Lessons for Entrepreneurs from a Master Story Teller – Morgan Spurlock

Morgan Spurlock, for those of us who dont know him, is a story teller par excellence. He has made such phenomenal movies like Supersize Me and the “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” and a lot more. His TED Talk has been viewed more than 3 Million times.

When I watched his talk about storytelling, which he gave at PSFK conference, I was absolutely sure that I will share this with my friends and entrepreneur friends who read this blog.  While he focuses on story telling as his audience, I am sure the same also is very true and relevant for all of our entrepreneurs.

So, if you have the time, please do go ahead and watch the entire talk below.

 

PSFK 2017: Morgan Spurlock Makes Movies With Just The Right Amount Of Crazy from PSFK on Vimeo.

If you don’t have the time, I have summarised my learning from his talk below.

My learnings from the talk:

  1. Stand out but not too much.
  2. Be crazy and do crazy stuff, but don’t be seen as THE crazy person.
  3. Stay calm but also rock the boat.
  4. You have to be ready and willing to take criticism.
  5. Have persistence of vision.
  6. You cant plan for change but you can plan for impact and how you hope to affect change.
  7. Own your derivative impact.
  8. The more risks you take, the less risky things become.
  9. Building a good product is only the beginning, what is important is getting it to the hands, hearts and the minds of our audience.

You can find more information about Morgan and his work here.

You can also watch his TED Talk here:

Read This if You are A Sales Executive or a Sales Leader: Best Among What I Read – Sales Edition

Best Among What I Read by Mukesh Gupta

If you know me at all, you would already know that I read a lot of stuff – right from business topics like (Sales, Innovation, Leadership, Marketing) to personal topics like philosophy, religion, psychology, habit formation, economics and the lot.

I used to share a collection of articles that I really thought were well written or were thought provoking for me, almost everyday till a few months back. Some of my readers have indicated that they miss those collections in place, that it saves them time and requested that I start posting these collection of content again.

So, here we go. Below is a list of posts that I think were really the best among a lot of content on sales that i read in the recent past. So, here we go:

Things I Admire In a Sales Force

In this blog post, Anthony Iannarino shares a list of attributes that he admires in a sales force. I really think that if there were a sales team that wanted to create a team manifesto for them to live by, this list would be a great starting point. I particularly like the attribute about helping their team mates succeed.

This is something that is not very common in sales teams at all, but can play a significant role in the overall success of the sales team. I did write about it earlier myself. You can read my post here.

If you are a sales leader and want to inspire your team and get them to rally around together, this is a set of attributes that you should aspire your team to achieve.

Dealing with Your Irrational Competitor

Another blog post by Anthony (I seem to really like his posts, of late). In this one, he shares his insights on how to deal with your irrational competitor. Every sales team faces some irrational competitor who wants to take away market share at any cost, who is willing to go to any lengths, give irrational discounts, make promises that they already know that can’t be fulfilled and take your customers away.

So, how do you deal with such competitors? Not the usual way. For Anthony’s insights on this, read the post here.

Is ignorance the problem?

In his inimitable style Seth Godin brings forth a very important question that all of us as sales executives or sales leaders need to address. Whenever there is a customer who stalls or questions the value that our solutions bring to them, we default to providing them more information – more use cases, more business case, sharing more examples of how and where your solutions have succeeded.

We are assuming that the customer is stalling due to lack of information. What if that is not true? In my experience, most of the times it is not true. The reason the customer is stalling could be because they are not sure, they are afraid of making the commitment required on their part, they are afraid that you might not deliver what you promise to deliver. The issue could be trust or something else.

Mostly, ignorance is not the problem. You can read his really short blog (maybe even shorter than my preamble here) here.

Why You Need An If-Then Storytelling Strategy

Once you have identified that ignorance is not the problem and shoving more information will not help, what do you do? This is where, I really liked a blog post written by Bernadette Jiwa. In this post she talks about having a if-then (storytelling) strategy.

This strategy can be helpful in any environment, retail or otherwise. Can we identify certain situations or triggers in our sales process and have a ready story to tell in those situations. These emotional triggers need emotional responses and stories do it really well. Great sales executives do this intuitively, but this is really a skill that can be learnt and taught.

Do you have a if-then story for emotional triggers in your sales process.? If not, try and develop one. It’s your job as the sales leader to do this.

Stop Complaining That You Have Clients

Once we win customers, then it is time to deliver our commitments and promises. As a sales executive, it might not be you who delivers what was promised. But you are indeed the person who committed the deliverables to your customers.

They trusted you and now it is your job to ensure that your commitments are honoured. When they are not being honoured, either in spirit or in letter, customers will hold you responsible and accountable.

They will write to you about the issues they have with the service standards, about challenges that they have working with someone on your team or about any other random thing that irks them. I have seen sales executives continue to complain about all these emails that they keep getting from their customers, the expectations that the customer is having off them, even though they realise that its not part of their job.

In this insightful and critical post, Anthony (again) shares a perspective that all sales executives who complain forget – which is complacency, neglect and Entitlement kills a sales executives future. Read the post and honestly think about your behaviour towards your customers.

