Leading with Stories, with Paul Smith [Episode 748]

Paul Smith, author of Sell with a Story: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale, and Ten Stories Great Leaders Tell, joins me again on this episode.

Key Takeaways

  • Paul Smith trains people to tell stories; his customer base is increasing. He says only 10% to 15% of the time you talk to people should consist of stories, two to three minutes long. That is six to nine minutes an hour.
  • Stories are not like jokes with a punchline. Paul will not supply you with stories to tell. They are conversational. Some of them should be planned within your pitch, some are extemporaneous from a repertoire you’ve built.
  • Paul shares the eight specific questions a sales story should answer. Don’t memorize a story but remember the short answers to those questions in the story.
  • Andy shares a John Steinbeck quote: “If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen. … The strange and foreign is not interesting — only the deeply personal and familiar.” Andy works to build the buyer’s vision story.
  • Perfect delivery is not necessary. You are speaking, not performing a role. If you tell a story that is helpful to them, you are providing value, not wasting their time. Paul doesn’t train people about delivery.
  • Andy’s stories are drawn from his experiences, including things others have shared with him.
  • A story starts to sound like a pitch the moment it starts sounding like a script. Scripts make people defensive, not prone to listen. Converse with people, don’t talk at them. Stories are engaging and relaxing.
  • Paul shares 10 stories great leaders tell. The first four are: “Where we came from,” (founding); “Why we can’t stay there,” (the case for change);  “Where we’re going,” (vision); and “How we’re going to get there,” (strategy).
  • The values stories are: “What we believe,” “Who we serve,” “What we do for them,” and “How we differ from our competitors.” The personal stories are: “Why I lead the way I do,” and “Why you should want to work here.”
  • Every leader needs at least one good story each for sales, marketing, and recruiting. Salespeople, marketing people, and HR people will each need lots of stories to tell.
  • Paul shares a story from Ben Koberna, CEO of EASiBuy. Because the concept is unfamiliar, Ben Koberna constantly retells a story about what a reverse auction service is and what it does.
  • Paul summarizes how you can apply the 10 leadership stories. For example, in a strategy story, the heroes in the stories are the people whom you are trying to convince to embrace your vision and help you accomplish it.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul  

Hey friends, this is Andy. Welcome to Episode 748, we have another excellent episode lined up here today. Joining me for the second time is my guest Paul Smith. You may recall Paul is an expert on storytelling, and he was here on episode 239 to talk about his book, Sell with a Story, How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale. And in this episode, we’re gonna dig further into the topic of why stories are so crucial for sellers and why they must become comfortable building them and telling them and we’ll also dig into Paul’s new book 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell. Among the topics we’ll be talking about today are why you as a seller need to build your own sales stories. What percentage of one of your sales conversations should consist of stories? Eight specific questions a sales story should answer and how to make your stories conversational. Yeah, this shouldn’t be the thing. I mean, we’re suddenly your sales call with a customer and suddenly the tone of your voice changes. And they know that sort of this pitch is coming. So you want to make sure you avoid that moment where a scripted story sounds like a pitch. So we’ll be getting into all that. And much, much more with Paul. So if you’re ready, let’s jump into it. Paul, welcome to Accelerate.

 

Paul Smith  

Hey, thanks for having me back on. It’s good to be here.

 

Andy Paul  

Well, welcome back. I should have said that to preface it. It’s been a few years, but it’s a good occasion. Have you come back to talk about your new book? I think last time we talked about your book, sell it with a story. And right. Today, we’re gonna talk about the value of storytelling and your new book. 10 stories, great leaders tell when to start off talking about stories themselves, right, because there’s no disagreement for me about the value of telling stories. I feel like that’s sort of integral to what my style has been over the years in terms of connecting with customers and so on. But sometimes I feel like we’re sort of storied out, right? That there’s a lot written about it, and everybody nods and salutes the flag that day. Stories are great. I don’t know In my experience, listening to reps and monitoring rep calls, and now let’s listen to recorded calls and see people on presentations and so on. It’s just like, I don’t see people using it. It’s like they just haven’t embraced it yet. I don’t know why to the level as I would hope that they would, because I think it’s such an important tool. So you’re sort of the expert. That’s why do you think that is?

