Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

This is a good example of how “a picture is worth a thousand words, and a story is worth a thousand picture.” The story of Team Hoyt is one of my favorites, as a fellow runner, and just being a plain fan of the human champion. This is just one of the many great examples of winning stories from The Foundation For A Better Life. You can see more on their web site, www.values.com.

Kevan Kjar

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Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins…

In the movie Amistad, President John Quincy Adams (played by Anthony Hopkins) is giving some golden legal advise to a black abolitionist named Mr. Theodore Joadson (played by Morgan Freeman) about how to be successful in his upcoming court case. Adams said, “In a courtroom, whoever tells the best story wins.” What’s true in the courtroom is also true in sales. Fortunately for you, so few sales people realize this.

Kevan Kjar

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Michelangelo’s Pieta & Setting YOUR ANGEL Free…

When Michelangelo was 24 years old (1499 AD), he carved the magnificent Pieta (pronounced pēāˈtä), showing the Madonna holding her dying son. The beauty of the Madonna’s face, carved in marble, is easier to comprehend when you know the rest of the story. Michelangelo’s own mother, died when he was only 5, and she, the tender age of 24. You see, the face of the Madonna was his last recollection of his own mother.

When asked how he could carve such serene beauty out of cold stone, Michelangelo replied, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set her free.”

Finding your own message is a similar process. Carve until you set the angel free. A great message takes time, percolation, and patience.

Let me share an example of what I mean. I was helping an international company a few weeks ago, and after all the work we did their first pass delivered the message of “workflow management.” We knew that was what made the offering unique, but the message was too much about their product.

The 2nd pass fine-tuned it to “optimize your asset & engineering efficiency.” This was closer, but still lacked the sharpness of brevity. The final message began to show itself after a simple question to the team “what will engineers think of the message about them becoming more efficient?” They realized that the engineers would discount anything that tried to make them more efficient; they were already buried in data collection, rather than doing what they were most skilled at, engineering.

It was then that the angel appeared, the final message came out; someone said, “what this really means to the engineers is that they are free to be engineers.” That was the little gem we were looking for, “Free engineers to be engineers.” Not only that gem, but the steps on the ladder that led up to that. Message-wise, we could walk up and down that ladder depending upon where the conversation started. I call these simply “messaging ladders” or “story steps.”

It took a few days of focused work, and perspective-shifting before the team came up with that. Percolation of a good message tends to burn off the dross, so all that is left is pure gold. The art and science of the ArrowHead process is the continually carving, chipping away, but knowing when we’ve chipped away too much, and knowing when we’ve shifting from carving the Madonna to carving monkeys. The ArrowHead process, and a skilled consultant, knows how to channel the energy and focus of the team to finding the angel, and setting her free.

Kevan Kjar

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Making “Algorithm Synthesis” Stick

When a software company specializing in supply chain optimization hired me to head up their marketing I was astounded at the complexity of their solution. Their message was “algorithm synthesis.” In order to deliver this story it required our VP of Strategy to give a two-hour PowerPoint presentation. Not many customers understood what our VP was saying, but they thought he was smart and that they needed to take more time to think about it.

After one such meeting, I asked our VP how I could explain this to my mother (who at the time was really wondering what I did for a living.) Our VP said, “Well, Kevan, have you ever seen one of those desk ornaments with five metal balls hanging in a row, and you lift one on the end and let it go, and it proceeds to bounce the balls on the end back and forth?” I said, “Yes, I used to have one.”

He said, “If you were to wrap any one of those metal balls in some kind of padding to buffer it from the blow, very little of the initial blow would be passed through to the last ball. The buffer prevents fast impact of the momentum of the energy traveling from one ball to the next. That’s what algorithm synthesis is all about. It removes the buffers from the supply chain so products can flow freely and quickly from one area to another. If you have the buffer, you slow down and lose efficiencies.”

I found out later that this desk ornament was called a “Newton’s Cradle” and bought one. I tried the explanation on my wife, then my kids, and finally my mother. Amazingly they all understood the concept of algorithm synthesis when Newton’s Cradle was in front of them.

We found a supplier for Newton’s Cradle and engraved a plaque with our product’s unique selling proposal to put on it. We gave them to all our sales guys, gave them out at trade shows, and it quickly became a part of every sales presentation. Why? Because it quickly highlighted something that was unique about our product and the customer quickly understood why they needed algorithm synthesis. We more than tripled our sales that year, thanks in part to that clever little comparison. We were no longer limited to one person to tell our story, but everyone in the company could tell it (including my children and mother.)

