Michael is sometimes referred to as the “Storytelling MD.” When asked why, he replies: “Although I greatly admire the work doctors do to earn their MD, I took a different route. I didn’t go to school for 8, 10 or 12 years. I’ve studied public speaking and storytelling skills since 2001. Also, I was wise enough to be born with the initials MD. Combine the two, and you get ‘The Storytelling MD’.”
He is the founder of Speaking CPR, and also serves as a faculty member of Stage Time University. He is a Certified World Class Speaking coach, and continues to study and work with some of the best professional speakers, humourists and screenwriters to hone his speaking and storytelling skills.
You may be familar with Michael's previous book ‘THE Book on Storytelling,’ but today we are going to discuss his new 'Sell More With Stories' Kindle book series, and why storytelling is becoming such a widely used technique in sales today.
Hi Michael, thanks so much for stopping by the Activia Expert Insights! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a passionate student of public speaking and storytelling. I wasn’t born that way, however. Due to a humiliating experience in first grade, I was terrified of speaking before others for the next 25 years. It wasn’t until a threatened job loss that I went to Toastmasters International in 1994.
Joining that organization changed the trajectory of my life. There I learned that public speaking is like any other skill - it can be learned. Most importantly, I befriended some of the best speakers in the world - World Champion and Hall of Fame speakers. I’ve taken all of the tools and processes they taught me and packaged them into books, Kindle books, workshops, speeches, tele-seminars and coaching packages.
How and when did you become interested in presentation skills and public speaking?
In 1994, I was presenting financial planning workshops to prospective clients. They were bad. My presentations, that is - not the clients. My boss gave me an ultimatum: “Fix this, or else!”
The kindle edition of your book, Sell More With Stories: How to Create Curiosity in 5 Minutes [or Less]: Work With Better, More Qualified Prospects, has just been released. Could you tell us a bit more about it?
The book is the second in a series of Kindle books - Sell More With Stories. These were inspired by my first book - THE Book on Storytelling - and the great book, The One Minute Manager. The series is designed to teach you how to use stories through each step of the client acquisition process. From your initial contact, to first one-on-one meeting, all the way through the sales cycle.
The second book - How to Create Curiosity in 5 Minutes [or Less] - focuses on the most powerful storytelling formula. It creates a ‘tell-me-more’ curiosity in your prospective clients and customers.
How does this book follow on from your How to Create Interest in 60 Seconds book? And how can we use the two books together?
These books offer an opportunity to build one skill on another. Rather than bombard the reader with dozens of ideas at one time, you’re given one skill per book to work on. It’s a self-paced group of books.
What makes the series unique is that it follows the experiences of a struggling young financial advisor, Nicole. She meets a mentor who teaches her a new way of selling her financial planning services. The selling processes she learns are taken from my 35 years of sales experience.
How does your background in public speaking help with giving sales advice?
One of the most important lessons my speaking coaches taught me is that “speaking is selling.” You’re simply selling ideas to more than one person at a time. This is why I believe public speaking is the most valuable marketing tool that salespeople have.
You can tell your story to dozens of people at one time. If they’re interested in what you offer, they can arrange to meet with you one-on-one. They’re pre-qualified when you sit down with them the first time.
In addition to my years of speaking experience, I’ve been in sales for 35 years, The fundamentals of each are similar.
The use of storytelling in sales is becoming a more and more popular technique, why is this?
Human beings have always told stories. Before they could write or read, our ancestors used stories to pass down their morals, knowledge and history. Science has proven that we’re hard-wired for stories.
The business world has grasped this realization and is now beginning to use stories. Some are actually using them effectively. :)
When talking to a potential customer, how important are those first 5 minutes?
The first 5 minutes make-or-break the sale. That is the time when you can come across as different, and begin to tear down the walls of distrust that people have about salespeople. Or, you can sound like every other salesperson, and kill your chances of creating trust and curiosity with prospective clients.
Do you believe that in order to be a successful salesperson, you need to be an effective public speaker?
You don’t need to be an effective public speaker to be a successful salesperson. I’ve known some terrific sales professionals who don’t do well in front of an audience.
With that said, if you are newer to sales, being an effective speaker can save you years of frustrating marketing and networking. When you show competence and confidence in front of an audience, you can quickly build your credibility.
I read that you have studied the work of Hollywood screenwriters and professional comics to expand your knowledge of presentation skills – could you elaborate on this unique approach for us?
The best Hollywood screenwriters are master storytellers. They have to quickly grab an audience’s attention, keep their interest, and compel them to stay all the way to the end of a movie.
Comics are masters of getting to the point. People don’t want to hear drawn-out stories. They want to hear relevant tales that get-to-the-point. The best storytellers have mastered the art of telling clear and concise stories.
Public speakers and sales professionals have to do the same, if they want the listener to act on their messages.
What advice would you give to a shy person to help them become a more confident public speaker?
Don’t buy into the myth that great public speakers are extroverts. Extroverts tend to be less effective because they often talk simply for the sake of speaking. Introverts, once they do speak, usually have valuable ideas and insights to share.
To be effective, speak about topics you care about. Know your material, keep it focused, and be yourself. Authenticity rules the day because audiences know when speakers are being real, or putting on an act.
What is one thing you wish more people knew about public speaking?
Understand that you are a public speaker and salesperson. Every time you speak outside of your home, you’re a public speaker. Every time you attempt to persuade another person about your ideas, you’re a salesperson.
The greatest benefits I’ve received from public speaking are greater than the ability to talk to groups of people. I’m more confident, I’m a better leader, and I have greater influence because of this skill. If you want to become better known, create more opportunities, free up more time, or simply enjoy life more, master this skill.
Do you have any last words of wisdom for our readers?
The belief that there are natural born salespeople is a myth. The best have worked years to master the craft. They’ve learned proven, repeatable processes. There is only way to become a top-level salesperson. Massive amounts of failure. Learn from your mistakes. Make adjustments. Go back out and do it again. Repeat this until you don’t have to think about what you’ll say in your meetings. Your ideas flow out of you. This enables you to be present and in-tune with what your prospective clients are saying.
Learn a sales process that fits your personality. Learn how to ask relevant questions that uncover our clients’ biggest problems. Then, share stories about other clients who’ve had similar difficulties. Use those stories to tell how you solved their problems. This will create an “I want that, too” feeling in your prospective clients. That is how you can use stories to close business faster and more efficiently.
You can order your copy of Michael’s latest eBook Sell More With Stories: How to Create Curiosity in 5 Minutes [or Less] on Amazon - or if you’d like to connect with the author via Twitter, you can find him at @SpeakingCPR.