I love telling stories and I love hearing them. I think most people love telling stories, although they may not realize it. We tell stories every day, even if it's just to tell a loved one about the day we had. Stories are fundamental expressions of our lives and they are also useful tools for business.
Typically at a networking people will introduce themselves and spout an elevator speech or tagline that's designed to wow people into doing business with them. The problem is that for the most part the elevator speech or tagline doesn't work. It just comes off as a sales pitch and if its repeated often enough the people listening to it will start ignoring it. The speaker will also speak it out of rote, but without any real feeling or passion. The elevator speech becomes a safe haven from risking really talking about your business, but it's a safe haven that provides little in the way of opening doors.
The reason why you want tell stories is because you want to build awareness and empathy in your audience. The awareness is about what you do and how what you do solves problems. People need to be aware of what you do, as it applies to specific contexts, if they are going to refer you to someone. The empathy is for the person experiencing the problem and needing a resolution. When you build empathy, you build identification. The listener identifies with the person having the problem and either thinks of other people who have that problem or recognizes that s/he has that problem. The recognition of the problem is what allows people to refer business to you.
I always tell my clients that they need to plan on telling more than one story. If you stick with one story, you've put yourself in the same place you were in with your elevator speech. So plan on telling more than one story. You have many stories, even if you don't think you do. Think about the various clients you know. What problems did they have? What did you do to solve those problems? How did they feel afterwards? By coming up with different stories you keep your content fresh, and you help people understand different situations where your solution is applicable to problems that are being experienced by themselves or someone they know.
What's most important about stories is that you provide an explanation of the benefit of your solution. Explaining the problem helps the listener understand the pain being experienced by the person who has the problem. The solution shows there's a resolution. But we need to understand the benefit of the solution. How has the solution helped the person? How does the person feel? Conveying the benefit is the most important part of the story, because it demonstrates a measureable result. Measureable results are how we determine if we're going to do business with some. All of us want measureable results.
Telling a story is one tool you can use to help explain what your business is and what it can do for people who utilize its services. A business owner will learn how to use stories in networking situations as another way of standing out to the people you network with.