 

Paul Smith  

Well, you probably have a better view of AI than I do if people are using it in the field since I don’t go do field evaluations of salespeople and give them advice. And it sounds like something you probably do. I can tell you two things. One is I have an increasing number of people every month in particular, taking my course and calling me and asking me for this training and I’ll go and I’ll spend you know a day with 30 or 40 people at a time. Sure you know, at each of these companies. So the demand is I see for myself what I do is accelerating not decelerate I think I would not question that at all. It’s just I think there’s that gap between Okay, no, no, no. trade it now are they using it? Right, right. Yeah. Right. So the second thing I think, I would say is that when, when people ask me or even when they don’t ask me, I’ll tell them. What, what percentage of the time should I be telling stories? And the answer I give is 10 to 15%. That’s it no more. Right? This is not like you should walk around all day long telling stories. As a leader. It’s not like you should spend your whole hour in a sales call telling stories, you know, so if you do that math, if you had a one-hour sales call with somebody, that’s six to nine minutes, that you’re telling stories, and the story should be two or three minutes long. So on average, in a one-hour conversation, you might tell two or three, three-minute stories. That’s it. The rest of the time, you’re just having a conversation, you’re going through your sales pitch, you’re doing discovery, you’re building rapport, you’re doing all the things normally do. So it’s not like, you know, you should evaluate somebody and go, I don’t recall you telling stories the whole time, you shouldn’t it should be a minority of the time and that you make a whole hour without telling a story. So I think I want to set your expectations for it to be a very small minority of the time that they’re using storytelling. But I think that’s going to be some of the most powerful parts of their time in front of a prospect. Is that six to nine minutes out of that hour? Maybe?

 

Andy Paul  

Yeah, I think that’s one of the things that is great to get into more detail here is because I think that, again, from my conversations I have with people is that stories are the thing, right? I mean, it’s like, I’m trying to remember this joke I’m supposed to tell. Right? And, they think of stories as, not being contextual, necessarily, right? But they’re the standalone things you know, I need to remember these stories. Doo I need to summon them at the right time? As opposed to saying, Yeah, this sir happens in the flow of conversation. And yeah, I’ve got this repertoire, if you will, of stories that are contextual at this point. And you’re gonna use them conversationally as opposed to Okay. Now I’m telling my story. Here’s my setup. You know, it’s almost like a comedian, you know, delivering the right setup and a punch line. And I think, to me, that seems like what holds people back because it’s, it’s such a thing to them as opposed to just an integral part of what they’re doing.

 

Paul Smith  

Yes, that’s a very good observation. I have a few responses to that. One is, you nailed it when you said it’s almost like a joke. And those are the people that I know either haven’t been to my class or they weren’t listening, because I get this phone call all the time, or an email and is like, Hey, hey, Paul. I’ve got a big presentation. Next week or a big pitch or something, you got any new stories I can tell. I just bang my head on the keyboard because it’s like, these aren’t jokes. That’s not how this works. I don’t know who you are, who your client is, what you’re selling, what your goal is, How on earth can I choose? That would be like saying, Hey, you got any good sales pitches I could use? Of course not like it right? It just doesn’t work that way. So when people think about it that way, it’s clear that they don’t know what this is, right? The second thing I’d say is, the story should sound conversational like you said, and what that means is they should come out in two different ways. One is they ought to be some of them should be a planned part of the conversation just like your sales pitches, right? You know you go into a sales call with I’ve got these seven points I’m trying to make throughout my time, right. The story should be part of that plan. Only 10 to 15% of the words would be in the form of a story, but they ought to be a planned part like when I get to this part of my sales pitch, I need to give an example of when we’ve done a really good job for a customer before. Well, that’s story number 17. That’s my customer success story. I’m going to tell you about it at that moment. So it’s a planned part of the conversation. And the tone of your voice shouldn’t change at all. When you get to that just like it doesn’t change. When you get to step four, or 5, 6, 7, 8, on your sales pitch. You’re just continuing the conversation. So it shouldn’t be this thing that you jump out of character and go into and then no, now I’m back into my sales pitch. Oh, but now I’m telling a story like no, it just should come out, right. The second way should be extemporaneous. When somebody asks you a question, or somehow the conversation turns to a place that you didn’t expect it to invent. That’s when you need a repertoire of stories to draw on the right one to answer that question that came up. And again, maybe 90% of the time that question, a question will be answered just with a fact. Hmm, but 10 to 15% of the time, you’ll have the right story, to answer that question, and then you ought to just tell the story. But again, it ought to just be just as conversational as the conversation you and I are having now. I tell people, if people can tell that the tone of your voice has changed, you’re doing it wrong. And I know people are doing this because when I was doing the research for the book, and I was interviewing professional buyers, right procurement managers, right, I asked them, How is it that you know, or, here’s the question, what is it that makes a sales pitch sound like a sales pitch? And almost all of them gave me the same answer. It is when the tone of the conversation changes from conversational and extemporaneous to something that sounds scripted and memorized. Yeah. So good salespeople don’t have a scripted and memorized sales pitch or it doesn’t sound like it’s scripted and memorized because they’re just they’re good at telling it. But if they’re not very good at the story, and they’ve scripted and memorized it, it’s going to come out like this other thing that is written in a brochure, and that’s when the buyer knows that the sales pitch is on and that’s when the hair on the back of their neck stands up and they get defensive and like you don’t want to create that reaction in your buyer. Right.

