what that means. For them to really get the point, tell a story about that core value in action.
  3. At weekly staff meetings. One executive boasted that his organization had 22 core values, and they were on posters throughout the office. Asked if he had any stories to illustrate, a little red faced he said “No.” Now every week at staff meeting they tell a story to illustrate one of the twenty-two core values.
  4. At company-wide meetings. Is it time to assemble all the troops? Maybe for a change in direction or for recognition? This is a perfect time for core value selling.
  5. On the company website. Promote core value stories on your website to detail for clients and potential clients the power of story.
  6. In company brochures and collateral material. Since stories connect on an emotional level, doesn’t it make sense to put them down in writing?

Storytelling helps persuade on an emotional level. Maybe that is why so many Fortune 500 companies are honing in on storytelling techniques and imparting that wisdom on their sales and business development professionals to tell relatable stories that will convince prospects.

Henry DeVries, CEO of Indie Books International, works with consultants to attract high-paying clients by marketing with a book and speech. As a professional speaker, he teaches sales and business development professionals how to build an inventory of persuasive stories. He is the author of “Marketing with a Book” and “Persuade with a Story!” For more information, visit www.indiebooksintl.com.

Mistakes to Avoid When Communicating Change

By Henry DeVries

Henry DeVriesGulp. Suppose the time has come to communicate a major change for your organization. Maybe it is a downsizing, a restructuring, or a switch to total quality management. The change is so important the future of the company depends on it.

Employees are mustered to the cafeteria where the CEO makes an impassioned speech worthy of a field marshal. Following the call to arms, the communications campaign launches an offensive on several fronts. All locations are bombarded with videos. Special editions of the employee newsletter sound the battle cry. Platoons of senior executives fan out to deliver the message on a more personalized basis to the troops.

But the war is already lost. Why? Because this approach is wrong, wrong, wrong. Not only will it fall flat, it is positively harmful.

Ask employees what information source they prefer. According to a study by the International Association of Business Communications, nine out of ten employees said they want to hear it directly from their supervisor. The mistake that dooms most campaigns seeking to win support for new business goals is the failure to let supervisors explain the change to front-line employees.

To achieve optimal results, campaigns to communicate potentially unpopular changes to employees should be viewed as an applied science. Unfortunately, this do not happen at most large companies. Case studies, surveys and research clearly show that the best practices for a major change are to communicate directly to supervisors and to use face-to-face communication, which includes storytelling.Workers want to work for someone who is connected and has a degree of power within the organization. Click To Tweet

The rate of major change is accelerating rapidly in business today, and many executives will be called upon to make major change communications decisions as part of a senior executive team. Knowing the four biggest mistakes of change communication will increase their chances of success.

Mistake 1—Many well-meaning CEOs attempt to improve change communications by going the direct route: These CEOs naturally want to talk directly to the front-line employees, usually supported by the advice of senior human resources executives and consultants. Unfortunately, it is a mistake that is wrong for two reasons.

First, it can be viewed as a mere symbolic move, and today’s disillusioned worker has little love for the empty gesture. Second, and more damaging, these campaigns can weaken the relationship between front-line workers and supervisors. Workers want to work for someone who is connected and has a degree of power within the organization. They want to know their supervisor has some pull, and is not viewed as powerless.

Mistake 2—Other well-intentioned senior executives push for equality in the workplace: They believe supervisors should sit shoulder-to-shoulder with front-line employees to hear the big news.

Again, a mistaken strategy because it is evidence of senior management’s failure to recognize the supervisor’s superior status. This reduces the supervisor’s perceived power and weakens his or her effectiveness as a force of change. What many senior executives fail to realize is that the only communications with the power to change behavior is the kind between a supervisor and a direct report.

Mistake 3—Applying the strategy that more must be better, executives in charge of change campaigns use ink by the barrel: They think the solution is more employee reports, posters, news bulletins, video scripts, team briefing outlines, brochures and guidebooks. This too is the wrong approach, because the critical communication is the type that happens face-to-face between a supervisor and front-line employees.

Energy and resources should be directed toward producing supervisor briefing cards which will arm them to answer the key questions that are in the minds of their staff.

Mistake 4—Not giving supervisors a persuasive story to tell can be a tactical error: Storytelling helps persuade on an emotional level. Stories are the building blocks of company culture.

If there is already a true story to tell about how the change will benefit the company, so much the better. If not, at least give supervisors a narrative to tell about how success can be achieved in the future. Every story starts with the name of a character who wants something. Make your main character likable or the victim of undeserved misfortune so the listeners will root for them. To make them likable, describe some of their good qualities or attributes.

Heroes need help on their journey. They need to work with a wise person. This is where your organization comes in. Be the voice of wisdom and experience. The hero does not succeed alone; they succeed because of the help you provided.

Finally, give the listeners the moral of the story. Take a cue from Aesop, the man who gave us fables like The Tortoise and the Hare (the moral: slow and steady wins the race). Don’t count on the listeners to get the message. The storyteller’s final job is to tell them what the story means.

The Bottom Line on Communicating Change: While other forms of communications should not be abolished, the emphasis should be on making supervisors privileged receivers of information. The strategy is to empower the supervisors.

