Make your story sell: Don’t tell them what – tell them why

:: Quick interruption before the main feature. Learn how Vernacular can help you articulate your ‘why’

So much for grabbing audience attention.

When it’s your moment in the sun; your one big chance to woo potential investors with your big idea, tell them something they don’t know.

Opening statements like this one are the kiss of death: “Technology is changing at a fantastic pace.”

Three would-be investors listened stony-faced to the 20-something software company founder state the bleedin’ obvious, their hopes for magic words that mate pens with cheque-books fading fast.

Rows of faces stared and winced a half-beat behind each mention of ‘disruption’ – a wretched cliche to everyone except technologists drunk on their own vapour-ware.

The pitch lasted three minutes and covered the basics: business model, problems solved, supply and demand, target customers, upside, forecasts and valuations.

But something was missing.

Apathy hung in the room like cigar smoke. Fingertips fondled chins, eyeballs did a sideways flit. A wine glass tipped over.

The game was lost.

What was it that investors had failed to see?

Besotted with facts and reason (and handicapped by a powerful lust for bland observations and cliches), the presenter’s omission of emotive hooks ensured her failure.

Emotion drives decisions – not reason. Our logical processes are often merely rational justifications for emotional decisions.

Humans act on gut feelings, vibes, and instincts – a limbic-brain imperative that is unconsidered, unannounced and, in most cases, impossible to resist.

Yet had our presenter answered just one simple question she’d have set investor eyes ablaze with dollar signs.

Question: WHY?

Why does her company do what it does? Why do they exist? Why do they turn up for work and do what they do?

Investors, customers, workers don’t buy WHAT your company does.

They buy from companies who tell them why.

Because answering the ‘why’ reveals your beliefs. And when your audience shares the same beliefs, then – and only then – are you able to make an emotional connection.

And that’s when people get on board, invest, buy, support, whatever – they’re in your hands.

The world’s most powerful brands obsess about their ‘why’, using the answer to set them free from being limited to a fact.

Consider Apple, the world’s most valuable brand (and overused example of brand excellence).

Why does Apple exist? Because there is a great unexploited potential of creativity and intelligence in every individual.

The answer establishes their mission: To make the power of computing totally subservient to the stimulation of people’s intelligence and creativity.

Which drives their ambition: To become the brand that is indispensable to anyone willing to develop his or her mind power.

But it is Apple’s gadget design that fills people with consumer lust, surely?

Certainly, but would Apple’s gadgets incite such desire had they neglected to pinpoint their ‘why’?

I doubt it.

Customers need to know what your business does, your offer. But that won’t help you win their business.

Tell them why you do it and they just might end up loving you.