Show #436: Sell with a Story – Paul Smith

Show #436: Sell with a Story – Paul Smith

Remember -- you ARE in sales. If you want people to hear you, frame your message in a story. You don’t have to be or become a “storyteller,” you just simply utilize short (1-2 minute) stories to dramatically increase your success in communicating a message. This is an intriguing and highly actionable show with author and speaker and authority on story, Paul Smith. Thanks to Harry’s Razors and Salesforce for their support of this episode!

Welcome to The Ziglar Show, where we inspire…your true performance. Without inspiration, all the wisdom and strategies for success will go nowhere. This is where you get your fuel. Today, we have episode 436 and we have a guest who is going to deliver a skill and vehicle we all desperately need. One Zig built his success on. It’s how to take any message you want to deliver and do it in a way that will increase your success by 10 times or more. I needed this show, and think you’ll agree you do, too! Let’s do it:

OK, folks, today’s show is going to cover a tool for your success toolbox that few people have and harness. Yet, it’s irrefutable that we all need it. And, as you’ll hear, it’s a tool we can all get and start using…now.

Our guest today is Paul Smith, author of Sell with a Story. To which I’ll say…if you want to effectively communicate anything to anyone, you need to hear this message.

Paul’s goal for this show is to help us all tap into the power of storytelling to help us be a more effective and inspiring leader, salesperson, or parent.

Regarding Paul Smith, he is one of the world’s leading experts on organizational storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and author of the books Sell with a Story, Parenting with a Story, and the bestseller Lead with a Story, already in its eighth printing and available in six languages around the world. Paul is also a former consultant at Accenture and former executive and 20-year veteran of The Procter & Gamble Company.

As part of his research on the effectiveness of storytelling, Paul has personally interviewed over 250 CEOs, executives, leaders, and salespeople in 25 countries, documenting over 2,000 individual stories. Leveraging those stories and interviews, Paul identified the components of effective storytelling and developed templates and tools to apply them in practice. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Time, Forbes, The Washington Post, PR News, and Success Magazine, among others.

Paul delivers professional workshops and keynote addresses on effective storytelling for leaders and salespeople. His clients include international giants like Hewlett Packard, Ford Motor Company, Bayer Medical, Abbott, Novartis, Progressive Insurance, Kaiser Permanente, and Procter & Gamble.

Paul holds a bachelor’s degree in economics, and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives with his wife and two sons in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason, Ohio. He can be found at

You can also find him on social media at:

OK folks, here, then, I bring you…Paul Smith:

Paul, the power of story has gotten a lot of press in recent years, but in first reviewing your book, I must testify you communicate the relevancy and tangible application in a way that…well, I just wanted to bring to the Ziglar audience. Thank you for being here with us today!

So what’s your story that led you to…advocating the power of story?

>>Listen to Paul’s responses

Let’s start off then, with you…defining what a story is and, specifically, in regards to a “sales story.”

>>Listen to the show

Bible readers will well know that Jesus seldom gave a straight answer. He spoke in parables. They depicted this well in the Lord of the Rings movies with Gandalf, of whom the character Aragorn commented, “You speak in riddles.”

All Zig Ziglar fans know he was a voracious story teller. He seldom made a point without starting with a story.

So let me set up a premise, Paul. I’m reading a book right now called Moonwalking with Einstein, and it’s about memory. It relates how, in the past, we relied on memory for the continuation of vital knowledge and history. Today, we have little need to memorize, and we’ve left the exercise of memory. There are consequences to this, but that’s another topic.

I bring it up here because the primary way memory was established was...through story. Because it engages our emotion. In the cultural appetite for the seven habits, ten keys, five steps, and growing away from storytelling, what are we missing…what are we losing? Individually?

>>Listen to Paul on the show

So, to the topic of selling, which, as always, we give focus to Zig’s statement of…everyone is in sales. Because sales is influencing. If we can’t sell, we can’t

  • Sell an employer on us, to get a job
  • Sell an employee to work for us
  • Sell an employee to DO a good job
  • Sell a prospect on the value of our product or service
  • Sell a prospective mate on a date with us, to marry us
  • Sell our kids to pursue health and wellness and integrity in their lives

We have no influence.

On page 37 of your book. . .you write, "Motivational speaker and sales guru Zig Ziglar reminded his audiences that 'Sales isn’t something you do to someone. It’s something you do for someone.' In other words, if you do your job properly, you’re doing people a great service. In fact, Ziglar went further to suggest salespeople 'think of themselves as an assistant buyer,' helping buyers find what they need and what’s best for them."