Are you complaining that they are your customers? If so, think again? And more importantly, CHANGE.

Conclusion: 

I do hope that you liked this collection of blog posts that I really liked on the topic of sales and selling. I will see you soon in another edition of the Best Among What I Read on a different topic sometime soon.

PS: Here is how you can follow the people I have quoted in this post.

  • You can follow Anthony and his phenomenal content here.
  • You can follow Bernadette Jiwa and her insightful thoughts on branding and brand storytelling here.
  • You can follow Seth Godin and his insightful commentary on his random observations here.

 

 

 

Lessons in Storytelling That I learnt from TED Conference Speakers

Lessons in Storytelling From TED Conference Speakers by Mukesh Gupta

Premise:

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.

Conclusion:

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.

 

 

Lessons in Leadership from An Elephant, A Rhino and A Penguin

Lessons from an elephant, a rhino and a penguin by Mukesh Gupta

I came across this video from the FilmBilder channel (they were part of my 20 insanely interesting people I found in 2016) on YouTube, that symbolises what we see in and around us – at work and at home.

First, lets watch the short 3 min video:

This video is about three friends – An elephant, a Rhino and a penguin. It is winter and freezing cold all around. The elephant and the rhino are shivering with cold and are feeling miserable. Then comes the penguin – playing in the snow, trying to entice her friends to join her in a snow fight – as they are fun.

However, it is so cold that the elephant and the rhino are shivering and in no mood to play with the penguin. She tries everything that she could think of, but to no avail. Then she seems to give up and goes around a boulder of snow and disappears for a while. When the elephant doesn’t see the penguin for sometime, it gets a bit worried. So, the elephant and the rhino decide to check out if the penguin is fine or if she needs any help.

After a few unsuccessful attempts, the elephant finally reaches the top of the boulder to find the penguin waiting for them with a snow ball. She hits the elephant with the snow ball and the elephant and the rhino go tumbling down. This breaks the ice and finally, all the three friends enjoy a good game of snow fighting.

The story is simple and in its simplicity lies its profoundness!

Now, try to think and try to answer these questions as truthfully as possible:

  1. Are you like the penguin or her friends?
  2. What changed from the time the story started to the time it ended?
  3. How come the elephant and the rhino, who were shivering and miserable a moment ago, were now playing with snow in a few moments?
  4. How is this even possible? Is there a life lesson in there for us?

In this blog, I generally try and answer questions and provide my point-of-view. However, this time around, I would like to leave you with these questions and request that you share your point-of-view about the questions that I have asked above – with me and other readers of this blog, or with someone you are close to and trust, or at least with yourself.

A small request:

If you liked what you read/heard, I would request you to head over to my patreon page and become a patron for the blog/podcast. You could do so by contributing anywhere from a single dollar to about 1000 USD depending upon how much you like the blog/show.

Think of it like the following – I will bring thought leaders to your door step and in return all I am asking is for you to spend just enough to get a cup of coffee for the expert that is in your home. 

I would like to keep this podcast ad-free and need your support regarding the same. You can also find some very interesting artists whom you can also contribute for.

I myself support James Victore as a patron. If you are an artist yourself, consider becoming a patron for James as well or even set-up your own Patreon Page here.

 

 

 

 

The Art of Storytelling For Business

It is well known that all of us make most of our decisions based on our emotions rather than pure logic or intellect or rationality. So, if we are to influence people and their decisions, we need to learn about moving them emotionally enough to get them to make a decision in our favour.

The best way for us to do so is by telling good stories, stories that they can related to and move with. I saw this video by Ameen Haque, who is the CEO of Storywallahs, which he delivered at the Google complex and was moved enough to share this here on my  blog. I have listened to him and his team tell stories at various public events in Bangalore with my 12 year old son and I can’t recommend them enough.

What Ameen does in this video is to break down the art of story telling and break it down into easy to understand and implement chunks of activities. If you are in the business of influencing anyone, I strongly urge you to take the 55 mins and watch this talk. It is not enough to watch the talk but try to do what he asks of you in the talk. Telling stories is a skill that we can develop with practice and as he says, we need to build a repertoire of stories that we can bring out whenever we need them to exert influence.

Some other resources that I have specifically found useful to learn storytelling for business are as below.

People & Blog:

  1. Bernadette Jiwa:
  2. Seth Godin
  3. Malcolm Gladwell
  4. Ameen Haque

Online Courses:

  1. Leadership Communication for Maximum Impact: Storytelling on Coursera
  2. Storytelling for Change on AcumenPlus
  3. Storytelling for Leaders: How to Craft Stories That Matter on Skillshare
  4. Storytelling for Business on Udemy
  5. Storytelling for Influence: on IDEO University
  6. Business Storytelling with C.C. Chapman on Lynda
  7. The Story strategy by Bernadette Jiwa

Books:

  1. Meaningful by Bernadette Jiwa
  2. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

Podcasts:

  1. The Business of Story
  2. The Revisionist History

I do hope that you will at least check out a few of these resources and find some time to learn the art of story telling.