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.


  • 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.