More Memorable Training? Tell a Tale.

It’s a tale as old as time: Man sees woman across the room. Man approaches woman, and they exchange pleasantries. Man asks woman out for coffee, she agrees. Their coffee date goes well; however, “this was not the beginning of a romantic affair. This was the beginning of a sale.”

This is the hypothetical story that Jack Vincent, author and sales thought leader, used to open his 2014 Ted Talk about the similarities between romantic relationships and the sales process. Of course, Jack painted a more vivid picture, including descriptions of his purposefully-named characters, Harry and Sally, to draw the romantic connection even more deeply. And Jack’s keynote was voted the best of the day because he used a story arc to explain his point about sales; he creating an informative talk that resonated with listeners on a human level. Any leaders, managers, and trainers in the sales industry looking to improve their learning should take note: information is inherently more memorable to us as people when presented in a story.

Sales is a good love story

According to Jack, the idea for his book, A Sale is a Love Affair, came from a sales training workshop he was leading. “It’s a trainer’s goal not to just bring new skills to your participants, but to embed them,” Jack says. To illustrate the concept of reaching out to stalling clients and coaxing information out of them, Jack referenced a situation almost all people have experience with—romantic relationships:

So in the workshop, I put on my best American accent and I said, “Well it’s like love, You’re not talking to me, you’re not communicating baby. I gotta know, is there something wrong? Talk to me baby.”

Jack could have instead laid out a script or talk track that explained what words to look for when a client starts to stall, and when to say certain things. But instead, he told a story. And by framing one situation with an experience already familiar to his Learners, he allowed their minds to make the connection—how had they successfully handled relationships in the past and how could those communication skills and techniques help them handle sales in the future? Jack said the anecdote got a good laugh from the crowd, but turned into the recurring metaphor throughout the weekend, “it turned into our joke for the rest of the workshop. We always came back to the link between love, finding love, and finding clients.” That’s what effective, memorable training looks like.

There are many ways to make learning and training memorable, but Jack leaned on the power of storytelling to build out the concept behind A Sale is a Love Affair.

Our minds love hearing good stories

As humans, our minds are programmed to be more active when hearing a story. Studies show that there is a significant difference in brain activity when participants read the words “the singer has a pleasing voice” and “the singer has a voice like velvet.” The metaphor constructed in the second example draws more neural activity because our brains are wired to try and relate new information to existing experiences. Most of us know that the singer’s voice can’t literally be velvet, but we have an understanding of what velvet feels like, and we make the connection. These brain processes happen almost instantly, but the increased mental activity required for thinking about a metaphor over a non-sensory phrase reinforces the retention of that memory.

This is a large part of why stories are so exciting and engaging to our minds. Listening to Jack Vincent’s story about Harry beginning a sales relationship with Sally resonates because our minds are familiar with traditional story arcs. The similarities between a sales cycle and a romantic relationship might not have occurred to the salespeople attending Jack’s workshop, but the connection he made between them is what made his training so memorable. That eureka moment of understanding sticks with Learners, elevating the training into something that they had a part in piecing together.

And at the end of the day, that’s the point of training: making things memorable.

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