 

Andy Paul  

Right. So So part of what it sounds like what you’re saying, and this is because I was thinking about this as, as I was preparing for our conversation today, and thinking back sort of, you know, how I sort of approach it is that you think about the story, not necessarily as least I don’t, as, you know, hey, here’s this viewpoint, a scripted two-minute thing. It says that I have these experiences or I’ve known about these experiences of which there are certain elements. And I reached that time where I think it’d be great to illustrate what we’ve done for similar type customers with similar type problems. Yeah, can I now have a framework on how to structure these things I know and bring them together in a way that makes sense, right? As opposed to, okay. You know, my fear is like, you know, when we see books with Phil, X number of stories, every salesperson should know it’s Like, they think, Oh, I gotta memorize X number of things. And it’s like, No, no, he’s just, he needed to know that. Here’s a way to relate this information you probably already know.

 

Paul Smith  

Right? Yeah, that’s, that’s a good way to put it. In fact, yeah, it would be daunting to think that there’s X number of stories that I have to memorize, but the way I teach people to remember their stories, I never used the word memorize the way to remember your stories is in the basic structure of the story. There are eight questions that your story needs to answer. We probably talked about this last time. It’s been a few years, but the eight questions you’re all business leadership, sales stories need to answer. All you’re doing is memorizing the short bullet-pointed answer to those eight questions because they’re things like where and when did it happen? Who’s the main character? What did they want? What was the problem or opportunity they ran into? What do they do about it? How did it turn out in the end? I mean, those are basic, what did you learn from it and what should I go do now? Right? Those are the questions. Yeah. So all you have to do is remember the short little one or two three word answer to those questions and then when you tell the story your brain will turn that into a story you’ll and you’ll go through those where and when it happened etc so you don’t have to memorize 500 words right

 

Andy Paul  

right, yeah, I think you’re right and to that point remember working with a speaking coach number of years ago and he or she left me at the surf swing thought if you will give it a golf analogy, which was that always add detail right So to your point where when person’s name now you don’t have to remember all that stuff ahead of time. You just have to be conscious of the fact you want to when you’re telling a story. Are these little details make it seem more real, more relatable?

 

Paul Smith  

Yeah, and as I said, they’re just those eight questions, basically are the important details. Right? I mean, you can add things like, you know, it was cold outside. Was it a sunny day? I steer people away from that because that ends up making it sound like a high school writing exercise. You do that right? Right. You don’t, so that’s why I focus on these eight things. Those are the important details.

 

Andy Paul  

Yeah, well the details you talk about as a sunny day and so if you’re giving a public talk that’s one thing right? But yeah, yeah, if you’re in a conversation with somebody you know, it’s a cold or rainy night when we did that. Yeah, my

 

Paul Smith  

eyes are already rolling in the back of my head, right? Yeah, you never that’s the worst way to start a story ever.

 

Andy Paul  

So I have a theory about stories being interesting to run by you because this is what my experience has been: that I found that I’ve used stories to tell the buyer story. And that they’re all parts of this construction process. What I’m trying to do is texture, create this buying vision, this vision story for the buyer, right? What’s gonna be like when they achieve their outcomes like Want to achieve? And I remember reading a long time ago this quote from John Steinbeck, which you may have seen this and he said, you know, if a story is a quote is if a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen, the strange and foreign is not interesting, only the deeply personal unfamiliar. And, and so, yeah, I’ve read a long time ago. I thought about that and said, Well, yeah, I’m trying to use my stories to build the buyer story, right? Because ultimately they need to know what their story is, to say, yeah, this is what we want to do. Right in this, we want to do it with. That makes sense to you.

 

Paul Smith  

It does. However, I don’t think every story can achieve that and nor should it. I mean, imagine every story you ever told the buyer was about the buyer.

 

Andy Paul  

It’s not but they understand the context, right, that adds them as a building block to building their story. Right,

 

Paul Smith  

right. Yeah. So, you might tell a story about another client of yours, another customer of yours that is similar to them, right? And they can see themselves in the same situation so the story isn’t about them, but they can see how it very directly applies to them and how, look, this is another company that worked with us. And here was their problem. And here’s the outcome. And they’re thinking, Oh, I have that problem. And I would love that outcome.

