How do you tell a convincing story? This question is an important one for anyone working on a proposal.
According to Jennifer Aaker, a business school professor at Stanford University and a well-known author, powerful stories can be a great asset. “Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” As Aaker points out, a well-told story can become a powerful tool for advocacy and persuasion.
In business communication, we are supposed to be clear and factual. There is no place for emotion and subjective thinking. But throughout human history, great stories have always inspired, motivated, and persuaded others. The Bible – a collection of stories – is perhaps the best example of the incredible power of storytelling.
One of the books Aaker recommends to her students and clients is Annette Simmons’s Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins (2007). Simmons recommends that you consider using these kinds of stories about your company, product or services, and mission:
- Who I Am Stories. How does your company earn trust and respect?
- Teaching Stories. What lessons have your company’s experiences taught you?
- Vision Stories. What is your vision for the future?
- Values-in-Action Stories. What actions of your company typify its values?
- I-Know-What-You Are-Thinking Stories. What stories can you tell that will dispel the objections they might have about your company?
The reviewers of your proposal are floating in a deep, murky ocean of information and data that may appear disconnected and overwhelming to them. In this choppy sea, meaningful stories can act as life preservers by enabling you to connect with them and create meaning in ways that no mere recitation of facts can accomplish. Stories will help win reviewers over to your point of view.
The most powerful communications tool in human history has been and will remain the art of storytelling. Use effective stories to create meaning in your proposals, and you will be more successful in proposal development.