Using a comparison and an object is just one of many storytelling techniques that you will learn from ThreeQuest to better tell your story. Let ThreeQuest help you find your “algorithm synthesis” and your “Newton’s Cradle.”

Kevan Kjar

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Two Ways to Spike Attention in Sales

When someone tells you a story about a large, ape-like creature that roams the remote mountains of the Pacific Northwest, you are curious to know about this creature. Is he real? How big is he? What does he eat? Your curiosity has been aroused. But now, put yourself in those remote mountains at night-time, sitting around a campfire and hear the same story. You’re no longer curious, you’re concerned… terrified might be a better choice of words. Why? Because your monster was pertinent to your world, not some far away place.

In any story, there are two ways to grab your audience’s attention, curiosity or concern. When a character first appears in a story, we are curious who they are and what they have to do with the story. But let us get to know that person, and then place them in a life & death situation and we’ll stick with that story until we know that our new friend is safe from the harm… imagine, people will sit in a dark room and stare at a little box (we call a TV) for an hour of so to make certain they know their little friend “Nemo” gets reunited with his father, even when they’ve seen the movie before; that is the power of story.

Curiosity is a great way to initially get your audience’s attention. It piques the mind’s interest and creates a gap that the mind wants to fill. It is a mental exercise, like a “who-done-it” murder mystery. When a character walks comes in on the left side of the screen and there is a big void area to the right, your mind asks, “what’s going to fill that space?” We sometimes call this “anticipation space” and will use your audience’s curiosity to hold their attention. The risk of curiosity though is that it’s like a snowball on a hot sidewalk, it won’t last very long.

Concern goes straight to the emotion and the heart. It is the root of suspense. Concern has greater staying power than curiosity. Concern is like the beams that hold up a building, whereas curiosity is like the studs that go between the beams.

Ways you can bring concern into your story is to paint a vivid picture of your hero or customer. Make certain to dramatize their pains and conflict in their life. Your audience will almost automatically sympathize with your hero, and if you carefully plot them through the ups and downs of their journey to their “object of desire” you’ll hold the attention of your audience. There are many techniques that help dramatize their conflict, but the best two are to make it emotional and paint a picture with the senses.

The old adage that says “curiosity killed the cat” is also true for your story IF you don’t add concern for your hero. Insure that you tell a story that is pertinent to the world of your audience; the conflicts that you dramatize should be easy for your audience to comprehend, and something that they battle with. By telling the story of the Bigfoot in their backyard, you have their attention, and unlike the legend, your monster is real, something they fear on a daily basis. Build your story on concern, and dress it up with curiosity.

– Kevan Kjar

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Jared Sells Subway

In 2000, SUBWAY® had a message they were promoting of a “Healthier Alternative to Fatty Fast Food.” They called it “Seven Under 6” (seven sandwiches under 6 grams of fat.) It was reaching their buyer as they had hoped. Then a SUBWAY® franchise owner in Indianapolis saw a newspaper story about a student at Indiana University who had lost 245 lbs and went from 425 lbs to 180 lbs in one year by eating SUBWAY® sandwiches every day. Instead of just clipping the article and pinning it up in his restaurant, he saw the value of the story and put the student in the ad to promote the “Seven Under 6” message. The rest is history. Everyone knows the Jared story.

ThreeQuest will help you find your voice, and then help you put it into a story that your buyer will appreciate. You’ll learn powerful skills how to take a product message, to make it come alive in a story, and other presentation techniques. Remember, in business, whoever tells the best story wins.

Kevan Kjar

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Conflict is to Story as Sound is to Music

Imagine Star Wars without Darth Vader. Imagine Harry Potter without Lord Voldemort. Imagine MASH without Frank Burns or Charles Emerson Winchester, The III. Or imagine Armageddon without the threat of the Texas-sized meteor hurtling towards earth; or Dante’s Peak without the ominous volcano that engulfs the town in a pyroclastic cloud. Without these villains, our heroes would have nothing interesting to overcome and we would pay the story little if any attention.

Just as sound creates the ebb and flow of music, conflict creates the hero’s journey. The hero has the object of desire to vanquish or overcome the villain, then proceed to “living happily ever after.” Colonel Hogan (Hogan’s Heroes) would routinely manipulate the incompetent Nazi Colonel Klink and get Sergeant Schultz to look the other way while his men conducted secret operations.