When the future of the firm is on the line, ultimately it’s the CEO’s job to make sure change is communicated the best way possible. After the employees get the skinny from the supervisors, then the CEO can talk to all to reinforce the message.

The wise CEOs will use their supervisors, and properly arm them, to ensure success.

Henry DeVries, CEO of Indie Books International, works with consultants to attract high-paying clients by marketing with a book and speech. As a professional speaker, he teaches sales and business development professionals how to build an inventory of persuasive stories. He is the author of Marketing with a Book and Persuade with a Story! For more information, visit www.indiebooksintl.com

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Increase Sales with the Simple Six-Step Heroic Storytelling Formula

By Henry DeVries

Henry DeVriesA tough challenge for many in business is convincing enough prospects to hire them. To become more persuasive, it pays to know how humans are hardwired for stories. If you want the prospect to think it over, give them lots of facts and figures. If you want them to decide to hire you, tell them the right story.

Storytelling helps persuade on an emotional level. Maybe that is why so many Fortune 500 companies are putting an emphasis on teaching their sales and business development professionals storytelling techniques that will move units and convince prospects to come aboard.

Now any business leader or sales professional can easily use proven techniques of telling a great story employed by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and Wall Street by employing “The Simple Six-Step Heroic Storytelling Formula” to gain the chance to make a proposal or close the sale.

These stories must be true case studies, but told in a certain way. Here is a quick overview of the formula: Be the voice of wisdom and experience. Click To Tweet

1.Start with a main character. Every story starts with the name of a character who wants something. This is your client. Make your main characters likable so the listeners will root for them. To make them likable, describe some of their good qualities or attributes. Generally, three attributes work best: “Marie was smart, tough, and fair” or “Johan was hardworking, caring and passionate.” For privacy reasons you do not need to use their real names (“this is a true story, but the names have been changed to protect confidentiality”).

2. Have a nemesis character. Stories need conflict to be interesting. What person, institution, or condition stands in the character’s way? The villain in the story might be a challenge in the business environment, such as the recession of 2008 or higher tax rates (the government is always a classic nemesis character).

3. Bring in a mentor character. Heroes need help on their journey. They need to work with a wise person. This is where you come in. Be the voice of wisdom and experience. The hero does not succeed alone; they succeed because of the help you provided. 

4. Know what story you are telling. Human brains are programmed to relate to one of eight great meta-stories. These are: monster, underdog, comedy, tragedy, mystery, quest, rebirth, and escape. If the story is about overcoming a huge problem, that is a monster problem story. If the company was like a David that overcame an industry Goliath, that is an underdog story.

5. Have the hero succeed.  Typically the main character needs to succeed, with one exception: tragedy. The tragic story is told as a cautionary tale. Great for teaching lessons, but not great for attracting clients.  Have the hero go from mess to success (it was a struggle, and they couldn’t have done it without you).

6. Give the listeners the moral of the story. Take a cue from Aesop, the man who gave us fables like The Tortoise and the Hare (the moral: slow and steady wins the race). Don’t count on the listeners to get the message. The storyteller’s final job is to tell them what the story means.

Six Ways to Put Stories into ActionAfter you build an inventory of stories that demonstrate how you take clients from mess to success, you are then ready to deploy the stories. In storytelling, context is everything. You should never randomly tell stories, but instead use stories at the right strategic times.

Here are six perfect opportunities to persuade with a story

1. During an Initial Call to Get a Meeting.  Never lead with the story. First have a conversation with the prospect. Ask about their goals, what they are doing right, and what they see as the roadblocks they hope you can help them get past. At this point ask: “May I tell you a true story about how we helped a client get from where you are now to where you want to go?”  

2. To Close a Client During a Meeting. For many companies, business development is not a one-step close. During an initial get together you gather information and in the subsequent meeting you propose a course of action. This is the time to add a case history story of a client that was in a similar situation.

3. On a Website and in Collateral Material. Get rid of those dry case studies on the website. Instead, convert them to the more persuasive story format of the six-step formula. This also applies to your marketing collateral. Don’t just tell when stories will sell. In your brochures and information kits replace drab case histories with persuasive heroic success stories (remember your role is as a wise mentor).

4. During a New Business Presentation. Oftentimes, you may be asked to make a presentation to a group.  Because humans are hardwired for stories, this is a perfect opportunity to make your pitch memorable.

5. During a Speech or Media Interview.  Occasionally you may receive an invitation to make a speech or give an interview to the media. Illustrate your message with a pithy story.

6. To Train Employees on Core Values.  Stories can also be the gift to your business that keeps giving. Reinforce core values with employees and new hires through sharing the inventory of stories.

Bottom line: Nothing is as persuasive as storytelling with a purpose. The right stories can work wonders whether you are using them in a one-to-one meeting, in a presentation that is one-to-several, or in a speech or publicity that is one-to-many. Start today to build an inventory of persuasive stories.

Henry DeVries, CEO of Indie Books International, works with consultants to attract high-paying clients by marketing with a book and speech. As a professional speaker, he teaches sales and business development professionals how to build an inventory of persuasive stories. He is the author of “Marketing with a Book” and “Persuade with a Story!” For more information, visit www.indiebooksintl.com