There are a number of characteristics that are associated with successful entrepreneurs and business owners. “Visionary” … “go-getter” … “risk taker” … and the list goes on.

Here’s a characteristic that I’m betting most people don’t associate with business success: storyteller. I can already hear your objections. Stories are what we tell our kids at night, and they’re why we watch TV shows after dinner. They have nothing to do with business… or do they?

I would argue that your ability to tell a good story plays a significant role in the growth of your business. Specifically, telling a good story will help you make more sales, and it will help you keep your employees engaged. Here’s what I mean:

Storytelling is a critical sales skill. Most businesses attempt to sell their products by focusing on the facts – the size of the hard drive, the shape of the widgets, the promised interest rate that will be earned. But in almost every case, this is the wrong approach. The facts, or the specifications, should be secondary to how the product or service will change the customer’s life. And this is where storytelling comes in to play. If you’re a retirement advisor, don’t focus on the dry facts. Instead, tell a story. Tell your prospects how your approach to retirement planning will allow them to enjoy a stress-free retirement, to travel the world, to spend as much time on the golf course as they’d like. Tell them stories of actual customers of yours who are living their retirement dreams. If you can make your business emotionally attractive by telling stories that appeal to your target market, you’re going to be successful.

Storytelling gives your employees purpose and keeps them engaged. Are your employees coming to work each day solely because they need the paycheck? If so, you probably aren’t going to get their best effort. On the other hand, if they truly believe that what they are doing matters, your employees will be “all in” and you’ll be getting their best work. And telling a story is the way to accomplish this. Steve Jobs was a master at this during his time at Apple. He got his employees to believe that they weren’t building electronics… they were changing the world. Why should your employees get out of bed each morning? What are they working for, besides just a paycheck? What is the story of your business?

The ability to tell a good story is very valuable when it comes to appealing to the emotions of your customers. And it’s an important way to give your employees a sense of purpose and keep them engaged. In future articles we’ll break this process down further, so be sure to stay tuned!

A couple of very short books that will help you learn the process are: How to Tell Great Business Stories by Nick Morgan and Make Your Idea Matter: Stand out with a better story by Bernadette Jiwa.

Do you tell stories in your business? When, and how? Are they effective? Leave a comment and share your story below!