Lessons in Storytelling That I learnt from TED Conference Speakers

Lessons in Storytelling From TED Conference Speakers by Mukesh Gupta


Story telling has been one of the most memorable and influential ways to spread ideas. The TED conference is so popular because the speakers in the conference are mostly good at telling stories – stories that they are passionate about and that passion spills over to the audience and we are able to connect. Also, note that the duration of these talks are not very long.

So, I wanted to learn if there are any story telling secrets that i can learn from the TED speakers. Also, I thought that it would be interesting to figure out if there are any common threads that we see in a lot of other speakers do but is missing at these TED conferences.

Here is a list of things that I have learned watching TED speakers tell compelling stories:

Keep it Short and Simple: 

The TED format makes it extremely difficult for anyone to tell a long story. The speakers are forced to keep their stories short. Telling a compelling story is not easy. It takes a lot of time, practice and learning to be able to do so. Try telling a story that is longer than 5 mins and you will know the difficulty of keeping the audience glued to your story, specially when we are speaking live or presenting over the web. So, it’s better to keep our stories short, crisp and to-the-point.

No Preamble:

I have hardly seen any TED speaker tell their audience that they are about to tell a story. They just start with a story. As human’s we are wired to know when someone is about to tell us a story. We do not have to tell the audience that we are about to tell a story. There is no preamble, just directly start with the story.

Its Personal:

Most compelling stories are personal. When telling a personal story, we instinctively access our emotions and it shows. This enables the audience to emotionally engage with the speakers as well. The second best kind of story to tell is about something that we are extremely passionate about. This passion needs to be evident in every aspect of the story. It ensures that you are able to connect to the audience.

What do you want the audience to do:

Telling stories for the sake of telling stories is a different art form. However, most of us have something that we want to do with the audience. We want them to think about something in a way that we think about or we want the audience to take action or we want the audience to spread our ideas or something else. We want them to do something. We need to be extremely clear about what is it that we expect the audience to do after hearing the story.

Practice Does Make it Perfect:

Anyone who gets invited to the TED Conference as a speaker has already done something unique, interesting or has a unique perspective, which led to their being invited to present. What makes it very compelling is that the TED team ensures that the speakers do practice their talks multiple times. The team even gives feedback on what aspect of the talk needs more work. This practice is what makes the speakers at the TED conference sizzle. If we want to tell compelling stories, we need to practice at least a few times, if not much more.


In conclusion, the ability to deliver compelling talks, like the one’s we see on the stage of TED conferences is a skill that we can all do well to learn – irrespective of the profession we are part of. If you look at these learnings that I have from watching countless TED talks are all pointing to one basic thing – they are simple basic skills, honed to perfection through practice.



The Most Underrated Skill in a Salesperson

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PBTO46: High Profit Prospecting with The Sales Hunter – Mark Hunter

Who is on the show today:

In this episode, we host Mark Hunter, also known as The Sales Hunter. He is an international keynote speaker, author and a sales trainer. He posts sales tips and insights on his blog – www.thesaleshunter.com. This is one of the most widely read sales blog in the world.

Why is he on the show:

Before embarking on being an independent consultant, he spent 18 years in the sales and marketing divisions of three Fortune 100 companies. He shares cutting-edge thought leadership with his clients in an entertaining way and as actionable strategies.

What are we talking about:

In a wide ranging conversation we cover the following:

  • Some of the basic principles that are needed to succeed in the world of sales and selling
  • What is the role of a sales manager and some of the common mistakes they make
  • How has prospecting changed and what are some skills that every sales executive should equip himself/herself in order to set themselves up for success
  • The fascination with numbers and why it is not necessarily the best metric to look at.
  • Some interesting insights from his latest book – “High Profit Prospecting“.

How can you connect with him:

You can follow his blog at The Sales Blog.You can reach him on YouTube, as well as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

PBTO45: The Only Sales Guide You Will Ever Need with Anthony Iannarino

Who is on the show today:

In this episode, we host Anthony Iannarino. He is an international keynote speaker, author and a sales leader. He posts daily sales tips and insights on his blog – www.thesalesblog.com. This is one of the most widely read sales blog in the world. 

Why is he on the show:

Apart from his blog, he also hosts a podcast – “In the Arena” and has written the book – ‘The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need”. He’s an adjunct faculty member at Capital University’s School of Management and Leadership where he teaches Personal Selling, Social Media Marketing and Persuasive Marketing. He also runs a B2B sales coaching  and consultancy – B2B sales coach and consultancy. 

What are we talking about:

In a wide ranging conversation we cover the following: 

  • Some of the basic principles that are needed to succeed in the world of sales and selling 
  • What is the role of a sales manager? 
  • How can entrepreneurs increase their business, recruit a sales leader and set up a sales team? 
  • The fascination with numbers and why it is not necessarily the best metric to look at. 
  • What is the best metric to measure productivity of a sales team? 
  • Some interesting insights from his upcoming book – “The Only Sales Guide You’ll ever need“. 

How can you connect with him:

You can follow his blog at The Sales Blog. You can reach him on Twitter @Iannarino.  

Why You Lose Deals


Why You Lose DealsI was attending an online sales kick off meeting where i heard Anthony Iannarino present. He is an international speaker, author, and sales leader. He posts daily sales tips and insights to The Sales Blog. Learn more about Anthony, his keynotes & workshops, or contact him directly.

He shared a list of 20 reasons why sales people lose deals. I found it incredibly useful and true. So, wanted to share the same with you all.

All these are addressed if you follow my SIMPLE framework for complex deals. This framework creates a step-by-step guide for you to increase your deal closures.

Here is the list of reasons Anthony shared in the keynote (with my personal notes explaining each one of them).

