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The Category Manager knew he was in trouble. He had been summoned to a meeting with the CIO at short notice. As he waited anxiously in the conference room, he wondered what had gone wrong. When the CIO entered the room, she got right down to business. The company’s field sales representatives were having intermittent issues entering orders in their outdated system. As a result, they were losing revenue. The COO was not happy. The order entry system was scheduled to be replaced next year, but that timeline needed to be accelerated. The Category Manager breathed a sigh of relief. He looked the CIO in the eye and said, “Procurement can help. Let’s put a plan together.”
Within one month, the category manager and key stakeholders:
Outlined the requirements for a cloud-based system
Engaged a short-list of suppliers
Selected the technology and began the implementation
The new system was deployed and adopted in time for their busiest season. The enhanced mobile interface increased field sales productivity, resulting in 10-15 percent greater sales per representative. The COO was delighted. The CIO was recognized for her rapid action and contributions to a record quarter, thanks to Procurement’s support.
Maybe you pictured yourself anxiously waiting in a conference room for a stakeholder to enter. Or perhaps you related to that feeling of pride – knowing you helped your leadership team transform the way you do business.
In procurement, we have conversations every day that can be improved with storytelling tactics.
You can use a story when reporting data to your CFO, or you can bore everyone on the Zoom call with mind-numbing charts. Stories can help you tackle challenging change management projects that require a more substantial emotional buy-in, such as driving adoption of your latest digital procurement technology.
But stories are hard to tell if you are not clear and simple. That’s why we hosted a keynote session at the SIG 2020 Virtual Fall Summit. Our session was intentionally designed to help Procurement practitioners who often don’t have formal training in marketing or storytelling. One attendee even called the session “life-changing!” Spend Matters was impressed too!
Storytelling is a powerful tool to compel the human brain. If you follow a clear storytelling formula (more on that later), you will inspire others to take action swiftly and intentionally. Taking action quickly is important because we all have busy schedules and competing priorities. Storytelling helps us recall and retain helpful information. Consider the following reasons why stories stick:
Most people waste an enormous amount of time on unclear communications. And our brain is wired to block out messages that are not relevant or helpful to us. So, when you tell a story the right way, people remember what you said long after you shared the original story.
We live in a noisy world. On average, people will see 10,000 messages a day! To avoid soaking in every one of those messages, we have become experts at ignoring and tuning out irrelevant information. To break through the clutter, you must ensure your stories are not too long, contain the right hero, include some level of conflict, and have a clear message.
Your brain is helping you survive and thrive. This means you spend the entire day seeking out information to improve your life. So, when you deeply know your audience and what matters most to them, they will start to listen to you. As a result, you build more trust and credibility throughout the entire organization.
Bonus points: Keep your story brief. Provide enough details for clarity, but understand the importance of brevity, especially with busy executives.
During our keynote session at SIG, Josh Brammer from Lantern Marketing walked us through a formula for telling a good story, which includes the following components:
We meet a hero
The audience should be the hero in your stories. Oftentimes, you are the guide of the story. When telling your own story about Procurement and the impact on your organization, you should certainly play a feature role! However, if you are working with a stakeholder and you are both playing a hero, then you are in two separate stories.
There is a problem
No great story comes without conflict. Focus on the problem your audience wants to solve and align on common goals.
Give them a simple plan
Your story should include a simple 3-step plan of action. Larger projects will have many more steps or sub-layers, but in general, you can simplify the overarching plan.
Call people to action
In your story, people need to understand how to move forward. Be clear about what happens next.
Remind people what is at stake
Show your stakeholder how working with you will help them avoid failure and achieve success.
Learning a storytelling formula will help you save time, improve your communication, and increase your organizations' impact. Yet, figuring out how to tell your story or getting stakeholders to listen is frustrating. To help, we have created a storytelling guidebook that covers:
A detailed analysis of the storytelling formula – proven to help you tell better stories
Example success stories about the impact of storytelling for Procurement organizations
A storytelling worksheet that you can fill out before every meeting and stakeholder interaction
Download your copy of the storytelling guidebook. In the meantime, connect with me on LinkedIn if you would like a recording of our keynote presentation.
Senior Vice President, Sales
Greg Anderson is Senior Vice President of Sales in North America at WNS-Denali. He is a proven expert in Supply Chain and Procurement Managed Services and Technology solutions. Greg has over two decades of cross-industry sales and marketing leadership experience. Prior to WNS, Greg held leadership positions at Ivalua, Pensiamo, Directworks, Tenzing Consulting, SmartOps, Ariba, FreeMarkets, GE, and PPG.