Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out

24 May 2018


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best business books of 2018 the storytellers secret

Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out – The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo

I’ve always been a fan of reading stories. When I was younger those stories were mainly science fiction and fantasy. For the past couple of years, I’ve been reading more and more of stories about real people, not fictional characters in a fantastical world. The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo covers fifty-five personal stories of successful people from Elon Musk to Malala. These examples are how successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out.


My review on YouTube.

First, why are telling stories even important for anyone?

Before getting into the depth of the book I want to emphasize how important stories are. Why should you start using more stories in your own business? And if you haven’t built your own yet, how you can use them from the get-go.

successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out

Stories have been around since the beginning of humankind as I mentioned in my recent post about using storytelling in public speaking. Stories make us who we are as a species. We use stories to connect with others on an emotional level. You can learn from other people’s mistakes and successes through stories as well.


By using stories in your branding, marketing and even in your stores themselves, your customers will no doubt have more of an emotional connection with your product. Click To Tweet


People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’ the most famous quote from Simon Sinek’s Start With Why really hits on the dot about how successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out. Every single person’s WHY has a story behind it. By using that story your customer will become loyal to your brand.


“If you want to sell your product you must first sell your story.”


About The Storyteller’s Secret – How Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out

The Storyteller’s Secret is divided into five parts with a very useful storyteller’s toolkit at the very end of the book. I personally bought this book because I was preparing to give a presentation at Petra Christian University in Surabaya Indonesia about giving powerful presentations using stories as the vehicle to carry the facts and statistics.

successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out

Before I even started reading the book I already assumed it was just going to be about public speaking. But it’s not just about that. All the stories used in this book have lessons you can apply in your own life, for anyone in any field. Yes, there are specific takeaways for public speakers but I wouldn’t just call it a book meant for people who do public speaking for a living.


I was also unsure about the structure of each chapter. I was thinking this repetitive structure at first would get boring. It never did since each individual story was different. Each chapter is broken up by first, introducing the storyteller, second, giving the storyteller’s tools and finally, the storyteller’s secret which is very useful since it summarizes what was discussed in the previous parts of the chapter. Having this storyteller’s secret makes it very easy to just flip through the book at a later date for review.


So, don’t be fooled by the cover title and subtitle. This book isn’t just about how you can improve your public speaking skills, it’s about how you can improve your communication skills in any given situation by using stories.


PART I is about how successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out by igniting our inner fire.

successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out inner fire

Howard Schultz’s stories hit on the three dimentions of authentic brands, defined by marketing professor Julie Napoli: heritage, sincerity, and commitement to quality. Customers want to know where a product comes from, who the people are behind it, and how committed they are to delivering a quality product. Customers don’t buy a brand or a logo as much as they buy into a set of values.


The first part of The Storyteller’s Secret introduces to the essential use of heroes, villains, and struggle. Every amazing story has this.


Many of the stories in this section were of people who came from a tragic or very difficult past. Neither the book nor I am saying that you need a tragic past in order to be a successful storyteller for your business. What the book is saying though is that the people who have persevered through their own toughest problems no matter how big or small are the ones who will come out on top.


A great way to express your struggles to your audience is by structuring your message into three parts:

  1. Trigger Event
  2. Transformation
  3. Life Lesson


All of your experiences make you who you are. You will earn loyal customers by believing in your backstory and being transparent about where you came from. There’s no doubt that there will be people in this world who are able to connect with your story. All you have to do is tell it.


PART II is about how successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out by educating.

successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out educate

Successful founders educate their customers with relatable stories of how they created the product to solve a problem, often one they themselves faced. They share those stories with specific, concrete, and relevant details to transport the listener into their world.


Many entrepreneurs educate other people depending on which field they work in. But only the successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out from the rest who don’t. Stories are how successful entrepreneurs educate their audience on the meaning behind their product. Otherwise, without stories, the product will just be a hunk of material.


Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories Stories to Stand Out by Adding Soul

These stories are balanced with facts and statistics. The stories are what carry the facts and make them easier for the audience to digest as I mentioned in my post last week about public speaking. By balancing your presentations and conversations with Aristotle’s three keys of persuasion: Especially this one, Pathos (emotion, stories), Logos (logic, analytical), and Ethos (evidence, credibility). Pathos (the stories) taking up most of what you say.


It is said that most successful TED Talks use approximately 65% of their speaking time for stories! Now, there you see, that is why storytelling is so effective in selling your ideas through stories. Click To Tweet


Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories Stories to Stand Out by Violating Expectations

By making your listener a bit uncomfortable through breaking the traditional pattern of a presentation or meeting you’ll catch your listener off guard. This will make your presentation that much more memorable.


Think about different movies or books you’ve read taking for example ‘Pearl Harbor’ (Yes, the one with Ben Affleck), After the bombing of Pearl Harbor you’d think the movie was over yet the main character gets sent on a secret suicide mission to bomb Tokyo with a very limited amount of planes running out of fuel in the process to be taken prisoner by the Japanese. It may not be the best movie but it’s got the right ingredients for surprises up its sleeve.


Just when the audience thinks it knows what will happen next, a plot twist occurs.


“Business legends have learned that it’s not enough to tell a story. Average stories don’t solve big problems. Hits do.”


Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out by Personalizing Their Stories

When you tell people about yourself those people can connect with you. By being transparent about your history it also builds trust with your audience. As Chris Brogan said in his book ‘The Impact Equation’ trust is the factor that most entrepreneurs lack. It is the most important factor for a customer to connect with an entrepreneur.


Personalized stories can also make the unknown known by using analogies and stories as a guide to helping people understand the point of your talk.


I personally also believe that every single person has a story to tell that others will be interested in. Not everyone will but there’s bound to be someone who can connect with your experiences in some way.


Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out by Using Humor and Sometimes Self-Mockery

Look at one of the most viewed TED Talks by Sir Ken Robinson talking about how schools kill creativity. The audience is almost nonstop laughing yet the message of the talk is a serious one. I watched this talk years ago yet I still remember the message because of the humor and stories he used.

There’s actually a scientific reason why we remember better after we hear something funny. The brain releases dopamine into the system which aids in remembering things. Another upside to using humor is people just want to be entertained.


If you want to be a good speaker then add humor to your toolkit as at the end of laughter it’s followed by a height of listening.


I'm only interested in the one thing that binds us all together. No matter what your profession is, no matter what you do, our job is to tell our story and that is never going to change. Click To Tweet

-Gary Vaynerchuk


PART III is about how successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out by simplifying

successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out

Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers. -Colin Powell Click To Tweet


I personally have had a bit of a hard time with words, spelling and pronouncing, throughout my life especially when I was younger. It’s possible that I have an acute form of dyslexia which was not diagnosed by my doctors. But I’m grateful for who I am because I believe I’ve got the art of simplifying my words and message down pretty well.


The world is filled with famous dyslexics, past and present, such as Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein and Walt Disney as well as our current Richard Branson! Simplifying your message is extremely important. In order to be as persuasive as possible, it’s best to be confident, clear, concise and simple.


Another reason to be absolutely clear when telling your message to someone is when you’re giving a pitch to investors (Hopefully this time comes sooner than later for you.). Richard Branson says he wants to hear the big picture before diving into the minute details of a business idea.


Steve Jobs always introduced his products in a perfectly crafted  Twitter length sentence. So if you can craft the main point of your presentation or pitch into the perfect 140 characters then in one sentence the people listening know exactly what they are getting into.


Simple can be harder than complex. -Steve Jobs Click To Tweet


Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out: The Rule of Three

Think about it. Everything around us comes in threes. The classic movie and book structure comes in three acts. We count ‘one, two, three‘ when we take a picture of someone. There are three strikes in baseball before you’re out. Even think about the words we use for starting a race, ‘Ready! Set! Go!’ comes in a group of three.


By splitting your presentation into three sections it makes it easier for the audience to recall your message.


Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out Along With Pictures

A really good visual isn't just beautiful; it makes you think. You draw conclusions from the depth of the information that's in it. Click To Tweet


You are the storyteller in your presentation and the slides are there as compliments to your story. The pictures help to stamp, almost literally into the mind’s eye of your audience. Use as little words are possible if you can depending on your presentation.


