Driving Sales Engagement With Emotionally Compelling Stories – Podcast Episode 8

by nils  - September 14, 2015

Blog post/show notes

Links to books mentioned

  • Alan Cooper’s The Inmates Are Running The Asylum – one of the canonical texts on interaction design, the source (for me, anyway) of the concept “personal goals,” and a fun read.
  • Dan Pink’s Drive, about how motivation really works, and To Sell Is Human, a fresh look at how people really buy things, and how to sell to them.

Other blog posts

This podcast is based on article an I posted a while ago, Don’t Just Use Social Proof, Make Sure It’s Personal.

Other related articles from my site:

Lines of questions

These are the question prompters for eliciting personal goal-related stories I mentioned in the podcast:

  • Did they have low expectations from having used other products, and your product exceeded those greatly?
  • Was there a problem before they implemented your product that had personal impact that your product eliminated? Example: they couldn’t get to their kids’ baseball and soccer games because they had to work late every day, until your product made them much more efficient. Now they catch every game.
  • Did they have a bad experience with a competitive product that your product didn’t have? “After tearing my hair out every month when we closed the books with our old product, I just have to click a button with Acme Financials. I’m not losing my hair anymore.”
  • Do they talk about their success with your product in personal terms – “now I sleep better at night,” or “my stress level is much lower now?”
  • Did their reputation or standing in the company change after they implemented your product?
  • Eliminating annoying and tedious work is a great result as well, because everyone has the personal goal of “not having to do stupid stuff.” “Your product saved our department a lot of time and headaches by eliminating most of the tedious, manual tasks associated with our old process.”

Three things you can do

Here’s what you can do now to put these ideas into practice.

  1. Whenever you talk to a customer, try to elicit some thoughts about how your product has helped them satisfy personal goals, from being less annoyed by their work, to being more praised by their peers. You can use the list of points above as a guideline for your questions.
  2. I also recommend searching through your existing customer success stories, and the interviews that back them up, to see if you can find the quotes that represent personal successes for the speaker, and not just the achievement of business goals.
  3. Work with your marketing department to start using these personal goal quotes on your website as social proof for your product. Use A/B testing to confirm they create more engagement than what you might have there already.


Here’s the script I used when recording the podcast. The script and the podcast diverge at points, due to, you know, improv!



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Your host and author, Nils Davis, is a long-time product manager, consultant, trainer, and coach. He is the author of The Secret Product Manager Handbook, many blog posts, a series of video trainings on product management, and the occasional grilled pizza.

  • Great ideas for questions to ask to solicit customer stories! One other use for a compelling personal story (if expanded a bit) is for the story arc for a presentation at an industry event or VC pitch deck. This post by Rand Fishkin talks about how storytelling is one of his top "cheating" techniques for delivering great presentations: https://blog.slideshare.net/2015/07/24/how-to-che… Thanks again!

    • Thanks for this comment! I totally agree that basing a presentation on the success stories of customers is another great way to use them. As long as you remember to find the personal successes behind the “Sales improved by 10%” business value story, and then surface those. I’ll definitely read Rand’s post.

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