John Livesay, left, with Michael Phelps, second from right.
HIGH POINT — In his keynote at the Contemporary Design Group’s 2020 virtual conference, sales keynote speaker and longtime advertising salesperson John Livesay stressed the importance telling the sales story with confidence.
“In the business world, you want to tell somebody something that gets them to say ‘hmm, tell me more,’” he said.
Pulling from his own experiences with layoffs, celebrity clients and more, Livesay broke down a successful pitch into three parts: confidence, storytelling and commitment.
Storytelling is key in successfully pitching and selling for a myriad of reasons, he said. “Storytelling gives us those emotional connections that make us memorable.”
And the formula for a good story is pretty simple — paint a picture, give details, loop in a problem, find a solution and then bring in a resolution — and storytellers should start by engaging people with their own story of origin by asking themselves some simple questions.
“What made you get into furniture? What’s your passion for it? Where did the name of your store come from?” said Livesay. “That’s you selling the company, and then you can sell a particular piece of furniture. Most people just jump right into the product or service.”
Livesay also noted that there are a few ways to shape stories in the business world:
- Rags-to-riches stories, also described as a Cinderella story of sorts.
- Quest stories: Often used in fiction, brands such as Lexus make use of this with its slogan “the pursuit of perfection.”
- Rebirth stories or second-chance stories give storytellers a chance to tell two stories.
- Staying home or going on a trip stories: It usually involves a character coming back and learning a lesson.
For many in an industry accustomed to “case study” presentations vs. “case story” presentations, Livesay says it can be difficult to find the confidence to overcome the unease of trying something new. To counteract, he suggests practicing a with a few thought tools that can make use of those nervous feelings.
“Stack moments of certainty in your life,” he explained. “Write down two or three times you know you nailed something, remember those feelings and then do the superhero pose,” which he says involves standing with your hand and arm up in the air.
After two minutes of that, research Livesay pulled shows that testosterone in levels in your body will increase and cortisol stress levels will lower.
Once people have nailed down the confidence to tell their story, Livesay said they have to double down on their commitment, pulling an example from a conversation he had with Olypmic swimmer Michael Phelps.
“I said to him ‘Everybody says you’re so successful as a swimmer because you’ve got feet like fins and a lung capacity that’s bigger than most, but I’m guessing there’s something else,’” recounted Livesay. “And he said, ‘When I was very young my coach said, ‘Michael, are your willing to work out on Sundays?’ and I said yes. My coach says, ‘Great. We just 53 more workouts in a year than your competition.’”