Oh no, not again: it’s the souvenir-vendors. I’m here on business, but they’ll mob around anyone here who even looks like a tourist. And every time it’s the same: “You want to buy? Low price, low price” – as if price itself is the only reason anyone would want the item.
No attempt at a business-relationship; no context; the items may indeed often be beautiful, but there’s no story through which I could connect to them. “Gracias, pero no”, I stammer in my broken Spanish, ‘Thank you, but no”: it’s a phrase I use a lot each time I run the gauntlet of the town’s main square…
No story, no sale. Simple as that, really.
I contrast this with another sales-experience, this time in a small town up in the north of England. I’m in a charity-shop, just looking around – as we so often do in such places. And I notice that attached to various items that people have brought in for the charity to sell are small bright tags, each with a code-number.
I ask the middle-aged woman behind the counter what they’re for. Smiling, but without a word, she lifts up one of the items – a bedside lamp – and takes it over to the computer-screen to one side of the shop. As she does so, the screen lights up, and a video-recording starts – a young woman, holding the same lamp:
This is a bit old-fashioned now, I suppose, but my mum bought it when we moved to Salford, thirty years ago, and it’s been on her bedside table ever since. She always found it hard getting to sleep, especially when dad was away, so she often sat up in bed for hours, reading by the light of this lamp. It’s been a good friend to her all those years, and we hope it’ll be a good friend to you too.
It’s true I don’t need the lamp, but I’m intrigued by the story – and the story behind that story. It’s an experiment, the volunteer shop-assistant tells me: people who bring donated items into the shop can record a bit of the story about that item – their own story with that item, about what it means as well as just what it is. Not just an object in a shop, but a story in itself, object-as-story. Interesting indeed…
I’ve seen this sometimes with supposedly precious objects – paintings, jewellery, a book previously owned by some famous person, things like that. But these are everyday stories about everyday objects used by everyday people – and somehow much more meaningful for that. And more valuable, too.
So how does your business, your community, your family, tell its own story through such objects? In what ways can you use such stories to connect, over time, across the generations? Capture and explore those stories – and build a story that people want to know.
To be an effective business storyteller requires practice. Anecdote’s programs are designed to work in a no-nonsense way in a business setting, you can learn more about them here
About Tom Graves
Principal Consultant at Tetradian Consulting, Tom's main professional interest is in whole-of-organisation integration, and tools and techniques to improve the same. His main personal interest is in writing on skills-development and other such oddities of human existence.