According to Craig Wortmann, Clinical Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, people today tend to collect too much information – via Facebook, blogging, tweeting, reading other people’s blogs – information overload typically becomes a problem shared by humanity. In a recent interview for the Alter+Care Inspire Podcasts, Wortmann said that while the technique of telling stories is the oldest form of communication — it’s also the one form that rises above the din of our information-saturated environment and delivers messages that connect with people, bringing ideas to life.
Wortmann is founder and CEO of The Sales Engine and the author of the book “What’s Your Story?”, which discusses how to use stories to ignite performance and be more successful.
Wortmann believes that we are reaching back to our earliest human ancestors whose cave drawings created a narrative structure – stories that remain compelling through the ages. We still create stories to make daily experiences meaningful for people, to differentiate them from what Wortmann calls facts or data. Stories do two things: they create context and provide an emotional connection. By “emotional”, Wortmann doesn’t mean fluffy or characterized by high drama. Rather, it is emotional because we are all human beings who thrive on creating emotional connections. This is why stories – when told persuasively – can be so powerful.
According to Wortmann, “One of the things we say in business school that drives our students crazy is that people will not work to understand your message.” Instead, you have to work to be understood. For example, a sales trailer is to a business as a movie trailer is to a feature film. In both cases, we struggle to have our message understood because people have accumulated knowledge.
Wortmann helps entrepreneurs create their sales trailer, which acts as a hook that prompts the potential client to ask questions. Whatever way you send the message – whether spoken, written, e-mailed, tweeted or otherwise transmitted – always err on the side of conciseness. An e-mail, for example, should be three or four lines — maximum.
The same philosophy of brevity should apply to any presentation, which Wortmann believes in limiting to a single word per slide. He shares that same affinity with Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki and the late Steve Jobs.
To listen to Craig Wortmann’s full interview on the art of the sale, click here.