 

Andy Paul  

Right? And so I think back to the Steinbeck context as to them, you’re telling a story about a similar customer, someone that’s personally familiar to them, right? So they bring that in, that’s a building block in their visual story. And so I look at the purpose of me telling stories, is to help them build this, their own story, write about what it’s gonna be like to use your solution to achieve the outcomes they want to achieve. And if you’re telling stories that don’t help them build that then maybe the wrong stories.

 

Paul Smith  

Yes, I think I would agree with that then. Okay, that makes sense?

 

Andy Paul  

No, good. I’m not crazy. Perfect. No, no, not at all. Score one for me today. Yeah, cuz I think that that, yeah, people and we start touching before they think of stories of sort of performance art rather than. Oh,

 

Paul Smith  

yeah. And that’s so intimidating. I tell people almost explicitly don’t think of it that way. If you, none of us are most of my clients are not actors and professional speakers, right? They’re salespeople, right? So nobody expects them to have this perfect delivery of a story, right? So if you stutter and stammer a little bit, you don’t make the right eye contact and fidget with your hands a little bit and you make a lot of the little performance foe paws that, you know, you’d probably get coached out of if you had a professional coach. As long as you tell them a story that’s helpful for them. They’ll forgive you all those little, you know, foibles. But, if you tell them a boring, irrelevant story, but you tell it to them in a way that would make a Shakespearean actor proud, right. They will never forgive you for wasting their time. Exactly. So it’s, it’s all about the story not about the delivery. This is not, in fact, in my training classes, and in the book, there is very little about delivery there. I think I have one chapter in the book about how to deliver the story. And I spend zero minutes in my training classes talking about that because it’s just not important. And if you’re focusing on that, you’re focusing on the wrong thing. And it will, it will make you stop having a conversation because you start thinking about performance aspects. I’ve got to project my voice or whatever, you know, other kinds of you don’t think about that at all, think about having a conversation with a buyer. That’s it.

 

Andy Paul  

Yeah. And I think I think the when I see a sort of key point for people is that Yeah, you’re not I think what intimidates people and we talked touched on this before is that this idea that we’re having to create out of whole cloth these news stories and memorize them, and I believe what you’re teaching people is how to Oregon Eyes your own set of experiences and relate them in a way that that

 

Paul Smith  

are relevant and contextual and memorable to your buyers. Yeah, can I borrow that? I think that’s good phrasing and it’s much less intimidating than I think you have to come up with all these stories. You’re organizing your own set of experiences. The only thing I like is that I think the only thing I’d add to it is, maybe other people’s experience is every story right? Shouldn’t be about you know, stories about other people, but I like that organized set of experiences. Yeah, part of my experiences. Is that quickly, okay. Well, I’m gonna take,

 

Andy Paul  

that’s fine. That’s fine. Well, part Yeah, part of my experiences I learned for other people, right? I talk with my peers. I learned what they’ve done and so on. That becomes part of my experience. I’m not, I’ve never been conscious of ever memorizing a story yet. You know, get me on a podcast, somebody interviewing me and we start to talk about sales and we’d go for I think I could be under him. Honestly, I could be entertaining for a couple of hours at least. But it’s all stories, right? But it’s just, they’re not. I’ve told enough of them enough times that Yeah, there’s a structure to it. But they’re different every time based on the audience when they want to hear and so on. And, yeah, this whole I should be that way. And they should be that way. And it must be frustrating for you as is. Yeah. Someone who’s an expert in this is to see that we’ve got this. I think, at least in certain segments of our sales professionals, they serve increasing reliance on scripts. And yeah, I just read an article yesterday and LinkedIn actually scanned it and quickly got rid of it. Yeah, our scripts are really good. They’re not bad. They’re not evil. They’re what we should all be relying on. I’m like, really high. I believe that, as we’ve become increasingly scripted, and I’ve heard this on record, Calls is, clearly the customers are becoming scripted in their responses. Yeah, right. Well, you’re the fifth call to ask for that same question. So I’m gonna give you the same answer.

 

Paul Smith  

Right? Well, I mean, I should probably reserve judgment until I read that article myself. But remember what I just told you when I was researching with professional buyers? and ask them that question, what is it that makes a sales pitch sound like a sales pitch? The answer was when things started sounding scripted. Yeah. And that’s like I said, that’s when the hairs on the back of their neck stood up and they got very defensive and they started looking, they went into evaluation and critique mode. You don’t want your buyer in that mode, you want them in relaxed and listen mode. So scripting immediately turns people off.

 

Andy Paul  

Sure, but that’s become our default right? So you know, looking inside sales teams with SDRs is the SDRs are all for the most part, not entirely, but a large segment is heavily scripted, right. Right. And it’s funny when you listen to the calls as the last question, they’ll get a response. And there’s just pause this, this

 

Paul Smith  

notice they’re looking at the next thing to say, the next.

