When providing case studies to a prospective customer or client, we are typically drawn to answering three questions:
•What was the problem we had to solve?
•What was our solution?
•What were the measurable results?
The problem with using this three-question approach is that it forces us to rely on facts alone.
But facts alone do little to engage prospects and are limited in their ability to influence unless they are made evocative. That’s where storytelling comes in. Storytelling wraps facts within the emotional context that every persuasive message needs in order to be effective.
In order to transform your case studies into case stories, cast aside that three-question approach above and use the following approach instead.
The 3R’s Approach To Turn a Case Study Into a Case Story
The three R’s stand for Relate, Rescue, and Resolve. Here’s how to put them to work:
Arguably, it’s better to not have a case story if yours is one your prospect cannot relate to. Strive for relevance. Here’s how:
•Be sure to know what’s in it for your prospects to listen to your story. And don’t leave it up to them to figure out the relevance. Chances are, they won’t unless you use language like, “similar to what you are currently experiencing,” or “just like you.”
• Make certain the assessment of your prospect’s client is based on facts and not assumptions. Knowing the facts will help you gain points for having done your homework. Relying on faulty assumptions will do nothing more than damage your credibility.
•People relate to people more than they relate to companies. ABC Lugnuts Inc. may have had a problem, but talk more about Mr. Lugnuts. Talk about what he was experiencing and how he felt being faced with a problem that your audience is familiar with. Perhaps Mr. Lugnuts was frustrated with what had been tried in the past? Perhaps he was perplexed, confused, or convinced that there was just no workable solution to his problem. Get your audience to relate to feelings, not just facts.
•Don’t gloss over the problem. In part, stories engage us because they present interesting and identifiable conflicts. Do what you can to help your prospect feel the pain that the protagonist of your story was experiencing. Don’t go overboard; your audience does not have the time nor the patience for a sideshow. A question like “Have you ever experienced a 20% drop in sales over the course of a month?” can do as much to set up an identifiable conflict than a short novel. If your prospect answers yes, they know the pain. If they answer no, help them imagine what that pain feels like.
The Rescue is the “something happened” part of the story. It is where the magic of your story exists.
The “something happened” could be a discovery, an insight, or some other event that lead to an action you decided to take. The Rescue provides the best opportunity for your audience to see how you think. Here’s how to best take talk about the Rescue:
•Instead of jumping right into a description of your solution to a given problem, tell your audience how you got there. Bring them to the doorstep of your “aha” moment. Steve Jobs was a master of this technique. Watch how he does this during some of his keynotes as he presents new products.
•If you can,use dialogue. Nothing makes a story more interesting than dialogue. “I talked with his people and that helped me to more clearly see his problem,” pales in comparison to, “I looked at him and said, “Mr. Lugnuts, I talked with your people. And I think you’re going to be surprised at what I found out.” One of the reasons dialogue works it that it helps audiences see events unfolding in their heads.
Measurable results are the best results to provide. But don’t limit yourself to facts and data. Feelings are just as important.
•Go beyond the numbers to explain the long-term effect your solution had on sentiments that were felt by the person you were helping. It could be a new sense of optimism, excitement, or less burden. Help you audience know they will feel the same way.
If you’re interested in learning more ways to use storytelling as a sales tool, visit Storytelling For Sales Workshops.