So, to help lead people to things that will benefit their lives, we must be able to influence them. And to do this best, Paul, you are claiming there is absolutely no better, more powerful way, than framing your effort in a story, correct?

>>Listen to the show

OK, so let’s get to the literal act of telling a story. Framing our point in…a story.

In reading your book, it feels that a main premise you cite is that it is simply…a skill.

When I was taught basic sales skills, I was given much focus on building trust. And how that you don’t talk people into something, you ask questions. This builds trust. You mirror body language; this builds comfort and trust. You look for clues and relate. This builds trust. You practice speaking with walk-away power – pull back, lead them to pursuing what you have.

And that this is not manipulation, it’s simple skills that help remove skeptical, risk-averse, and non-trust obstacles, and open the door for rational consideration!

So, are you, in fact, saying that, just like learning how to waltz, telling viable, relatable stories at appropriate times is simply a necessary, learned skill?

>>Hear Paul’s response

So, for most of my life, I’ve understood that relationally I’m a to-the-point guy. If you are going to tell me something, please, don’t take 15 minutes of storytelling to get to the point. Especially in marriage.

- “I’m really upset with you. So a week ago…”

- “OK, our kid is fine, I think, but this morning at school, I had initially left and…”

- For the love of Pete, what?? Don’t hold me in suspense!

I tend to be the opposite. “When we were with our friends, you openly criticized me and I’m upset.”

“Ian fell at school and they thought he might have broken his arm, but by recess he’d forgotten about it. So OK, but…” story…

I don’t think this is what you are referring to. One is personality, but are you talking specific times to harness the story? Maybe not necessarily to relate simple, daily info, but if you want to move, affect, change, attract…?

>>Hear Paul’s comments

In Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, he says a good story is made up of a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. I hear a similar thread here, where you cite the ingredients of a story are simply:

  • Time
  • Place
  • Character
  • Obstacle
  • Goal Event

Is this why testimony is king? Beyond mere social proof? Because, generally, a testimony by proxy is…reciting a story?

Testimony – the recounting of an experience.

Yelp is a grand catalogue of people’s many stories of their experiences. “So, it was Friday night, we had just arrived in town and were hungry for pizza, so we found good reviews for Lenny’s. When we arrived, it was obvious this was THE place to go, as it looked more like a family reunion than a mere restaurant…”

>>Listen to Paul’s comments


So, is story only or primarily relevant in sales, where the point is to relate and build trust, if it’s a truly literal, personal story? No made-up analogies or telling others’ stories, if you want full benefit?

>>Listen to the show

So, school me. In the Ziglar Show, this podcast, should I start every show with a story? Should I always or often use myself as a character in the story?

>>Hear Paul’s responses

OK, just dissecting your book more.

Can you tell us about this…the science of not just connecting with the head, but also the heart and emotions?

>>Listen to the show

“Many studies show that facts are easier to remember if they’re embed¬ded in a story than if they’re delivered in any other form. For example, Stanford University Professor Chip Heath asked his students to give one-minute speeches about crime. The average student used 2.5 sta¬tistics in his speech, while only one in ten students told a story. But when students were asked to recall the speeches, 63 percent remem¬bered details of stories. Only five percent remembered any individual statistic.”

I remember Carnegie classes back in the mid-‘80s that I attended as a kid, shadowing with my Dad...and memory based around little stories and visuals.

So, along with just a story, is much of the point also…a visual?

>>Listen to Paul’s comments

On page 19 you discuss how we attach value to experience, or even projected experience. I was going to ask…Isn’t this Branding 101 ? Why Volkswagen and Apple spend very little on tech merits of the product, but on story of the image and WHO buys, that we can specifically relate to?

But then you go on to write…

In the book you write:

One of the questions I asked procurement professionals was, “What kind of stories do you want to hear from salespeople?” Among the most consistent answers were stories to help them understand:

  1. Why and how your company was founded,
  2. Who you are and what your values are,
  3. How and why the product you’re selling was invented,
  4. Stories about how the product is made, and
  5. The level of integrity they can expect from you and your company.

What was interesting is…none of those questions were about the specifics or performance of the product or service itself! Which is what we expect we’re supposed to lead with.

>>Listen to the show

I was going to ask…OK, with all the options for storytelling, where do we start? Is this what you somewhat get to on page 33?

I_n_v_e_n_t_ _a_ _“W_h_a_t_ _I_ _d_o_,_ _s_i_m_p_l_y_” _s_t_o_r_y_._ _

D_e_v_e_l_o_p_ _a_ _“W_h_o_m_ _I_’v_e_ _h_e_l_p_e_d_ _a_n_d_ _h_o_w_” _s_t_o_r_y_._ _