 

Andy Paul  

The next question, instead of thinking about, what did they just tell me? And is there a follow-up question I should be asking? It’s like, next question.

 

Paul Smith  

Well, that’s one of the benefits of storytelling is that it gets your audience, it gets you and your audience off of a script, right? That’s that even if it was a story you planned to tell? It still feels off-script. You know, think of it like when you’re in college, and you’re, you know, sitting there taking notes to professors at the board right now, all these formulas and you’re madly writing everything down. And then, you know, he or she turns around and just like gives you an example of an anecdote or illustrates it with a little story or something. Like what do the students do? They put their pencil down, they lean back in their chair, and they just listen because Well, this is going to be on the test, right? This is just a story, right? It has that same effect on grownups too. Right? So, this isn’t going to be on the test. I don’t have to like, be evaluating and poking holes in this, I can just relax and listen. And that’s what you want your buyer to do. At least every once in a while, right?

 

Andy Paul  

Yeah, well, it’s interesting. You brought that up with a university professor, cuz I remember how to profess it. I was thinking about this. Not that long ago. It’s something I was writing. And I subconsciously as I was rebounding. It’s like, Oh, yeah, I have that’s stuck. When I’ve been using this technique for my entire career. Yes, he would stop the lecture, you’d be making a point. And it’s like, well, let’s just take a second and imagine if you will, that you’re in. Right. It’s deciding to see and put you into the picture. And to your point, well, stop. We all listen. And it’s, it’s Yeah, again, we start building our own stories then right? We start thinking about us.

 

Paul Smith  

And then that probably became the most important most impactful learning moment for you during that lecture. It was probably five or 10% of the lecture, right?

 

Andy Paul  

Yeah. And I found as I look back in my sales career and so on, is it? Yeah, I was using that. I would stop conversations as well. So just imagine. Yeah, and it’s a powerful tool and uses that as a pretext for telling a story. Right. Did you get it? Yeah, that’s it’s. Yeah. All right. So my concern, sort of leading back to the beginning, and then we’ll get to your other is that there are things we do, I think inadvertently when people read about stories and so on that that make it more complex, and then it needs to be and it could be as simple as we just talked about just saying, well, just imagine for a second you know, put yourself in and that’s that opens the door, right? And then you said organize these experiences you had in a way that makes it relatable to the buyer and, and you’re telling stories, you’re having a conversation.

 

Paul Smith  

I’m writing that down right now in organized experiences.

 

Andy Paul  

Okay. That’s it. I’m here to help Paul.

 

Paul Smith, 

You’re doing it thanks

 

Andy Paul  

for doing it’s not just the audience, it’s our guests as well that benefit so. All right, so let’s talk about your book. 10 stories. 10 stories great leaders tell. I was gonna say 10 great stories leaders tell but 10 stories great leaders

 

Paul Smith  

probably work both ways.

 

Andy Paul  

Yeah, yeah. I like it the way you have it. So I love these and I think Yeah, the good I see it as sort of like cultural touchstones. Right? as an organization, which makes them so important because especially in small organizations, startups, I’ve spent a good chunk of my career in the successful ones were the ones that had this, you know, a common foundation that was built out of these stories, and I’m not talking about hey, we’ve two guys in a garage founder story. But you know, things you talk about that, you know, a founding story is important, but it’s not just like that one. So Once you take us through sort of the highlights of stories, really that’s a couple I wanted to talk about in particular. Sure.

 

Paul Smith  

Yeah. So well, first of all, where I came up with these is, you know, I’ve been trafficking in stories now for almost a decade. And

 

Andy Paul  

you make it sound like illegal arms sales, or you’re selling. You’re selling me

 

Paul Smith  

guess it did. I did. Yeah. Okay. Let me say that differently. I’ve been working in organized experiences and cultural touchstones for a decade now. And so I wanted to start with what are the stories that my clients most frequently asked me for help with, because I wanted to know that these are real practical stories that I know leaders want, but also wanted to make sure that these were stories that I think every functional leader could use. These are not just stories for salespeople are just for the right CEO or just for the CEO, or the leader.

 

Andy Paul  

Yeah, you know, a couple. Well, one specific sales story for others, I think, is quite relatable to sales. Yeah. Right.

 

Paul Smith  

Yeah. But anyway, so well. Let me just give you the list. And we’ll get out there and talk about them.

 

Andy Paul  

Let’s go. Yeah.

