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Thursday, August 10, 2006

What's Your Story?

"A Story to be told" originally uploaded by Dave Pinn.
Stories also enable us to connect with one another. Aren't you often asked some version of "what's your story?"? The answer lets us tell others where we come from, what we are about, which commonalities we share and how we fit into one another's world.

Women are particularly attuned to this, starting from a very early age. Have you ever watched how girls interact? Even four year olds! They try to find links and connections to one another. You hear them complimenting one another on a hair ribbon, on what they're wearing. They'll express surprise and delight at having a similar birthday [Yours is in May??? Mine is in June!!!]. They love to discuss personal details and exchange STORIES.

My friend, Ben, says that anytime you compliment a woman on a piece of jewelry or an item of clothing she wears, you will hear the story associated with the object. That's how powerful stories are to her! They envelop her being. They give meaning to the objects in her life.

As it relates to a selling environment, not only do you need to have a compelling story to tell [see The Power of Stories], but it also means being prepared to listen to your consumer's story - particularly if she is a woman! After all, women represent our target audience, making or influencing at least 80% of purchase decisions and closer to 95% of flooring and carpeting decisions.

Your consumer's story offers a wealth of information! It lets you know what she is looking to accomplish, what matters to her and how specific products and colors might work for her. Understanding her story allows you to 'romance' your product offerings, highlight the fashion statements that they make, and generally offer aspirational solutions that are relevant to your customer's story.

Through that story, she offers you the tools you need to select the right portfolio of product options. It is also an opportunity, an invitation to connect with her. For, IF you listen carefully, you can start to establish your trustworthiness. That's the first step to developing a relationship with her. And, then the story leads to closing this sale and a multitude of additional sales with her and with all of the people she will have referred you to. If you don't respect what that story represents, she will walk away and tell everyone she knows to stay away!

Many retail experiences miss the boat by focusing too much on facts and figures and product attributes, and not enough on acknowledging how important she and her story are. Remember, the goal is to assist her, support her, advise her on how best to build her magic castle. Not to force her into doing something she isn't comfortable with.

Lisa Johnson -- co-author of "Don't Think Pink" [see recommended reading/Marketing to Women] with Andrea Learned, see Learned On Women -- published the following newsletter in April, 2006. Titled "Trade with the Insiders", it addresses the topic of Sales and Customer Service through the example of a Nordstrom personal shopper. This personal shopper asked questions to uncover the consumer's story, and listened very carefully to come up with the right solutions. According to Johnson, an Insider:
  1. Asks the right questions
  2. Offers industry intelligence
  3. Saves you time, money and hassle
  4. Wants an ongoing relationship
  5. Gives you a heads up
  6. Treats your referrals like gold
  7. Enjoys the relationship as much as you do
  8. Pushes your limits - in a good way
  9. Offers a reality check.

An Insider essentially becomes a part of a customer's story.

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