PowerPoint can be your friend if you use it correctly otherwise it’ll just be a crutch or a distraction to your audience.


Showing pictures is definitely good but they won’t mean anything if you don’t describe personal experiences and use analogies to help the audience hear and see what you’re saying.


Analogies are extremely useful since they help stamp an image into your audience’s brains. The pictures help to solidify what you are saying. And using analogies with pictures is also a way to help explain hard to grasp topics which the audience may have never had experience with.


Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out With Simple Language

There are several amazing entrepreneurs out there. By far one of my hero entrepreneurs is Elon Musk. Elon Musk, among many others, explains complex devices in a very simple manner so even a 10-year-old could understand.


Speaking simply obviously does not mean you are dumb or slow. Speaking simply means your audience will more easily be able to remember what you show them. There’s actually a scale you can use for your future presentations. It’s called the Flesch-Kincaid Test. The scores go from 0-100. Your goal would be to get as close to 90-100 as possible. 100 is about an 8-9-year-old level.


Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out by Breaking Their Presentation Into Small Parts

When explaining something especially when it is complex, the best thing to do is to break the steps down. Try making it as simple as possible.


A great analogy from the book to explain this point is taking, for example, a ship in a bottle:

There are many parts to the story-masts, booms, sails, hull, bowsprit. The entrance to the bottle-the tiny opening-is the “working memory” or short term brain capacity of your listener. The entire ship can’t fit through at once, so you feed the story to your listener in its component parts. Once complete, the listener can see the narrative from start to finish and understand how the parts fit together. The story can set sail and open up new worlds for you and the audience.


PART IV is about how successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out by motivating

successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out motivating

People don't want to hear about your successes until they know you understand their failures. Click To Tweet


Remember how I mentioned earlier that a tragic experience usually provides for an engaging story? For those of you who have had a tragic experience whether it be a loss of a limb or a loved one, you know how hard it is to deal and overcome these issues.


But by reframing these tragic events into a problem you can solve or a way to motivate other people with the same tragic experiences who may not know where to start to overcome their problem. You have the power to do this. Turning negatives into positives is such an important thing for humanity. Your problems give you purpose.


By using that purpose in your business you can inspire the people you work with to know why they are doing what they are doing.


Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out by Using “wow stories”

By now you can tell stories are powerful, but it gets even better for those who own businesses. A “wow story” is usually given by an employee of a company telling about a positive experience they had with a customer. These “wow stories” should be given at meetings to have their desired effect.


The desired effect for one) The other employees who heard the first “wow story” will start looking for opportunities to tell their own at the next meeting. and two) The customers will feel appreciated by the service and go tell their friends and family about their experience with your business.


Using “wow stories” is a chance for you to build a fantastic company culture.


Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out by Just Being Honest With Themselves and Their Audience

Once you embrace your own story an entirely new world will open up for you. Click To Tweet


Let’s face it, bad things happen to people all the time and what your future will look like depends on how you react to the problems you face. By embracing what has happened to you and pushing forward you’ll be capable of great things.


While standing in front of an audience, for example, you’ll be able to open up about your experience and help others out who have experienced similar things. The key is to get out there and start talking and sharing your experiences in any type of field you’re in.


In fact, your story may not seem spectacular to you, but there is bound to be someone out there who will think it’s great. None of us are perfect, so we don’t have to pretend to be. Just be honest, straightforward, and tell your story with heart.


Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out by Showing How They Came to be Successful

It’s extremely rare for an entrepreneur to be an overnight success. It’s practically impossible. Most people from the outside looking in see all the riches and worldly goods of an entrepreneur but don’t realize how much time an effort it took to reach that point.


People can be quite amazed by the riches and worldly goods of an entrepreneur but if they do not know where you came from and how you got to where you are now you’ll just be the next faceless rich guy enjoying a life of luxury. Whereas if you were to show your failures and talk about where and how you grew up the average person (who could be your customer) will be able to relate to you on a deeper personal level.


