Back in 2016, there was a coffee shop in New York that fulfilled my morning coffee needs every time. Dropping by it became my habit. And every time I would pick up my Americano, I couldn’t help but wonder about one of its employees. It was an old man whose job was to clean tables. He was in his 60s. The reason he caught my attention was his eyes. In their depth, I could sense an interesting life story. “What’s his story?” I wondered. “Why is he still here working?” One day, I had a conversation with him. And wow what a story that was.
The 1970s. Busy New York streets. Self-assured pedestrians would blaze by, rushing after that money. The only pause they would make is the quick stop to grab a coffee at Fraser’s famous coffee stand. Enthusiastic, he would shout, “Step right up for a delicious morning coffee! You’ll love it!” Bypassers weren’t his only clients. Soon, cars started pulling up for a takeaway. People would map out their block journey to make sure they passed his stall. The business was booming, but his greatest pride was how Fraser was earning enough money with his coffee stand to put his son through college.
Soon enough, Fraser sat down for a conversation with his freshly educated son. He was overfilled with pride over his graduation. “Tell me, son,” he said to him “what did you learn that can help you build a business of your own?” His son, rather than answering the question, dampened his spirits about the coffee stand business his father has been running for over a decade. “Father, haven’t you been listening to the radio and watching TV? There’s a big recession looming in. Your business is under threat.“
Concerned, and believing his son’s educated opinion, Fraser decided to take a more cautious path. He started using cheaper ingredients to make his coffee. Shortly after, his sales dropped and he was happy to have listened to his son as to him this seemed clearly like an effect of recession indeed. To compensate for the loss in sales, Fraser then increased prices. Naturally, this decreased sales even more. But to Fraser, this continued to be that validation of his son’s warning – “beware of the looming recession!” Lastly, Fraser decreased his working hours and fired his barista. These were the last few actions to put his business to bed.
“You were right, son,” said Fraser, “the recession has hit us.” He truly believed that it was this proclaimed economic crisis, not him, that put his business out. Hopeless, he said, “I will start looking for a job, as much as I love running my own business.” So, Fraser started looking for a job. A few weeks later, he found it. It wasn’t anything comparable to his own business, but it allowed him to pay the bills.
And there he was, 45 years later, employed as a cleaner at the coffeehouse across the street from where his coffee cart used to be, working for a chain that could have been his own. And all he has is the memory of his beloved coffee cart, and the pride he holds on to of putting his son through university. The recession was misunderstood. His son had never become a business owner. But we can now evaluate a few important lessons (at the end of this post).
The Main Idea
This story has been adapted by me for this blog post. Some events have been changed to make it more interesting. Does that matter though? No. Stories are captivating. People are usually curious about other people’s lives and experiences, especially if those are utterly different from their own. You have read up to this point and this proves it. Therefore, if you can use storytelling in your sales pitches, you are bound to retain your customer’s attention for longer.
What stories? Here are some ideas:
- Struggle and success stories of your clients
- The story of how your company was created
- Stories of particular usage experiences of your products or services
- Stories about your interaction with other clients
- Any other stories that fit the point you want to make in your sales pitch
A good story can never be replaced by any informational outburst in your attempt to sell your product or service. Information should be given upon request. That is when your customer’s ears desire to hear it. Otherwise, most likely your words will fall on deaf ears. At the very start, when you risk losing your customer’s attention, your focus should be to gain it and keep it. So get busy and come up with some relevant, captivating stories.
Now, what did we learn from my story about Fraser’s coffee cart?
People will never stop talking about crises – prepare for the worst but don’t act on infectious, misleading emotions.
Real-life experience often beats university knowledge. If something already works and you have great momentum, take care not to break it.
And number 3
Fear keeps all of us in check. It is the reason why so many businesses fail. Stay strong and brave. You will win.
Know any good sales stories? Comment below!
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