No compelling need:

We all know that for any prospect to decide and take action to buy something, there needs to be a compelling need for them to act now. Without the compelling need (or a burning platform) generally, there is no action. So, in the sales process, it is critical for us to create or identify the compelling need for the customer to take action. This also protects us from the biggest deal killer of all time, which is no deal.

Skipping stages of the sales process:

Selling is a process. Every product needs its own sales process. Some products are simple to sell, which means that all the steps or the process can be completed quickly, other products have a sales process that can be a week to a few months to even a few years.

One needs to define the sales process carefully, ensuring that the prospect is moved towards taking action and buying the product. Once the process is defined, it is critical that the sales executives follow the process. Trying to skip parts of the sales process only leads to incomplete information and the sale not going through.

Failing to control the process

This is probably the single biggest factors that high performing sales executives excel at. They control every stage of the sales process. They make sure that the remain in control, share the right kind of information and moving the prospect along the sales process at the right speed and involving the right people at the right time. Getting all the right people involved and following the deal strategy at all times.

Not staying in control of deals is probably one of the biggest mistakes that sales people do, that can be corrected quickly with a big impact on the overall conversion rates.

Failing to Gain commitments

In order to stay in control of the process, one needs to gain commitments from all the different stakeholders at each step of the process. Without commitment at each step of the process, there is no sale at the end of the process. This is like walking up the steps. You can reach the top without walking on all the steps first.

Failing to Create Value

Sales, more so with complex sales today require that you create or add value to your prospects and their business during every single interaction. This will ensure that you will continue to get time and ears of the key stakeholders through the process. How you can create value is by providing them with a different perspective or information that they already dont know about their own organisation, industry trends, uncovering latent needs or help create a vision for their future.

Focusing on Low Levels of Value

The kind of value that you or your product provides has a significant impact on how the sales process goes. If your prospect thinks that you provide low levels of value, you will be relegated to the lower end of the segment and the consequence of closing the deal with you being considered negligible. This does not augur well for your sale.

Failing to Elevate the conversation from Tactical to Strategic

This is where the business acumen of the sales executives play an important role. In order to be considered important investment, you need to be able to elevate your conversation to strateguic rather than stay at the tactical level. You need to be strategic from a perception, while tactical at the operational level.

Not developing a compelling case for change

The biggest deal killer is no action. In order to move your prospects, you need to create a compelling reason for them to change and change now. Failure to do so most likely results in the “No Deal” scenario.

Transactional Behaviours

While transactions are important, transactional behaviours are a no-no. You need to behave strategically, have a long term view of your relationship with the customer and transact when necessary.

Using Wrong communication Medium

Knowing your customers and stakeholders is critical in the sales process. This allows you to remain in control of the process. One of the most important thing to know about them is their preference of medium of communication. Some people like face-to-face conversations, some like email, some phone calls and some like to have conversations while sharing a drink or on social media. Knowing this and tailoring your communication accordingly creates a much better rapport and comfort with the stakeholder making it easier to gain their commitment.

Being Self Oriented

One of the biggest mistakes that sales people do today is to be self focused. Talking all the time about your product or company is not a great idea. You need to quickly establish your (company/product) credibility and move on to listen to your prospect. They will tell you how to tailor the conversation and which medium to use, who the key stakeholders are and a lot more if you give them the opportunity to do so.

Failing to identify the buying committee

If you don’t know who are your key decision makers and their influencers within the first few steps of the sales process, the chances of your winning the deal is minimal.

Failing to build consensus by Not Tailoring value to individual stakeholders

Most high performing sales executives are extremely good at this. They know the motivations of the different stakeholders in the sales process and tailor their communication with them in order to build consensus. This consensus is built before the final discussion is being done.

Not Dealing with Obstacles

Every sales process has objection handling as one of the phases as every prospect will have objections and questions. The earlier you are able to address them, the better off you are. In fact, i know of high performing sales executives who themselves bring up most of these objections at the start of the process and address them. This makes sure that there are no surprises as we move along and if these cant be addressed positively, we already know that the deal is not feasible and we can save ourselves and prospects a lot of time and effort. Prospects are also grateful if you step out of a deal if you cant address their biggest concerns as that shows that you respect their time as much as you do yours.

Focusing on Price instead of value

One sure shot way of reducing your conversation with your prospect is to focus on price. The only time this makes sense if you are solely competing on price.

Presenting Poorly

This is such a no brainer but I am always surprised by how many sales executives are poor presenters. This is such a great skill to possess and one that is so critical to their success, yet not many sales executives invest their time and effort in improving in this area.

Presenting what they haven’t said “yes to”

Most high performing sales executives already build consensus before they present their product or solution to the prospect, which makes this a formal process to be done with and with least challenges. Not many committees take decisions while in meeting. Decisions are already made even before the start of the meeting. Sales executives who understand this make sure that all the stakeholders have already said “yes” to their proposal before they present it to the committee.

Allowing the prospect to believe that price and value are the same thing

The earlier you are able to demonstrate the value that you, your product or your company brings to the table and are able to keep the conversation around the value, it becomes easier for you to differentiate between the value and the price.

Failing to provide necessary proof

If your prospect needs to see a proof that you or your product can deliver something, you need to get it to them as early in the process as possible. The failure to do so creates lack of trust, which is a deal killer.

Matching Competition price and strategy

Matching competition price and strategy means that you are no longer in control of your deal and that you don’t believe in the value that you provide to your prospect.

Poor Deal strategy

Every deal needs a clear strategy. This should include identification of the key stakeholders, their expectations, communication strategy, strategy around your competition, strategy on creating the vision and thought leadership with the key stakeholders, strategy for “No Decision”, which means identifying the compelling need for them to act and act now and a lot more. Failing to have a deal strategy is akin to “spray and pray”.