Why You Only Need 10 Good Stories

The giant overhead speakers at my gym keep grinding out a pop song with this voiceover: “A hundred bad days made a hundred good stories. A hundred good stories make me interesting at parties.”

The gist is that every single challenging experience has at least given him a good story that makes him more interesting. (you can listen to it here, but good luck getting that voice out of your head).

The perfect song for consulting, right? Every single client project is an experience that builds your muscles for the next one.

Luckily, you don’t need 100 good stories—and really, could you tell that many in mesmerizing fashion?

In fact, no more than 10 ought to do it for most of us.

Think about it. You probably already have a go-to favorite—a crazy over-the-top, but 100% true story of one of your best outcome client experiences.

And that probably works its magic on a regular basis.

But chances are it isn’t right for every situation or every sweet-spot client.

Let’s say for example that you’re an expert at the people side of mergers and acquisitions.

Your go-to story might be about successfully merging two completely different cultures. A David and Goliath perhaps.

But not every situation is so black and white. You do a careful job of listening in that pre-proposal stage and trot out a different story when:

The CEO’s concern is how to ensure the new organization is aligned around continuing to satisfy a particular key customer.

There is a real need to ensure the engineering department hits the ground running on a bet-the-next-year new product.

The businesses are heavily regulated and the merger must satisfy outside parties beyond customers and shareholders.

The two sales forces are radically different and a key deliverable will be deciding how to structure their roles and compensation.

See what I mean? The David and Goliath story doesn’t cut it for any of these.

If you do the same exercise for the kinds of problems you hear from YOUR clients, you’ll quickly be able to design a menu of sorts. Which of their problems tie to which of your outcomes? Which stories best illustrate those outcomes?

Of course you’re spending most of those pre-proposal meetings listening, not telling stories.

Which is why you want to have your top 10 stories firmly ensconced in your head already so you aren’t wasting precious time when you should be listening to your client.

Just make sure your stories clearly show the transformation you make with/for your sweet-spot clients. How they’re better off after you’ve worked with them then they were when you started.

And make those details vivid and juicy so your audience can see and smell and taste them.

Your best stories will bring you at least 90% of your clients—and set the groundwork for the rest who will keep stretching you to develop new ones.

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