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Authentic Storytelling for Business


By Dawn Wagenaar

Storytelling is a timeless art. You can listen to great storytellers all day — stories to make a point, to inspire or motivate people. While anyone can add storytelling to their business development strategy, you will only get the best results IF the story is relevant and matches your company’s core values and brand.

The following are four types of stories to help spark your authentic company story for sales conversations. I’ve even provided some exercises to help you practice sharing the story well.


The Personal Story

What makes firms stand out from the competition? It’s often the people at the firm and stories they’ve collected over the years. Tell the personal stories of those within your firm and of your current clients to create connections with prospects and recruits. Provide examples of when you or others have felt the pain your audience is feeling.

Personal Story Exercise:

A prospect tells you about a challenge he or she is facing. What emotion(s) do you think might be involved? Think about a time you felt that way. Share a story that made you feel that way and explain how you handled the situation.


The Success (or Failure) Story

Stories of success and failure can be used to persuade your audience, as the tactics applied to a challenge prove to be successful or not. When clients have met or exceeded their goals as the result of your help, consider creating a client case study to use as a success story. Failures can also persuade your audience, but make sure your story includes the lesson learned.

Success/Failure Story Exercise:

Think about the niche you are most interested in pursuing. Make a list of the best advice and biggest mistakes you could share with buyers in that niche. Cut each piece of advice and mistake down to seven words or less. Use this list to create stories of success and failure.


The Current Event Story

Current events are already used to create discussions at social events. Use this to your advantage by likening current events to your business. This creates engagement with your audience and demonstrates how you can provide solutions.

Current Event Story Exercise:

Look up “recent scandals” in your search engine. Browse through the results and select a story to read and respond to. (Bonus points if you choose a story in a target niche or industry!) Create a response that includes what happened and your interpretation of the facts of the situation as well as potential solutions you would recommend to avoid or fix the problem.


The Historical Story

If you’re a history buff or enjoy research, engage your audience with historical stories. Similar to current events, use historical stories to demonstrate how you can help your audience. Like the current events story, you need to remember the details that add to your story. Stories with missing or inaccurate information are less engaging than those that have been refined.

Historical Story Exercise:

Choose a person from history who interests you. Did he or she face a challenge that is similar to that of your audience? How would he or she handle the situation? Consider life now and then, and how the available solutions differ.

Dawn WagenaarDawn Wagenaar, principal of Ingenuity Marketing Group, uses her college waitressing skills to network in a crowd, and she never spills her wine. Learn more at and request more storytelling tips.