One specific spring day in 1980 was my biggest teacher in terms of preparation.
Along with hundreds of other students, I’m in John P. Robarts Research Library (one of my very favourite places) at the University of Toronto. It’s one of those crunch times – when there are exams to study for and essays to finish all in one week. I’m focused on the poems of T.S. Eliot, how he carefully chose words with multiple and diverse meanings.
This leads me to numerous dictionaries, articles and essays until my little table is filled with books. Each time I go to a shelf to look up one more thing, I’m attracted to yet another book, another idea to pursue.
The result? The essay, finished about 10 minutes before the deadline, was not great. And my lack of sleep impacted several exams. Giving more time to the research than the writing meant shoddy, unfocused work that didn’t deliver what I really wanted to say.
Today we can duplicate this experience in moments. Researching a prospect can involve websites, videos, articles … hundreds of clicks. The end result can still be a shoddy, unfocused conversation. Storyfinding eliminates this possibility with three simple, efficient steps.
What are these three steps? And how do they support storyfinding?
#1. Website + LinkedIn
Visiting a prospect’s website is essential. You must have some understanding of the company, its product or service. But you don’t need to develop expertise in their field. In fact, spending too much time learning details online supports the creation of assumptions. Once created, assumptions, (which I’ll spend more time on in a future post), are hard to identify and can easily undermine both trust and relationships. Certainly view the company’s products/services and definitely visit their “About Us” page, make a few notes and move on. Also view the individual’s LinkedIn profile and send an invite to connect. Limit yourself to 20 or 30 minutes for this research.
#2. Ask This Question
The key to storyfinding – inspiring and allowing a prospect to tell us about themselves – lies in asking yourself, “What don’t I know?” Take a few moments to look away from your computer screen. Grab a pen and paper. Write down some of the things you don’t know about this company, things that interest you, spark your curiosity. Rather than uncovering these things yourself, include them in your conversation. This allows your genuine interest in the person, the company, to shine through. It also eliminates assumptions and encourages the prospect to share all their thoughts, ideas and concerns.
#3. Use a Checklist
While storyfinding is a powerful creative, improvisational process, making sure it’s effective still involves discipline. That’s where the checklist comes in. Make a list of your research questions; have it in front of you. A storyfinding conversation is full of the unexpected and it’s easy to forget or lose track of key topics. Add to this list the essential questions, things like budget and timing, etc. Discussing these details is how you move from storyfinding to closing a sale!
Preparation is one of several skills needed to become a storyfinder. Storyfinding allows our prospects/client to share with us their challenges, triumphs, experiences and desires. This is where our value takes root and how they understand that their answer to working with us must be “yes”. Learn more about storyfinding here and here. And learn more about the importance of curiosity here and here.