People buy from people they like

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —January 31, 2013
Filed in Selling

People buy from people they like and people buy from people like them.

This was brought home again to me last week when an email turned up out of the blue that started;

It came as a surprise, on checking out your website, to discover you have not one bona fide storyteller among the names and faces placed there. Determining whether a story is a good one or not is subjective, so no doubt you can do that adequately. Still, in actually ‘teaching’ storytelling who do you draw upon?

Now I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t exactly feeling a lot of love towards the sender at this point. One of the things we pride ourselves on here at Anecdote is teaching business storytelling by telling stories. We have blogged and tweeted about this very concept a number of times over the last few years. We believe passionately in the concept of ‘show don’t tell’. In this context that means not just telling people our opinions or views or making bold statements about business storytelling and its the benefits, but actually showing them those benefits by sharing stories. Therefore to be told we don’t have “one bona fide storyteller” in Anecdote kind of grated.

Now in reading further down the email and finding out more about the sender, we realised they were coming from the Big ‘S’ end of the storytelling spectrum, while we are focussed on the small ‘s’ end (to read more about this concept check out his blog post). Knowing this put their comments in context, they were just defining what a ‘storyteller’ was in different terms than we do, and in fact we had far more in common than we did have differences.

Robert Cialdini in his seminal work on influence and persuasion Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion lists ‘Liking’ as one of his 6 principles of influence. He argues, backed up by fifty years of research, that there are three major routes to liking: similarities, compliments, and cooperative endeavors (working together towards a common goal).

The writer of the is email had the opportunity to play into at least two of these aspects. They could have started talking about our similarities and the things we had in common. They could have then go on to talk about our common goals (i.e telling, and getting people to tell, stories). They could have even completed the trifecta by complimenting us on something about our website or our blog. And they could have made all of these things far more memorable and far more impactful if they were told as stories, or included stories. But instead of starting with the things that we had in common, and that connected us, they lead with the differences we had.

This approach failed to build connection. It failed to build rapport. And ultimately it failed in the senders objective to try and sell us their services.

People buy from people they like, and people like them and stories can play a huge role in creating those connections. We focus a lot in our new Storytelling for Sales Program about how you can use stories to do exactly that. To find out more about the program please contact us.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

One Response to “People buy from people they like”

  1. Dinesh Says:

    Wow… it’s quite rare that I read posts in its entirety from start to finish. This one, I did. Great post, Kevin.
    I can’t believe that the person who wrote that email to you was actually trying to sell you something!

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