Our heroes reveal their true identity when facing conflict. When Jean Valjean, in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, is given custody of his chief nemesis Inspector Javert, we were surprised to see Valjean release Javert on a side street of the barricade rather than shoot his enemy. We discover a mercy in Valjean that we didn’t see earlier in the story.

Conflict creates a teeter-totter on the values of the story. A story may have a see-saw flow of life & death, or rich & poor, freedom & slavery, love & hate and many other values. Every scene in a story should turn a value from “+” to “-”, or from “-” to “+”, otherwise why have the scene. These “twists” have created some of the most meaningful moments in movie history. Do you remember when Darth Vader informed Luke Skywalker that “Luke, I am your father?” You then had to race back over the last three Star Wars movies to re-interpret everything that had happened.

Your stories, be they personal or product, need to be full of conflict, and the journey to overcome it; that is the core of good story. If it’s a story to sell your product, you need to describe the life of your hero (your customer), the conflicts they have without your product in their life, everything they tried to overcome the conflicts (trying all your competitors) and still failing, and their lives become more perilous or painful. Then they discover your product, they give it a try and now everything that was bad is good (well, almost everything), and it’s all because of that unique little doohickey that sets your product aside from all the others. Now they can live happily ever after.

Don’t avoid conflict in your personal or product stories, for they are the heart of what makes them interesting and meaningful. Your stories are metaphors for life. They teach others how to overcome the obstacles of life. Let the conflict be the problem that only your product can resolve. Your conflict provides the path that your hero will take to make their journey meaningful.

— Kevan Kjar

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Message vs. Story

A message can be delivered all by itself, like an arrow without an arrowhead, or it can be delivered in the context of a story and it will stick with the audience. They will understand your unique value proposition in half the time, they will be emotionally touched, and be able to make a decision for your product faster and more decisively.

A story is like the flight simulator for your product. Your buyer can get in, take it for a flight, see if they like it, and then decide to buy. If you have the right message that is compelling to your buyer, clear for them to understand, and competitive against your competition, your next step is to deliver your message in a story that your buyer can quickly understand.

Kevan Kjar

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Healed by Hunting…

I know this story may seem like it has nothing to do with product stories, but I hope this will help someone who needs to hear about it.
– Kevan

Sergeant 1st Class, Greg Stube has been with the special forces 19 years. But while serving in Afghanistan, a road bomb blew up his armored vehicle and he lost 70% of his intestines. While addressing an audience he said how described how hunters had actually healed him. He said, “every time I would hear a gun go off or an explosion or car backfire,” he said, “I freaked out.” He said, “going out hunting and having the positive reinforcement again of holding a gun in your hand and hearing that sound and being outside in the in the forest and one with the Earth,” he said, “it healed me.”

I love this story as it shows the Face It, Replace It, Connect in action to overcome fears and replace damaging addictions. Even though his fear of gunfire brought him back to that painful day in Afghanistan, he faced it and went hunting. He was able to replace the negative association of gunfire and being wounded, with gunfire and being one with the Earth and nature. By connecting with nature he was able to rid himself of the debilitating fear from his war injury. Believe it or not, Sgt. Stube continues to serve in active duty.

— Kevan Kjar

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Stories Start & Stop Wars…

Adolph Hitler is a prime example of a propaganda machine that told a bad story; a story that fostered prejudice, cruelty and death.

Winston Churchill, on the other hand, spoke to the House of Commons on May 10, 1940 with this story: I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all our strength that God can give us. . . .That is our policy. You ask, What is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory–victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be. [Churchill: the Life Triumphant, American Heritage, 1965, p. 90]

Six days later he went on radio to speak to the world at large. He said:

This is one of the most awe-striking periods in the long history of France and Britain. . . . Behind us . . . gather a group of shattered States and bludgeoned races: the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians–upon all of whom the long night of barbarism will descend, unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must; as conquer we shall. [Churchill, p. 91]

Then two weeks later he was back before Parliament. “We shall not flag or fail,” he vowed.

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. [Churchill, p. 91]

Thanks to the bravery of many, a better story won out.  But that’s not always the case. Good stories require the efforts of great men and women to be that story.

Stories are very powerful motivators, both for the buyer and the seller. When you tell the right story, you can cut your sales cycle in half, or more. But tell the wrong story, or worse yet, don’t tell one, and buckle up for a long and drawn-out sales cycle. The buyer simply won’t understand how your solution can help them. Find a good story of how your solution helped the life of another buyer, point out how your product could be the only one to do it that way, tell your story, and wear it out when it works.

— Kevan Kjar

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