How to Create Data Quality Business Success Through Storytelling
by Richard White
Richard White, resident business development expert on Data Quality Pro, explains the importance of storytelling when introducing your data quality service proposition or solution.
Through a simple, proven framework, he helps guide the reader through a series of exercises designed to transform your proposition introduction.
Once mastered, you can adopt this technique at industry conferences, interviews, sales meetings, social networking forums and everyday business encounters.
Richard can be contacted at: The Accidental Salesman
The ‘S’ Factor
You know you are very talented at what you do.
You have helped many organisations to improve the quality of their data. You are passionate about data quality and the impact it can have on a business.
So what do you say when someone asks “What do you do?”
How do you make data quality sound exciting and avoid eyes glazing over when at networking meetings?
How do you get people to think of good referrals for you even though they have not got a clue what is involved in a data quality project?
When I was new to consultancy sales and l was looking for the difference that makes a difference in consultancy sales I made an important and unusual discovery. All the top sales people I ever came across had one thing in common.
They all were great storytellers.
I started using stories in my approach and started to get great results too.
What we need to do is to stop trying to explain what data quality is and start telling stories that illustrate the people we help and the kind of problems we solve for them.
People love stories, especially human interest stories. If you have ever tried to get some free PR you will discover that journalists are only interested in human interest stories.
Crafting Your DQ Proposition Story
Using proposition stories will help to communicate and reinforce your target audience and your proposition. Their aim is to help the people you meet identify with the people you are looking to connect with and the reason why it would be good to connect with you.
You are looking for 3 reactions:
- “I know someone like that!”
- “That’s just like me!”
- “That’s interesting, tell me more”
It is of little relevance of HOW you do what you do. That is for a more detailed conversation another time. More important are the people you help and the pain and drama they are experiencing.
There are 4 aspects of stories to consider:
Stories are always about people and essentially they need to be people like the ones you want to meet. If you provide data quality services then the story should be about the person who needed those services. This will probably be a director or senior figure rather than the users.
John is a data quality consultant who specialises in improving the data quality of marketing databases. Although the marketing director is the main beneficiary of his work, the person responsible for deciding to engage the data quality consultant is the IT Director. The main person in John’s stories should be the IT Director. This is the person John needs to be connected with.
All good stories have drama. It’s what makes a story compelling! You want to communicate the problems that your prospects are currently going through and why they need your help. The problems the person is experiencing is the source of the drama to base the story on.
In a fairy story, you might have a damsel in distress (that’s the customer) being chased by a dragon (that’s the problem the customer is wrestling with). You will also have a knight in shinning armour that comes along at the end to save the day (that’s you!).
A story which was all about the knight in shining armour and how he saved the day would be very dull. Make sure the main part of your story is about the prospect and their problems, rather than focusing on how wonderful you are. The person you are speaking to will assume you know what you are doing and the story will confirm that.
John could easily tell a story about the drama from the perspective of the Marketing Executive. To get connected to IT Directors, however, he needs to focus on the drama from the perspective of the IT Director.
This is the reference to you, the knight and how you saved the day. It needs to be subtle but clear. It needs to give the message that you can help. I normally like there to be mention about being recommended.
All great movies have similar plots. For example, ‘the journey’ is a common movie plot. The stories can seem very different to the movie goer and yet the plots are still the same. The first Shrek movie is very different from Lord of the rings and yet they both share the Journey plot.
Your stories should share a similar plot that communicates an underlying message. You can change the details of the story and yet the plot stays the same.
For my stories the plot is: Consultant struggling to generate leads. Meets Richard White and quickly turns around business development fortunes.
can tell 3 stories in a row to the same person and they will sound different but communicate the same underlying message that I can help consultants generate leads and turn around their sales fortunes.
Data Quality Proposition Story Example
Let’s look at an example based on our data quality consultant, John, and a great piece of work he has done. With one client he worked for he cleaned up a marketing database and increased the response rate by 37%. The marketing executive was delighted with the results.
In this particular example Sarah is the Marketing Executive. Sarah is under pressure from the Sales Director to generate more sales leads. At the board meetings, Sarah uses the quality of the data as a reason for the lack of sales leads. Geoff is getting pressure at every board meeting from both Sarah and the Sales Director. Geoff wants to do something about it but his budget is already allocated. He has a small amount left for emergencies but this was unlikely to be enough to clean up the database.
The IT Director should be the main person in the story. The Pain is the pressure that the IT Director is getting from both the sales director and the marketing executive to clean up the database and thinking he did not have enough resources to do something about it.
The payoff will be the satisfactory conclusion for the IT Director as well as the marketing executive.
The plot is about an IT Director with limited resources and needing to clean up databases uses John and gets dramatic results very quickly.
The story would be spoken rather than written but might look something like this:
“I was called recently by an IT Director who had been referred to us by another client.
He was under a lot of pressure to clean up the marketing database because of the poor response rates the business was getting.
He was feeling in a difficult position because he did not have much budget left. He was worried that addressing the data quality was going to open up a can of worms and cost a fortune.
He asked us to do a data quality assessment and cost out the project. We came up with a plan focusing on some quick wins for a modest budget.
In fact within just 8 weeks the marketing conversions had risen by 37%. The board was so impressed that the IT director was able to have his budget increased to expand the data quality initiative.
Needless to say the IT Director became very popular with the Sales Director and the marketing executive.”
So how do you get started at crafting your proposition stories?
A good place to start is by dusting down your case studies. If they are like normal case studies, they probably have lots of information about your services. Take another look at the project but this time write a story from the perspective of the decision maker and the drama they were going through before you started working with them.
If you do not have any formal case studies then take a moment to think about some of your top success stories and turn each one into a proposition story.
Richard White is a business development consultant and coach specialising in helping IT professionals and organisations end feast and famine forever. He does this by helping clients gain clarity over how they can win profitable clients and develop more business with existing clients. He holds an MBA from Cranfield School of Management and is a member of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management.
Richard has a background in Business Intelligence and selling IT consulting services (including data quality) to large organisations. Richard is a self confessed accidental salesman and went from hating sales and being useless at it, to falling in love with sales, overcoming his fears and outselling his colleagues. He now helps technically minded people make that the same paradigm shift much faster and with ease. Richard provides free online sales training at: http://www.theaccidentalsalesman.com
Contributions by Richard White