Selling Power Magazine Article

State-of-the-Heart Technology
Kim Wright Wiley
Is there someone you'd like to inspire? Maybe your salespeople, with their endless complaints and sluggish numbers? The client who refuses to place an order until "things get better"? Or even your teenage daughter, who's struggling in algebra? If you want to move another person to meaningful action, you have several alternatives: You can order, beg, threaten, overwhelm with numbers, or bludgeon with facts.

Or you could tell a story.

"The human brain is hardwired to remember and respond to stories," says Peter Guber, producer, founder, and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment and author of Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story. "The written word is a relatively new invention, and the digital age has been around for only a blink, but mankind has a long history of sitting around the campfire telling stories. The oral tradition was how we stayed alive as a species. We knew we couldn't outrun the mastodon, but we could outsmart it and then pass that information along to our families and clansmen. All major religions are based on stories. Although technology has caused us, largely, to abandon storytelling, it's still the most effective way to activate emotion, instill information into the memories of your listeners, and motivate them to action. Facts and figures will get a speaker only so far, but when you narrate your proposition, you bring in that critical 'X' factor that makes people really respond."

Stories are game changers because they engage a listener's emotions – and emotion, not logic, causes people to act. Stories resonate within us, which is precisely why people are far more likely to remember information that was embedded within a story than information that was presented to them in facts or figures.

"Studies show that information bonded with emotion is more easily recalled," says Guber, so people can quote lines of dialogue or remember small details from a movie they saw years earlier. If you were emotionally moved by something, it takes up a kind of permanent residence within your brain.

Make Magic

"The magic of story comes down to one thing," Guber says. "We are emotional creatures. When you tell a story, you 'emotionalize' your message, making it easier for the readers to ingest, and from that point on the story becomes a part of them. They haven't been given just information, they've been given an experience, and when they later recall that story, the emotion is also aroused again."

Guber feels that story is especially powerful in an economy in which people are frightened and reluctant to make decisions. "Nothing can galvanize people in a world that's glutted with state-of-the-art technology like the chance to communicate through 'state-of-the-heart' technology."

Tell to Win is full of stories of Guber's encounters with the rich and famous. In the years he spent as a Hollywood power player at Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures, Casablanca Records, and Filmworks, Guber had plenty of opportunities to observe how successful people utilize the power of story. He describes a meeting with Michael Jackson during which the singer expressed a desire to act in a movie. While Jackson's musical ability was beyond dispute, Guber wondered out loud if Jackson understood how drama worked in films. Rather than deluge the skeptical producer with credits from his resume, Jackson simply took Guber upstairs to the massive terrarium where his pet boa constrictor, Muscles, was napping in the corner. In the other corner was a little white mouse shivering in terror. Jackson explained that Muscles would inevitably devour the mouse but that "the drama was when and how."

Guber saw immediately that Jackson "understood the essence of drama," and he has never forgotten the incident. Similar stories involving personalities as diverse as Muhammed Ali, Fidel Castro, and the Dalai Lama are scattered throughout the book, and Guber also shows how a company can use the power of story to build its brand.

Inspiring Imagery

In 1996, Kevin Plank, then just a 23-year-old budding entrepreneur, trained his staff to tell a story that made the customer the hero. The basic product of Under Armour was a fabric designed to wick sweat away from the skin during intense athletic activity, but Plank wisely focused, not on perspiration, but on inspiration.

"He created a whole Under Armour story in which the customer was a champion who wanted to achieve certain dreams," said Guber. "The athletic apparel was the armor that would enable customers to do this by heightening their performance and making them feel different while exercising. I have no doubt that the company's meteoric growth is largely due to the ability to tell a story in which the customer is the (continued on page 2)
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