This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Kevin Smith. I’ve always said that one of the most powerful ways to sell a product or present a business is through story and Kevin is known as the Story Architect.
His company helps startups and tech companies figure out what their story is and how to take that to market. He spent almost 2 decades leading sales and enterprise marketing, most notably with Dell, crafting and delivering thousands of powerful messages using story. In fact, in his career, Kevin has done over 10,000 pitches.
Kevin realized the process he created could be adapted to all forms of communication for any company and decided to go out on his own. The company has been nominated for the best small business marketing company by the Canadian association of marketing professionals and has helped companies throughout the world significantly grow revenue and secure funding. In this episode, I’ve asked Kevin to come on give you the step by step processes for crafting the perfect story and pitch.
Kevin spent a fair amount of time at Dell, but says his story is somewhat “accidental.” He had been entrepreneurial since high school but struggled with what he would do. He went to school for entrepreneurship, but it really wasn’t teaching what he felt he needed. He started doing IT jobs and thought he would have a career in IT as a help desk person. After one company he worked for cut their workforce including him, he was asked by a recruiter if he wanted to go into sales for Dell.
Kevin was reluctant and wasn’t sure that he wanted to do sales. When he went to interview with Dell, it turned out the guy interviewing him was a former boss and hired him on the spot. He was still reluctant to do it, but found he liked the combination of selling, but helping people with the technology. He fell in love with it. He sold for 3 years and then wanted a position for very high-end technical sales, especially servers. He was rejected but studied and became the foremost server expert for Dell in Canada. He sold for a few more years and went through a few years of other promotions and then became a brand manager.
He loved brand marketing and setting the marketing strategy. He did that for 6 years. It was during this time that he found some of the secrets to how to pitch because he did a lot of high-pressure pitch meetings with CIO’s, etc. He became “the go to guy” for pitching to the C-suite. He immersed himself into presenting and learning all of the secrets of great storytellers. He then was promoted to the acquisitions team and was put in charge of one of running one of the acquisitions that he spearheaded.
In building his process to pitch, he realized he was building out his system/strategy for his business today, The Story Architect.
At the 14:48, Kevin talks about starting The Story Architect…
- Startups think differently than large organizations
- There is a fine line between bureaucracy and getting things done. A lot of companies fall prey to bureaucracy and lose their advantage.
- Your goal in a startup is to find that line and make sure not to cross over it.
- Kevin was able to start his business and put things together for it while working.
- Kevin says that it is critical to put away money and plan/prepare to make the leap – it makes it so much easier.
At the 18 min mark, Kevin goes through his PACES framework and answers the question, “What is the most important thing that goes into crafting the perfect pitch or story?”
- Problem: The only reason someone you are trying to persuade will listen to you is if you are talking about a problem they have.
- The most important thing to keep in mind when relaying story to someone is credibility. Credibility is how we judge the value of the information that we are getting.
- Answer: How do you solve the problem?
- Credibility: You must provide credibility as to why your solution will work. This can be show through your experience and knowledge of the problem and potential solution(s)
- Evidence: Social proof, case studies, examples of how you solved the problem before.
- Step to take next: You have to show where things go next…
How do close the deal after you put PACES into effect? How do you get to ‘yes?”
- This is where the storytelling part becomes so important.
- At the 30 min mark, Kevin gives an example by asking the question of “Do you own a cat?” He then goes on to tell the story of his cat getting sick…
- It’s very hard to change someone’s mind because of our innate tendency to think as “our tribe” does.
- Over time our brain’s have become hardwired that “new information = death.” It is a fear response that happens automatically.
- For people to accept new information, you have to put it into something they like. People like stories and the brain really likes stories because it is hard wired to do so.
- Don’t just present facts to people, instead make the story the wrapper to the fact.
- Anecdotes and stories of other people, customers, instances, etc. that were in the same position, but found that there was a different way of thinking or to solve the problem help to change people’s minds.
What is the story blueprint?
- The blueprint begins with really understanding the buyer and what pain they have, how they are trying to solve it currently. It also understanding what they are looking for and how they are looking for it. You can do this on your own just by surveying potential clients.
- Things that are consistent across all stories are the following:
- Everybody has a problem that they are trying to solve
- Everybody is trying to find the right way of solving the problem
- Your job is to tap into what that is
- Sometimes people aren’t looking for a specific solution, but they have a problem that needs solved.
- And a lot of times people are focused on what “their product does” instead of figuring out what the really problem is that needs solved and figuring out how their product or service can solve it.
- Sometimes you have to take a step back and brand the problem instead of the solution…
What is important about the delivery of the pitch?
- Always keep the audience in mind.
- The mistake made most often is that people do a great pitch around their product/service, but they are pitching to the wrong person.
- Are you pitching to solve the problem the prospect has with your product or service or are you pitching your product service to solve a problem the prospect doesn’t have?
Anything else we should know on these topics?
- The basic elements of a story are important…
- A good story has hero
- There is a story “arch”
- There is a setup to the story
- There is challenge/risk
- That challenge has to be resolved
At the 45 min mark, Kevin gives a great example of the elements of a great and the story arch using Star Wars.
- Biggest lessons learned about entrepreneurship?
- Be flexible and experimentive
- What you think will not necessarily prove out to be reality
- Stick with it until you breakthrough
Best Quote: “It's hard to change someone's mind. Over time our brain’s have become hardwired that “new information = death.” It is a fear response that happens automatically. For people to accept new information, you have to put it into something they like. People like and our minds gravitate to stories. ”
Kevin's Misfit 3
- Persistence. The long game is critical to life, not just business.
- Get started no matter how hard it is…
- The stories that we tell ourselves are the most important stories.