 

Paul Smith  

Yeah, so the first four kinds of go together because they’re about setting a direction for the organization. So that’s where we came from. So that’s that founding story, but much better than the two guys in a garage story, right? Talk about why that is later. Why can’t we stay there? So that’s the case for a change story, where we’re going, which is a visual story. And how we’re going to get there is a strategy story, right strategies about how to get from where you are now to where you want to be, right? So that’s the first four. The second four are more about who we are as an organization. So that’s what we believe. So it’s a corporate values story, who we serve. So the customer story, a story about the customer so our colleagues can have a visceral human understanding of who we’re working for what we do for our customers. So that’s kind of a classical sales story or customer success story. And then the rate is how we’re different from our competitors. So that’s why I call that a marketing story because usually marketing’s job is surely differentiating yourself from competitors, so that gets us through eight. The last to kind of go together as well. But there are more about more personal to you the leader. So number nine is why I lead the way I do personal leadership philosophy stories. Number 10 is why you should want to work here, you being whoever you’re talking to, right? Because every leader, every leader’s job is getting talented people to come into the organization, not just HR or recruiting or whatever every leader needs to do that. So those are the 10 I came up with and essentially as you know, now the books got one example of each of them and then some tips for how to find and craft your own.

 

Andy Paul  

Yeah. Well, let’s start at the end. Because I think that’s, as you said, these are not just for CEOs. This is for anybody that’s in a leadership position. It could be you could be a frontline sales manager, you could be whatever, right? a supervisor accounting, but it’s, it’s you have to understand what that story is about why you lead the way you do and why I should want to work here that I always harken back to this experience was one startup I worked with extremely successful CEO but at the time was, yeah, now they’re a multi-billion dollar company back then we were nothing and a handful of couple handful of people in a room and, and I was asking this question and he said, Well, you know, I just I want to build a company that I would want to work at. And I always thought, Wow, that was a great story. Right to me is when he just said I want to build a company that I would want to work out. And I think he’s accomplished that from growing from where they are now to 10 10,000 employees may be in multiple billion dollars in sales. It’s like, Yeah, he’s done that right. I mean, I’m sure it’s not perfect. I worked there for seven years. I’ve been there for a while but it’s like yeah, yeah, cuz I know they got I just had run into an election in the seat. I’m the founder and in Hawaii a couple of weeks ago, we had drinks and yeah, I think something like out of the first couple hundred employees like still 125 of them are there right after. Wow, that’s an impressive Rose for 25 years. Right. So clearly, I think he did that. Yeah, but what a powerful message you’re sending to people. Good night’s thinking how often managers don’t live up to that. Right. Can Thera stand back and say, Would you want to work for you? It’s like, Yeah, probably not.

 

Paul Smith  

Right. So in his case, his founding story might also be a great recruiting story. Right? Because especially if he told them, you know, what it was about the job that he left that he hated or didn’t like and that he wanted to fix at the company he started so that it would be a company he would want to work for. If you got into some of those details and how he did that would make for a great founding story because nobody ever quit their job and risked everything to go start a new company aboard. The reason, right? There’s always a good reason behind it. Yeah. And sounds like he had one. So that would become a great founding story, but it also serves as a great recruiting story.

 

Andy Paul  

Yeah, yeah. Another one? Well, let’s talk about the sales story. Because it’s, it struck me is not just a story that leaders need to be able to tell, but it’s a story that salespeople need to build tell us well,

 

Paul Smith  

well, yeah, certainly, you know, with all of these so that, you know, there’s one sales story, one marketing story, you know, one recruiting story, the salespeople, of course, they got lots of stories that they need to tell and the marketing people have lots of stories they need to tell, the HR people are lots of stories, but I think every leader at the company needs to be able to tell one good sales story, and they probably need to be able to one good marketing story and one good HR so that hence this list of 10 Yeah, you can’t be so functionally siloed that you only know about your discipline, right? You need to know a little bit about the others to be an effective leader.

 

Andy Paul  

So um, so a little bit about the auction story that you saw there because I thought That was a really good one.

 

Paul Smith  

Yeah. So this is about a guy named Ben Coburn, who’s the CEO of EZ buy. And I’d never heard of a company like this before when I interviewed him. So it’s a reverse auction company. And had you heard of this type of company before

 

Andy Paul  

I looked it up. I was reading the book. Okay.

