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Articles filed in: Story Skills

On Strengths

If a friend or colleague asked you to list their strengths, I’m guessing you’d have no trouble coming up several of their attributes.

But if they asked you to share a list of your strengths you’d likely hesitate.

Why is that?

We don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on our skills and talents, because we’ve been conditioned to be humble.

We largely focus on our ‘areas for improvement—the things we lack confidence and competence in, to the detriment of our gifts and our genius.

Of course, we can improve our weakness. But we can also amplify our strengths.

What do you already bring to the world and how can you do more of that?

Image by Annie Spratt

Say It Like You Mean It


Empathy is an essential skill for anyone who wants to make a living by serving others.
A big part of our job is to show those people that we see, hear and can help them.

But there’s a fine line between fake intimacy and genuine sincerity in a sales conversation. We’ve all been subjected to both.

The good news is we each get to choose which posture to adopt.

You can say it like you mean it, or better—you can mean it before you say it.

The integrity of sincerity wins in the long run.

Image by Adam Jang

The Best Stories Are Lived

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m visiting the smallest branch of my favourite chocolate shop. It’s a fourth-generation, family-owned and operated business, and it shows.
The enthusiasm of the assistants is palpable.

‘I’ve never worked for a company like this,’ the woman behind the counter says. ‘I’ve been here for five years, and I love it!’

When I ask why she talks about how much the owners care.

‘They’d do anything for us. They even get up on a ladder to change our lightbulbs. They remember our birthdays. They want the best for our customers and us.’

As the conversation progresses, ‘they’ becomes ‘we’.

‘We don’t export. We’re just proud to sell a beautiful Australian product at home.’

Storytelling is more than clever copy. It’s the act of showing up, with intention.
Your story is more than a tagline or a positioning statement—it’s not only what you say—it’s what you do.

The best stories are not just told, they are lived.

Image by Avant

Why Should They Care?


The ‘For Lease’ sign attached to the first-floor window of the shopfront is one of half a dozen along Gertrude Street. And the sales copy on each of them does nothing to differentiate one premises from the other.

The signs give us dimensions, details about the facilities and ‘good natural light’. They don’t for a second help a prospective tenant to translate those features into the benefits they care about.

It’s not enough to tell people what they get as part of the transaction today. We need to show them how those features will become benefits that matter to them in the long run.

Image by Garry Knight

Mass Awareness Vs. Minority Affinity


The ‘golden arches’ glow at me in the distance as I set out for the gym before sunrise. It’s impossible to miss the 24-hour McDonald’s at the junction no matter which direction you travel. The ‘golden arches’ don’t distinguish the right potential customer from the wrong one. And that’s the point. McDonald’s strategy is to target everyone, so they cast their net far and wide, creating mass awareness. Their ideal customer can be any peckish stranger who happens to be passing by. This strategy works for McDonald’s, but it’s unlikely to work for us.

No other restaurant or cafe along this same street has the luxury of the ‘golden arches’. Like most of us with something to say, serve or sell, they have to do a better job of speaking to only their right customers. They don’t depend on the footfall of mass awareness—they thrive on the loyalty of minority affinity, built one customer at a time, over time. They understand what their customers want, they make promises, then show up consistently, week in week out, without fail to keep them.

There is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy. The tactics we use must align with our goals and the goals of the people we want to serve. How are you creating affinity with the minority of people who enable you to do your best work?

Image by Joiarib Morales

The Metrics Of Belonging


The things we measure most are the most tangible—sales, clicks, votes, bums on seats. They can be seen and touched, counted and compared.

The metrics of belonging are felt and harder to quantify. But it is those intangibles—often only evidenced or experienced over time, that are the backbone of strong relationships, communities and brands.

We have become impatient to see results now. We don’t have time to cultivate belonging.

So, we’re left to question. If it can’t be seen, touched or measured, did it matter? And if the answer is ‘yes’, how do we account for it?

That’s a question every one of us must answer.

Image by Garry Knight

Listening To Lead


The promise of the digital age was the ability to more cheaply and rapidly raise awareness of our value, our message, or our cause. Digital media levelled the playing field and gave all of us the chance to spread our ideas.

In some cases, the desire to quickly spread ideas has led to the misbelief that to control the message, we must manipulate the story. But when we prioritise being heard, we stop listening to the people we serve. We quickly lose ground when we put self-interest before service.

The opportunity to harness the tools available to all of us to hear, not only to be heard is open to all of us. We get to choose how we take advantage of it.

Image by Dries Augustyns

Consistent, Persistent And Patient


The slim woman dressed in activewear, in line at the cafe next to the gym, orders a black coffee. As she’s handing over her card when the barista asks her the question he’s asked every single customer who ordered a takeaway coffee that morning.

‘Would you like a glazed doughnut for just $2 to go with your drink?’

‘No! Thanks,’ the woman laughs and rolls her eyes.

The barista shrugs before moving onto the next customer.

Of course, if the barista offers a doughnut to everyone, some customers will buy one. But what does that sale cost the business in eroded trust over time?

We’ve come to believe that the secret to being a successful communicator is to be consistent and persistent.

But it isn’t just the person who shows up to tell their story most often who wins. It’s the person who has the patience and empathy to understand the story they tell must serve the people they want to matter to.

Image by Nathan Shurr

Perfect Timing


The man raising money for charity stands near the Flinders Street station steps during the lunchtime rush. He waves his clipboard and attempts to catch someone’s eye. He starts his pitch several times, and when busy commuters silence him by raising a hand, he changes the script.

‘Are you a nature lover? Are you worried about climate change? Can I talk to you for just sixty seconds? Hi there!’

His words aren’t working for him. But it isn’t just what he’s saying or how he’s saying it that’s preventing him from engaging people in a sales conversation. His problem is imperfect timing.

A crowded street might seem like the ideal place to meet the maximum number of potential donors, but just because people are there doesn’t mean they are open to being interrupted or persuaded.

An ideal audience isn’t one that’s available—it’s one that’s receptive.

When we say something is just as important as how we say it.

Image by Alex Proimos

The Stories We Live And Leave


We care about finding our voice, our advantage, our unique value proposition.

We work hard to tell that story—never more so than in our digital world.

How much consideration do we give to the stories we live and leave?

In the end, all that will be left of us is the stories other people share about us.

How can we make those stories worth telling?

Image by NeonBrand