In a business context, storytelling is an extremely powerful tool that can bring immense benefits, and the stories you tell internally say a great deal about your company culture. With great storytelling, internal communications teams can lay the groundwork for cultural change, while sales teams can motivate, spark enthusiasm, and make a real impact on the bottom line.
Not so long ago we kicked off a regular session to share our experiences of deals and the sales process in general. Open to anyone in the company, these “War Stories” sessions have been a fantastic learning experience for everyone involved. And it’s not all sweetness and light, either: we want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sure, when we win a sales case and close a deal we can learn a lot from our successes, but we learn just as much from the deals that don’t go our way: What happened? What could we have done differently? How do we make use of this knowledge and do better next time?
“The learning from failed deals is equally as valuable as that from successful sales cases, as it helps you hone your craft.”
Don’t let valuable knowledge slip through your fingers
Particularly with bigger organizations, where teams can be dispersed across countries or even continents, lost stories can mean lost opportunities. Success stories teach colleagues working on similar projects what worked, or how challenges were overcome or avoided. And then there are the sales cases that looked dead and buried but were brought back to life by a spark of inspiration, a great idea that saved the deal. If there’s no mechanism to share this valuable knowledge, it’s easy for it to slip between the cracks.
In our case the storytelling is sales focused, but it works in all kinds of contexts. The stories you’re telling internally say a great deal about your company culture. If you’re not in tune with the tales told by employees you run the risk of losing the plot and steering way off course. Making storytelling part of your internal communications best practices can help you get back on track.
“Storytelling can stop valuable knowledge from slipping between the cracks.”
Reconnect with what matters
Celebrating successes, no matter how small, can be a great way to generate genuinely motivating stories that help get teams pulling in the same direction. In big, complex organizations it’s easy to stay locked up in your own silo, toiling away, oblivious to what’s going on around you. Meanwhile, across the other side of the office, there’s that team again, high-fiving as they wax lyrical about an awesome deal they just closed or the great time they had in the German office last week.
Effective storytelling can transform businesses by raising morale, boosting self-esteem, and giving people a sense of purpose by helping them to share tales of how their work is making a difference.
Enthusiasm and emotion come from within
If you want people to talk about their work with a sparkle in their eye and a spring in their step, effective internal communications are a good place to start. Mission statements and grand visions are all very well, but if people aren’t on the same wavelength they sure aren’t going to be weaving wonderful stories about how they love their working life. Genuine, human tales connect with people by stimulating the brain and engaging them deeply with the content. By gathering and sharing believable and engaging stories, internal communications teams can lay the groundwork for a seismic shift in organizational culture.
“Sharing engaging stories helps your messages really connect with people, and can transform your fortunes and your organizational culture for the better.”
If you don’t believe, you won’t succeed
I’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. Sales training where managers are pitching customer stories with zero enthusiasm, to a sea of bored-looking faces, perhaps the odd false smile. If it isn’t believable and it doesn’t come across as genuine, you can bet that when people leave that room their level of enthusiasm for selling these experiences is going to be pretty low. What’s more, spreading customer success stories internally rather than using them exclusively for marketing purposes can have huge business benefits. When told with real enthusiasm, not only are these stories more believable, they’re also more likely to be shared, and your employees feel a much greater sense of purpose in what they do.
Kasper Pöyry is the COO at Gapps Oy. You can reach him via Twitter - @KPoyry.