My friend and storytelling expert, Yamini Naidu, relates a task she was asked to do by her teacher whilst at school. The task was to write a story that made sense using only ten words, and each word could only be made up of two letters. They struggled, then the teacher went to the board and wrote the following:

The story read, ‘if it is to be it is up to me’.

Storytelling doesn’t have to be something that is read from a novel, a tome or a book of fables. It can be a conversation. And in the world of selling, our primary tool for communication is our ability to have any number of commercial conversations.

When we, ourselves, are influenced by something or someone, or even by being somewhere, it is because we have created a story around that opportunity. We have interpreted what we have seen, or heard or felt and turned it into a narrative that moves us – either logically or emotionally.

In sales we are encouraged to persuade our prospect to move  forward to an outcome.

I, personally, don’t like the world persuade as it conjures up making someone do something, in fact it’s meaning is, ‘ to make someone do or believe something by giving them a good reason  to do it or by talking to that person and making them believe it’.

On the other hand, I would much rather inspire someone to do something, meaning ‘fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative’.

One is on our terms and the second on their terms.

Which one is more sustainable and creates more ownership?

Persuading or Inspiring?

Let’s come back to our initial point around storytelling and go back even further to the great Greek philosopher, Aristotle.

He didn’t teach us the ‘world’s shortest story’, but what he did teach us were three components to creating movement in people through story.

Even in Joseph Campbell’s famed ‘The Hero’s Journey’, you will find Aristotle’s three components that continue to keep us engaged and ready to take action, but I believe in the world of sales, Aristotle might have added a fourth component to close the loop. Here are his three and my fourth:


This includes the facts, the figures, the statistics, the specs, the bits and bytes and speeds and feeds. This is an area that salespeople revel in. They love having conversations around the logic behind their idea, product or service. Very often, especially with left brain, engineering type people this is the ONLY type of conversation they have and it is nowhere near enough to inspire anyone to take action on its own.


This includes the credibility of the story, the person, the idea, product or services. This is something that is a major component of any commercial conversation that provides social proofing and validates the buyers gut feel about why they should move forward with you. It’s about the way your show up, your level of authoritas, your tone of voice, your ability to present yourself well, your presentation skills, your knowledge about your product, your reputation. It’s the ability for you to weave in testimonials, be able to articulate your value proposition and tell the ‘why me, why now’ story. This is an area often forgotten in sales conversations.


This includes the emotion, the authenticity and the feelings brought into the conversation. It’s how you can understand the higher purpose behind the conversation, tap into the emotional buying criteria of any buyer, introduce stories that relate to pain and pleasure, fear and desire and avoidance and achievement. This is the biggest area salespeople need to work on and the most important component of any sales conversation.

To create the Story Telling Journey for a salesperson and a buyer, I believe we need to add a fourth component and that is:


This includes the timeliness of the conversation. Underpinning any sales narrative or commercial conversation must be the right opportunity at the right time. Afterall, the Hero(s) needs to complete their quest and bring closure to the pain and fear and challenge and we need the Hero(s) to be the buyer. It is great if we can bring in logic and data, if we can ensure our credibility is strong and our ability to tap into the emotions of a conversation are solid, but we still must have a sense of urgency around our outcomes and be able to take our story, or narrative or conversation to the next logical, emotional and credible step towards an outcome for all as seen below.

So, to continue to inspire ourselves and others, let’s end by revisiting the ten most powerful words and shortest story ever told one more time:

‘If it is to be, it is up to me’.


Be Bold, Brave and Brilliant

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Bernadette McClelland is CEO of 3 Red Folders – a modern day saleswoman and keynote speaker on business growth, personal leadership and sales performance.

BIO: Business environments wanting to increase their revenue and profits, and differentiate themselves in a competitive market, ask for Bernadette McClelland because of her thought leadership on sales performance, her ideas on thinking beyond resilience and her fresh perspectives surrounding personal leadership skills — all designed to master the outcomes that matter.

Bernadette has proudly coached Harvard MBA students on their sales enablement curriculum, been the Master Asia Pacific coach for Anthony Robbins across twelve countries, authored five books on leadership and sales transformation, won a coveted Telstra award for Business Excellence, and continually shares her ideas around behaviour, the brain and business growth on stages in the UK, Europe, Thailand, India, NZ, Australia and North America.

Believing that sales performance is a leadership issue, you will also find her heading Melbourne’s human potential based sales performance consultancy, 3 Red Folders, as she navigates lead generation, message to market and digs deep into sales process activities with her clients in the mid-tier sector as well as founding ‘Women Who Sell’, an initiative designed to bring more women up to speed in their sales success.

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Image courtesy of Dmitry Ratushny

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