 

Paul Smith  

So I hadn’t either before I met this guy in the interview, and a lot of his clients haven’t either. So he has to tell a story to help them understand what on earth it is that we do. That’s kind of the purpose of the story. And so a reverse auction company gets a bunch of companies who do something that your company needs and has them compete and bid on your contract and whoever bids the lowest wins. So that’s why they call it a reverse auction. But that’s still kind of confusing just for me to say those words, hence the need for a story. So he often tells them, you know about one of his first clients, he said it was a midsize city government in Florida, I believe. And of course, they had a municipal water treatment plant and you know, builds up a lot of people And they need to, you know, cart that off somewhere and there’s a company whose job it is every week or month or day or something to go carry off all this industrial sludge and put it wherever it’s safe, I guess. And they were paying $250,000 a year to this company to haul off this sludge. And they thought, Well, we’d like to save some money on that. That’s a lot of money. So we’ll hire this guy, Ben Coburn at easy buy and they’ll do a reverse auction and we’ll save money so they hired him he contacts a bunch of companies that can do sludge removal, calls them all into this meeting where he’s going to explain how this auction process works and, and the meeting starts and the and all these different, you know, owners of these companies are coming in. Well, the guy who’s got the contract now, right, the incumbent, the guy who’s been hauling this stuff off for years, comes in in a tirade, right? He’s got his lawyer with him, he’s yelling and screaming, he kicks a chair across the room. He tells everybody, you know, you can’t do this. This is illegal. You’re gonna go to jail. I mean, just, you know, terribly mad, right? Because he’s about to get some money taken out of his pocket for sure. Right? Well, they eventually got him calmed down and, you know, explained how the auction was going to work and got everybody to start. And so they all went back to their respective places of business and started the auction. You know, it’s all online. Well, he, of course, his first bid is $250,000. Right? That’s what he’s been getting paid for years. Well, somebody bids lower than that. So he lowers his to 240. And then 200. And then 150. Well, his next bid is zero, nothing. And they, they knew, of course, that’s a mistake, like you’ve just clicked the wrong button or whatever. So they pause the auction, they call the guy on the phone, like, hey, somebody made a mistake at your place, you put in a zero bid. So we pause the auction, we’re going to give you 10 minutes to go put in the right bid and then restart everything right? And he said, yeah, that won’t be necessary. He said that wasn’t a mistake. I bid zero on purpose. And they’re like, What? What is wrong with you? That can’t be true. Why would you do that? And he said, Look, I’ve been selling that sludge to farmers for years as fertilizer. I’ll just come to pick it up for free. And that’s what he’s been doing ever since. Right? So the story accomplishes a couple of things for Ben. One is it explains in an easy language, what a reverse auction is because that’s a confusing concept. But now that you’ve heard the story, you know exactly what it is. But here’s the clever second thing that it does, is it answers an objection that most of his prospects have. And it answers it before they even ask the objection. And that objection is if I do this, are my suppliers going to get mad at me? Like, this sounds like something they’re going to get mad about. Right? And, and his answer is, well, yeah, they’re all going to get pissed, but they’re going to get pissed at me. Not you. You’re not even in the room. He kicked that chair at me. But my job is to protect you. From all of that, all you get to do is save money. Right? So it brilliantly accomplishes both of those tasks in about a two minutes story.

 

Andy Paul  

Yeah. No, I thought. I just laughed at the story. Because as Such a great outcome. And I think a third lesson is there while he’d agreed to do it for zero is that he can turn those customers say sometimes you’re going to uncover these things where, you know, the people are providing services. Yeah, they’re making so much money off doing it that, yeah, they’d be happy to do it for free.

 

Paul Smith  

Yeah. So he can give them the statistics. And that look, we typically save our clients 20 to 30%. But there’s a range sometimes it’s only three or 4% sometimes it’s 100%. You know,

 

Andy Paul  

Yeah, I thought that was a great, great story. Well, so, the last one I want to talk about was the, let’s talk sort of collectively about the first four because I think okay, and I sort of throw the values in there a little bit too because I think, you know, values are, are not spoken enough about certainly in sales, because you know, it is such a human to human business. And I think people when they form impressions first, probably perceptions of other people that values certainly play into it more than we want to give credit for, but let’s talk at least about those first four. Because I think that I think if people understand that, as an individual within an organization, you understand these things. It helps inform what you do in a way that makes you more powerful than if you didn’t.

 

Paul Smith  

Yeah, so and it’s, you know, it’s four different stories. But we already started talking about the founding story a little bit. So let’s kind of close the loop on that, because you’ve already identified one of the problems with most founding stories, and it’s that they almost all sound the same, and they’re boring. You know, my company started 30 years ago with two guys in a basement at $300. And today, we’re on the fortune 500 lists, and we’re in 75 countries around the world, and aren’t we awesome? Yay. Whatever. Like, every large company started small. Write a definition, right? They all started with two guys in the basement. They were two ladies in a basement or whatever, right? So telling the entire history of your company In seven sentences is not inspiring to anyone. All right, except for the person who did it, I suppose the founding story should be about that critical moment where you decided to start the company because you were so you know, frustrated with your nine to five job or the way that you know, your company was currently doing things and you thought you could do it better. You wanted to start a company that you would want to work for, or, you know, it’s that pivotal moment where you make that really risky decision to jump and go do something different. Because of that passion that that founder had for that, making that decision and starting that company, you want everybody in your company to share that frustration, and then the passion that follows to do it better. And the only way you can imbue them with that passion is to tell them the story of the founder’s passion, not the statistics of two guys in the basement $300 an hour and like that’s just that’s not what inspires people. The struggle and frustration and passion Are what inspires people?