By being honest you’ll create this authenticity which will build trust and credibility.

The only brands and businesses that will survive in the next five, ten, twenty years are not brands and businesses that have a particular product. They are the brands and businesses that have the discipline and the core competency of being flexible, of being able to partner, of being able to understand that just because they’ve been on one path for the last two, five, or ten years, that does not mean that it is the path that will take us to continued success in the future.


PART V is about how successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out by Launching Movements

successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out movement

Don’t address their brains. Address their hearts.

-Nelson Mandela


Professional speakers make every speech filled with heart not from a script but from their own mouth. These speakers have had thousands of hours of experience speaking and it shows. Even when the speaker is improvising it’s not just random facts coming out of their mouth, it’s all of their knowledge and stories coming to a cohesive and precise head.


People like Martin Luther King Jr. knew exactly how to motivate people because of the way he spoke and the following behind him.


Point is, if you want to start a movement you must know how to speak on the whim with complete confidence and competence in what you’re saying which means you must have thousands of hours of practice.


Rhetorical Devices

The first one the book mentions is repeating the same phrase throughout your whole or part of your speech best known from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream…” speech although many other entrepreneurs and presidents have used this device effectively.


The second is the use of anaphora which uses ‘we’ as the subject of the sentence followed by whatever is appropriate. For example, Winston Churchill inspired the British people and soldiers to fight against the Germans in WWII by saying:

We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never srrender.


Good books and presentations can transport your reader or listener.

Have you ever got so into the book you were reading that you actually felt like you were the character living through what was going on in the book? This is what researchers call ‘transportation theory‘.


When you get to a part of the book like this your brain is actually activating the parts of the brain that would be activated if you were going through the situation. The same thing can happen when listening to a presentation. The more the audience gets emotionally involved in what you are telling them the more easily persuaded they will be to buy your product or sign up for your service.


If after the book or presentation someone asks you why you liked it so much you may not really even be able to put your emotions into words just like Simon Sinek explains in his book Start With Why. Emotions don’t come from the language part of the brain. That’s why it’s so hard to explain why you love your spouse.


The last and best example of how successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out.

Have you ever heard of Malala Yousafzai? Her story is probably one of the most inspiring stories I’ve ever heard and the great thing is her mission somewhat lines up with mine being that I strive to make this world a smarter place by encouraging people to read about self-development. So that people can improve their lives and in turn, this will improve the lives of others around them. It’s like a chain reaction.


Malala, on the other hand, strives to make education free all around the world especially for girls. She, like all of us, wants world peace. Education and the defeat of worldwide ignorance will annihilate terrorism. When I listened to her speech at the United Nations in 2014 it really connected with me on an emotional level. It didn’t just connect with me but I felt like she was speaking my mind. One of my favorite lines was


One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. - Malala Click To Tweet


Malala used (unintentionally?) Pixar’s 7-step storytelling process to structure her speech

  • Once there was a______.

(A protagonist/hero with a goal is the most important element of a story.)

  • Every day he/she______.

(The hero’s world must be in balance in the first act.)

  • Until one day______.

(A compelling story introduces conflict. The hero’s goal faces a challenge.)

  • Because of that______.

(This is not just a random set of loosely tied details. A compelling story has one nugget of information in each scene that compels the next scene.)

  • Because of that______.
  • Until finally______.

(The climax reveals the triumph of good over evil.)

  • Ever since then______.

(The moral of the story.)


Successful entrepreneurs use stories to stand out not just because telling stories is fun. It’s because storytelling is who we are, and there’s a storyteller in each of us. Your story can change the world. Let it out.


The Conclusion on How Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out

Each one of us has a story to tell. Our stories sprout out from the experiences we have in life. Sometimes the more tragic the event is the better stories we can tell. But there’s a difference between good stories and great ones. By using the tools from successful entrepreneurs who use stories to stand out and have been through so much to get to where they are now, we can also rise to the top alongside the best of the best.


Thanks for reading. I highly recommend reading this book and if you click and buy the book from the link below you’ll also be supporting the continuation of this website.

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