The Sale is in the Tale

Livesay, John. (2022). The Sale is in the Tale.  Los Angeles: Tradecraft Books.

Words Matter. Emotion and connection matter more.  Indigenous cultures have been around for thousands of years.  None, as far as I can recollect, had three ring binders full of details. They transmitted their culture through metaphors and stories.  WHY?  You will find some answers in this book or kindle edition.

John wrote this from a sales and business perspective.  As a long-time educator, the thoughts and actions are applicable to teaching and leading in the public sector as well.  When John talks about sales, I translate to interest, commitment, or making a case for change.

“Storytelling helps your career AND helps you make better emotional connections in your personal life, too!”

“The myth is that people make decisions about what to buy or who to hire based on logical facts. People buy emotionally and then back it up with logic.”  As a teacher, leader, business, or working in nonprofit, people remember stories.  Maya Angelou said it best, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

How do you know whether you were successful or not?  When staff members tell me the story or analogy that I told, resonated with them or they saw the connection to what we are trying to accomplish, I know there has been a long-term connection.  Dan Heath wrote in his recent book, Power of Moments, ‘can we teach a lesson that students remember 25 years from now.’

At the WHY Institute, knowing your own WHY, HOW, and WHAT contributes to your authenticity and your own story.  Do people remember your influence after the event?  Stories can increase retention.

Recently I was coaching a person who was getting ready for an interview.  I asked, ‘what’s your story?’  Silence.  ‘What do you mean?’ she asked.

I said, ‘why do you do this work?’  Silence.  Then she began to tell me why she is in education.  She wants to find a better way for kids to be successful.

‘How do you do that?’ I asked.

She said, ‘when it is not working, I challenge the process or the procedure that is not getting the results we want.’

I asked, ’what do you want as a result?’

She said, ‘I want trust.  I want kids to trust us as adults and educators.  I want to be trusted.’

There you have it.  She has her story.  Now, the first question, normally in an interview is, ‘tell us about yourself and why are you applying for this position?’  Instead of launching into certifications, experiences, etc. an alternative is to say, ‘first, let me tell you why I do this work.’

Ah, a story and a connection right from the start.  You will find keys to this  and much more in Livesay’s book with other examples.

“People buy from someone they like.” Think about your past.  Did you learn more from someone you like?  If you know a person better, are you more likely to learn from them better? “One of the best ways to increase your likeability is to show empathy.Telling stories is a great way to build rapport, especially when you tell a story about what inspired you to do what you do.

“Another way to help you prepare to get your confidence up and learn to think on your feet is doing what they do in the improv world. Improv is all about saying, ‘Yes, and …’ instead of ‘No.’ Many of you know I started taking Improv Classes while being a principal from Stevie Ray in Minneapolis.  It was the best thing I could have done. Being a principal is improv.  You can plan, which is important, and then life happens.  Stevie Ray has worked in business and schools with employees, staff members and students.  Stevie also worked with parents at one of the schools where I was principal.  Getting people to work together using improv strategies is a great way to build teamwork, creativity, and the ability to think on your feet.

Relationships are the social lubricant people and organizations need to be the most productive. “People make decisions with their gut first. Then their heart. Then their head.”

Another concept John discusses in the book is called a case story. “A case story is different from a case study in that you tell it in such a way that people see themselves in the story. This is the secret: It’s not enough just to tell a story. It must be a story that the people see themselves in.”

FDR said a quote – “”Be sincere, be brief, be seated.” Your story needs to be clear, concise, and compelling. Again, people buy emotionally and then back it up with logic. Remember that.

All good stories have four elements: the exposition, the problem, the solution, and the resolution.” “The exposition is where you paint the picture of who, what, and where. The problem is when you describe a problem someone else faced so the client sees themselves in your story. The solution is where you tell a story that shows you overcoming an obstacle and going the extra mile for a client. And the resolution answers questions like what is life like after buying the product?” OR what is life like after to get the job, teach the lesson, or lead the school?

Livesay ends with Five Storytelling Secrets

Secret 1: The Elevator Story

  • Is it clear? This is crucial because the confused mind always says no without telling you they are confused.
  • Is it concise? People should be able to remember it and share it.
  • Is it compelling? Your elevator story should have an emotional hook, so people feel connected to you.

John Livesay shares his elevator story on page 150.  You can write your own

Secret 2: Story of Origin – Why am I in this industry?  

Secret 3: The Company Story

Use this template to create your story:

  1. What got you into this industry?
  2. What do you love about your job?
  3. Who in your industry inspires you?
  4. What are the core values of your company (or you)?
  5. How do you embody those values? The ability to have a story of the values in action will make it so much more than just something on the website.
  6. How do you give back to your community?

Secret 4: Case Stories – Usually, this is the outcome of the transformation from feeling overwhelmed or stressed to now being calm and happy. That’s when the pain point is solved.

Secret 5: Playlist of Stories – Possible topics

  • Emotions
  • Numbers
  • Facts/figures
  • Pictures
  • Nostalgia

If you are leading an organization, team, or do speaking in public, this book will help you use stories to increase impact and build positive relationships.

John Livesay is a sales keynote speaker and can be reached at