A true story, well told, reveals a truth about ourselves and the world around us.
In March 2019, Michele and I were in Melbourne, Australia, drinking red wine with her childhood friend Patti French and her boyfriend Per Olef Bengtzen, a tall handsome Swede who sold German carwashes to the Aussies.
After regaling me with his tales of sailing solo from Stockholm, Sweden to Melbourne when he was just 22 years old, he asked me what I did for a living.
“I help business and sales leaders tell better stories to grow their revenue, people and brands,” I said.
He shot me a skeptical look. “Storytelling in sales? That doesn’t really work, does it?”
“Let me show you,” I said. Then I asked, “Did you ever have one of those experiences at sea like Tom Hanks had in Castaway when a whale came up and communed with you?”
Per immediately said no. I did not respond and let another five awkward seconds pass. Then he said, “Well there was that one time…”
Flipper to the Rescue
Per said he was bobbing in his boat at the mouth of a precarious channel in the Galápagos Islands. It was getting dark and in 1982 he didn’t have a GPS. So he decided to anchor in a small bay and wait for the safety of morning light to navigate the passage.
“Have you ever heard that weird screech dolphins make in the wild?” he asked me with the accent of a salty seagoing Swede.
“I can’t say that I have,” I answered.
“I woke up about five in the morning and a dozen dolphins were scurrying around my boat, screeching that eerie sound at me. I climbed up on deck to see about the commotion and realized that the tide had gone out. I had just minutes before we’d be crushed upon the volcanic rock.”
“We?” I asked.
“Me and my boat,” Per replied. “I had to pull anchor and get out of there immediately.”
“Whoa. Do you think the dolphins were warning you?”
“Yes, I think they knew I was in trouble and they wanted to wake me.”
Just then, a subtle smile of recognition washed across his face.
“What?” I asked.
“I’ve spent my career as a car wash salesman and I just realized that every big sale I’ve ever made in my life came after telling a sailing story.”
“Why do you think that is?” I prodded.
He shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Because,” I suggested, “stories like the one you just told reveal a truth about you, your character, and the universe around us. Truth and trust are at the core of every relationship. Your story tells of your courage and persistence. Isn’t that exactly what I want in my car wash salesman? Because I know, like those dolphins, you’ll be there for me when I need you.”
At the core of every story is a truth that connects you with your customers.
(The above is an excerpt from my new book, Brand Bewitchery. Grab your copy on Amazon or Apple Books)