October 2012

Stories Are Easy

In a recent workshop, John, one of the attendees, asked for my help in solving a problem.  He had to conduct a webinar for a client in order to move along the sale cycle for a new product. The client had already been exposed to the concept of the product, but now they wanted to know how it worked. John had racked his brain for a way to make this presentation interesting; the client had set aside two hours of their time for him. The only idea he’d come up with was to go through the forty-six page user’s manual with the client and show them how to work the product, but he was sure he was going to bore them to death by doing so.
 He wanted to know if I had any suggestions.
I asked him what the product did, acting as if I didn’t know, even though I was well acquainted with it. John told me a story that took me through the entire life cycle of a project that went through the product. The story took him less than five minutes to tell. When he was done, I asked, “Is there anything else the product can do, or anything else one could do with the product?” John added another two minutes worth of concepts. I asked him again, “If there was anything he’d left out?” He said, “No.” “So,” I asked, “didn’t you just do what the client asked you to do in less than ten minutes?” He nodded, then said, “But they’ve given me two hours, I can’t just talk for ten minutes.”
“Do you have more to say about how to use the product or what it does?” I asked. “No,” he said, “it’s simple and easy to use.” “So why,” I asked, “do you want to make it complicated and difficult to understand?” I turned to the rest of the workshop, many of whom were not familiar with the product. “Anyone here have a question about how the product works, or its virtues for the client in question?”  I asked, no one did.
“Really?” John said, still not totally convinced. “All I need to do is talk for ten minutes?” “And then ask for questions,” I responded. “If they have any, if it is unclear to them, they will let you know.” “And if they don’t? “ He asked. “Come prepared with a couple of questions for them, to spark the conversation. If they seem satisfied with the information by the end of that part of the conversation you’ve done your job,” I replied.
   “It just seems too easy,”  John said. “It is easy.” I replied with a smile. Now, I want to pose John’s question to you. If I could educate you on how to use a product by telling you one story that took you through it’s functions from beginning to end in ten minutes, or  spend two hours going through a forty-six-page user manual to achieve the same goal, which presentation would make you more likely to buy the product?”
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