The greatest challenge is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Story-telling changes the way our brains work

Can story-telling really change the way our brains work?
Behold the selling power of stories.
June 23, 2016

By Maurice Duffy

We know that stories have a profound effect on our brains and our behaviour. This goes back to our own childhood, when one of the most basic request we made as kids was “read me a story.”

Paul Zak a pioneering neuroeconomics researcher, who has carried out multiple experiments on the power of storytelling, says,“Stories are powerful because they transport us into other people’s worlds but - in doing that - they change the way our brains work and potentially - change our brain chemistry - and that’s what it means to be a social creature”.

Let me give you a practical example. In the 1986 box office hit ‘Top Gun’, a couple of hotshot naval pilots are given a unique chance to train with the ‘best of the best’ pilots in the world to refine their elite flying skills.

What does this movie have to do with storytelling in sales? Well in many ways it was an extremely profitable sales letter.

Here’s why. After the movie was released:

Sales of Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses like those worn by Tom Cruise’s character Maverick, jumped 40%

Air Force and Navy recruitment shot through the roof

The film was so good at ‘selling’ to those who sought adventure, or who thought how cool being a fighter pilot must be, the Air force and Navy set up recruitment booths inside theaters where the movie was played.

Behold the selling power of stories.

When listening to a story, people put themselves in the world of the story. Worry, fear, anger, love, and freedom are all emotions great storytellers elicit as a matter of course. Not only do people feel these emotions when listening to a story, they see the images in their minds. When connected to powerful emotions, these images stick with them.

In any group there are multiple personalities with multiple buying profiles. They all have one common denominator though and that is they want to be engaged. Story telling engages and pulls buyers to you.

In my research I have identified six buying profiles that can be all or part of any buying process and a one size fits all approach to selling just does not work, or one story will not engage.

In the days before literacy was commonplace, people preserved the events of their history through oral traditions, passing down the stories through the generations. To this day, stories still have the power to inform and educate, intrigue and excite. Stories can capture our imaginations. Stories influence our decisions and help us see the world from brand new perspectives.

You will win a sales pitch if you can:

Capture attention of those you are presenting to by telling a story that engages the audience, and leaves them waiting to see what happens next.

Add meaning to your story which will stimulate the parts of the brain associated with sight, sound, taste, and movement, which makes the stories – and by extension, the product more memorable later on. Stories bring meaning much more than facts or figures and make the product or service memorable.

Add relevance by illustrating how the products or services features and benefits can be much more relevant to the organisation’s life and soul.

Add emotional impact to the story which will connect you as a person to the buying audience.

Motivating people into action as people tend to make emotional purchases and then justify their decisions with logic after the fact. When stories trigger emotions, they also help drive people to make buying decisions.

We here at Blackswan have created a story house which allows individuals to learn the art, science and behaviour of storytelling in leadership sales and organisational change.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to embrace change

For more information on storytelling and what we can offer you, contact us at Blackswan on 0845 603 2815 or email


Maurice Duffy @CEOblackswan

Life is about Liverpool FC and being an adopted Irish Geordie
Joined July 2009