What’s Your Story? Here’s Why Your Customers Need to Hear One!
Everyone loves a great story. What stories are you telling customers to make yourself more memorable?
November 22, 2013
Once upon a time, there was a real estate agent named Joe. Joe went to listing presentations prepared. He was armed with lots of data about recent home sales and price trajectories. He’d also make big promises to clients, vowing that if they put their trust in him he’d get their home sold.
So, why would clients pass Joe up?
Joe didn’t have a story. His promises sounded empty. He wasn’t memorable.
If Joe had shared with Mr. and Mrs. Seller how he sold the house down the street in just two weeks for $10,000 above the asking price and how he overcame some of the obstacles along the way, such as with showings and negotiations, then Joe would have a captive audience. He’d have more authenticity. He’d have a story.
Stories can be powerful ways to hook clients. Stories can motivate, inspire, and connect people. They can help establish common ground, garner more attention, and even serve as a less defensive way to critique or handle a customer objection.
“Your ability to tell stories is what people are going to remember about you and your brand,” says real estate trainer Tom Ferry, CEO of YourCoach and author of Life! By Design (Ballantine Books, 2004). “It’s not always the content you remember. But you always remember the story.”
During listing presentations, instead of going through slide after slide of talking points, take a moment to tell a story. Or, when your home buyers become flustered in their home search, a story may help inspire them to act.
Me? A Storyteller?
Everyone has a story to tell. But how you tell a story determines how great an impact it’ll have on your customer.
Great business storytellers strive to do three things simultaneously through their stories: Educate, motivate, and entertain, says Ferry. For example, your story about selling a neighbor’s house might also subtly educate the customer on the conditions of the market and contrast your style to other agents, motivating your prospects to pick you. Storytelling can do all this while engaging your clients in a way that will make them laugh, empathize, or better relate to you.
Here are five guidelines for crafting great stories in real estate:
1. Know your audience: A compelling story needs to be relevant to your listeners, or they’ll tune you out. “It’s so important to have a different message for your past clients, centers of influence, your geographic farm, and the niche you’re marketing to,” Ferry says. For example, if you’re marketing to a niche of attorneys, tell stories about other attorney clients you’ve helped. Stories that have situations and characters who are relatable to your customers will have far greater impact on inspiring or motivating them.
2. Identify great stories: Which stories should you tell? Maybe it’s a story about how a recent client of yours struggled to find the perfect home, so instead they found a perfect home to remodel. Or a story about how you assisted clients who had concerns about buying a foreclosure.
Ferry suggests one way to uncover stories from your work history: Take the address of every home you sold and mark it on Google Maps. “Instantly you have the story of every transaction you’ve ever been apart of on a map of your city,” Ferry says. “Whether the sale was 20 years ago or 20 days ago, it provides you stories that may help your clients.”
Two types of stories that are often effective:
• ‘Good vs. evil’: Nearly every film is based on the story of “good versus evil,” with a protagonist and antagonist. “The same thing applies to your stories,” Ferry says. “Why did this property sell, and why did this one not? The tale of the two can be a model you can use to develop your story and content.”
• Overcoming obstacles: “People tend to relate more to stories about what mistakes to avoid,” Ferry says. “No one wants to make the same mistake twice. Before you meet with a client, consider their top concerns. You can be a better storyteller by knowing their concerns and telling a story of how you solved past problems that addresses those concerns,” Ferry says. For example, you could share a story about some of the biggest mistakes that have gotten in the way of some of your past clients when selling a home.
3. Draw from the basics: Business communications trainer Darlene Price, president of Well Said Inc., offers up a five-part “STORY” method in her book Well Said! (AMACOM, 2013) in teaching how to create a story for clients that is meaningful yet concise.
• Set the scene: Offer up the time, place, and characters.
• Tell the trouble: What’s the obstacle, conflict, problem, or scary part of the story?
• Overcome the obstacle: This is where you share the teaching moment or inspiration part of the story about how your characters overcame the conflict.
• Reveal the reward: What’s the happy -- or unhappy -- ending?
• Bring a You focus: Bring relevance to your story by engaging listeners and transferring the story back to them — “Imagine if you...” or “Have you ever…?”
4. Evoke emotion: Good stories engage emotions. They make you relate to the character’s emotions and wonder, “What’s going to happen next?”
One way to evoke more emotion in your storytelling is to weave in metaphors. For example, Ferry recounts a story in his coaching to real estate professionals about how his grandfather moved from Minnesota to California to restart his life with his family with very little money in his pocket. Ferry’s grandfather reflected on his deathbed the most important things he did in life. He told Ferry it was taking the risk to move across the country and start over that was one of his biggest moments. “It was a struggle and a challenge. It was risky,” Ferry recounts him saying. “But the lesson: Don’t wait. Take action. Move forward. Follow your dreams. ... If my grandfather was sitting in front of you, Mr. and Ms. Buyer, what do you think he would say to you?”
Metaphors can be a storytelling approach that can be used to motivate your customers to take action, Ferry says.
5. Use stories throughout your marketing: Stories aren’t just for face-to-face interactions with customers. Businesses are weaving stories throughout their marketing, including blogs, e-newsletters, and videos.
Sales trainer Barb Girson, CEO of My Sales Tactics, says a storytelling approach can be an effective way to differentiate your customer e-mails and e-newsletters and show some personality.
For example, in your e-newsletter or blog, instead of just sharing home maintenance tips, she suggests making it more personable by sharing a story about the maintenance you’re doing on your home, and even posting a photo of you doing it to help customers feel a stronger connection to you.
Video lends itself to storytelling and some in the real estate industry have embraced it in a big way. Watch how two real estate professionals have used storytelling in a unique way through video.
Agent as storyteller: Brian Lewis, an executive vice president and real estate broker with Halstead Property in New York, embraces a storytelling approach by turning a listing video into a story about telling a story.
Mini feature film: Laura Berry, who sells high-end real estate through her company Barry Estates Inc. in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., uses a dramatic feature film style to illustrate what it’s like to live at the home she’s selling.