 

Andy Paul  

Well, and then living it, right. I think that’s something that’s often as you get this founding story, and then they’re not following through the example I gave before the guy that just said, you don’t want to build a company that he wanted to work for. I think his inspiration for starting the company is he was working on this big tech company, and I had ideas that they just didn’t want to do, right. They didn’t want to, they didn’t want to go do this business. They didn’t and felt handcuffed. And now what’s the worst thing as you associate an innovative company and they don’t want to innovate and take risks? And so he built this company where people have grown by people taking risks. The people who were growing the business are not salespeople or business development people, they’re engineers and other people have great ideas. And, and I think that’s why they would retain people, right? Because, hey, we’re gonna create an environment and we’re shot where risk-taking is encouraged and, man, you got a good idea. Let’s go do it. Right.

 

Paul Smith  

Yeah, so let me try and summarize a little bit. So you know, a case for change story is typically a story about whoever it is that the change is going to benefit. So if you realize your company needs to go through some major change, clearly somebody stands to benefit from that, right? It’s either going to be the employees, it’s going to be your customers, it’s going to be your shareholders. It’s going to be the community, like, somebody’s got to benefit. Figure out who that is, and tell a story about them. Like what’s, what’s their frustration today? And how’s that going to be much better in the future after you go through this change that will inspire the organization to want to compete? People want a human reason to do something not? Oh, well, our earnings per share will go up by three cents. If we do this, like who’s that going to inspire me, but if it’s, this is going to save Sally in, you know, in accounts payable, seven hours a week that she’s not going to get to spend with her kids, you know, now you’re talking about something that people can get inspired by or this new drug is going to save, you know, 1000 lives a month, you know, and here’s, here’s Jenny, the first one, it’s going to save because she’s waiting for it right now, you know, the vision story and the strategy story are two that I find leaders find the most difficult to tell stories about. Interestingly, they’re the ones that leaders often have the best understanding of already, like any good leader in a company has a vision for what they want the company to be. And they can usually articulate that in a few words, and they almost always have a very clear strategy, they probably all got a strategy document that’s, you know, an 11 point font and it’s, you know, got lots of bullet points and numbers, and it’s the really pretty format and they vetted it through HR and the, you know, CFO and, you know, it’s, it’s perfect, right. But that’s not a strategy story. That’s a strategy document, and that you know, and so in Division sounds something like this. We want to be the fastest-growing restaurant chain on the East Coast, or we want to be the jet engine that makes the world quiet as jet engines. Man, those are great visions, right? I might call that a goal or a mission. But anyway, that’s a great vision statement. But it’s not a visual story, because it’s not a story at all. So, a vision. So you have to start with having the vision statement, you have to have a vision and you have to have strategy choices to start with. But then you need to tell stories about those things. So a visual story is a future story. It’s like you started earlier, imagine this. That’s how all vision stories start. Imagine that. So this is five years into the future. Imagine it’s going to be like this when we work in the cycle you know, the example of the book is used as a magazine article written five years in the future, about how our company became, you know, the, you know, most admired company in America or something, I think, the strategy story, and you’re looking back at how did you accomplish that? And the visual story is a story about five years from now what’s it going to be like to work here? And why is that better than what it’s like today? Because if it’s not any better, why would I want to help you accomplish that vision? Right? So the vision story is it’s always got to be about and the strategy story to the heroes in the story has to be the people who work there, who you’re trying to convince, to embrace this vision and help you accomplish it. So then that’s a story, not just a list on a, on a document,

 

Andy Paul  

right, which to serve in closing, as you can see, where some of those stories become problematic for leaders because we’ve built this cult around the hero CEO and too many that fall into that trap, as opposed to saying it’s individuals that make this all happen, not the right. Not the people to top so. Alright, Paul, we’ve run out of time, but as always been fabulous talking with you and great information. So how can people connect with you and learn more about your book?

 

Paul Smith  

Yeah, thanks. Thanks again for having me on. So probably the best place is my website. Leave With a story.com set links at all the books and the training courses and all the stuff I’m up to.

 

Andy Paul  

Okay, and they can connect with you through there too. Yep, Okay, perfect. All right. Paul Smith, thank you very much.

 

Paul Smith  

Thank you. Cheers.