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Selling by Telling: “Just the Stories, Ma’am.”

Stories illustrate how you can help a customer: when you talk about what you’ve done in the past and can recite scenarios about business successes that relate to your customer’s needs, they can relate to you.


In the 1950s and 60s television show Dragnet, actor Jack Webb played Sergeant Joe Friday, a no-nonsense police officer. His machine-gun style of questioning witnesses and suspects often elicited stories.  Joe cut them short; “Just the facts, ma’am,” is a line attributed to his character.  The last thing Joe wanted was stories.

Marketing is different.  Hit your clients with “just the facts,” and those facts may fall on deaf ears. The story is the star; the facts play a supporting role.  Joe Friday might not approve, but your bottom line will.

Typewriter typing What's Your Story on Ppaer

In his book, Tell to Win, author and famed film producer, Peter Guber, recounts numerous examples of how stories won clients and projects.  Guber is a movie-maker; he understands the importance of story: wrapping his facts in a narrative that draws the listener in.  Guber describes one experience of throwing around data to try and sell a Vegas exec on a minor league baseball team  – an approach that failed.  Other accounts communicate how the power of story – replete with heroes, villains and challenging circumstances — persuades and converts.
In marketing, it’s common knowledge that for the most part, buyers don’t care how you do what you do; they concern themselves with what you can do for them.  Of course, potential customers want to know that you can make them money or save them money, build their brand, get them hired or save their business.  But they’re not particularly interested in how you’d do it.  Stories illustrate how you can help a customer: when you talk about what you’ve done in the past and can recite scenarios about business successes that relate to their situation, they can relate to you.
When marketing your business, try using examples, or “backstories,” to describe your success. Create a case study with spin – turn it into your story.  Feature these stories on your website, in face-to-face meetings and in your content marketing, to  transport your buyer into “listening” mode.
Recite “Just the Facts,” and your audience nods off; tell a story and you create a captive audience who wants to hear how it all ends up … for them.


Martha Spelman is a Los Angeles-based marketing, branding, social media and content marketing consultant.  Click to find out more about Martha Spelman.  If you don’t subscribe already, please sign up for Martha’s Blog: Marketing Musings and Tips du Jour.  You can reach Martha directly at: or 310.670.5300.


Martha Spelman is a Los Angeles-based branding and marketing expert and the co-founder of Packbands silicone storage and organization straps. Martha is the author of The Cure for Blogophobia: How to Easily Create, Publish & Promote Your Business Blog. Click to connect on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

To find out more about Packbands, visit the Packbands website. Martha can be reached directly at: 310.266.6992 or