Phillipp Humm - The StorySelling Method

For this episode of Essential B2B, Joe was joined by TEDx Speaker and author of the bestselling 'The StorySelling Method," Philipp gives insight into how stories can be used in selling and marketing and the successes it has brought him.

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Hello and welcome to the Essential B2B podcast brought to you by Lead Forensics. I am your host, Joe Ducarreaux. This episode of the Essential B2B podcast is with the author of The Storytelling Method, Philipp Humm.

Now regular listeners to Essential B2B will know that our motto has become ‘People buy from People’ and one really effective method of quickly developing a relationship with a prospect of buyer is through storytelling. Philipp embodies this idea and gives some insight into how stories can be used in selling and marketing and the successes it has brought him.

So without further ado, here is Philipp Humm on The Storytelling Method.

Joe: How are you doing today, Philipp?

Philipp: Really good, thanks Joe

Joe: Thank you very much for joining me on what we established earlier on your birthday, so Happy Birthday from everybody at Lead Forensics!

Philipp: Thanks for that. It’s an honour to be celebrating my birthday with all the listeners around the world here.

Joe: Excellent stuff. Well, let’s get started then. Could you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be an entrepreneur?

Philipp: I used to work for ten years in corporate doing consulting prime management at Uber and then at one point Uber laid off 30% of the workforce with Covid and as I found myself thinking what would I do next? I was going through my options and firstly I was looking to apply to all these other roles that were very comparable. Then when I already had an invite to interview, I looked at it and thought, wait, is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life? It’s a very similar role to my previous role, did I enjoy it that much? Did I want to do that for the rest of my life? Then I thought, you know what, no, I want to try something else. Before that I already looked a little bit at acting, impro, stand up comedy and then especially on the storytelling. I liked it a lot.

When I did a few courses I realised, 1) I’m not terrible at it and 2) a lot of the courses out there, I think I can do it a little better, making it business relevant. A lot of them are very theoretical and that’s how my entrepreneur journey started. I’ve now been giving these storytelling workshops to I think hundreds of organisations by now such as Uber, Oracle, Visa and many, many more. I am super excited to be on this journey right now.

Joe: When we say using storytelling in sales, what exactly do we mean by that?

Philipp: Storytelling in sales is about using short, tiny anecdotes here and there to build trust, to stand out and in the end to pitch your product. It’s not about sharing these huge life changing stories about how you turned your life around. It’s much more about sharing some short relatable stories to illustrate your point. Because in sales we are often dealing with this sales resistance and just sounding like any other sales person. Stories are a way to differentiate yourself.

Joe: What components make for those short anecdotes that you mentioned, what makes a good story?

Philipp: There are three things that make a good story. Emotions, visual moments and surprise. Now, emotions is the first and biggest one. Anytime that you want anyone to remember you and your ideas, (inaudible) if you want to really build that connection you have to bring in some sort of emotions, pleasant or unpleasant. But it has to have an emotion.

The second, surprise. There should be something that breaks that pattern of what is expected. Because if your audience can predict everything you’re speaking about, they have no point to pay attention. They might as well be thinking about what I am going to buy in the supermarket?, what can I see in this Instagram feed right now? You want to break that pattern. You want to have some element of surprise in your story.

The last one, visual moments. A great story takes us into the visual moments of the story. We should be there with the storyteller in that story. So this is why it’s always good to start your story with “It’s October 2021, I am in my apartment in Amsterdam, I’ve just finished sending an email”. Then you are right in the physical moment of the story.

So emotions, surprise and visual moments. When a story has these three elements, it’s a great story.

Joe: It’s something that comes up quite a lot on the podcasts I do for Lead Forensics, is that building a relationship with a prospect or a customer in that way, it’s about trading the emotions and getting them to relate to your situation in the same way that you are relating to them. What pain point are you solving for them with your solution?

You mentioned a good story needs the three things, emotion, visual elements and then the surprise. Do you have any examples of a story like that?

Philipp: I can just tell you one that I just recorded in the last few days. One of my own little stories. In my case it was last year sometime when I was in my apartment in Amsterdam when I got a call from this account manager at Oracle, Julia. Not really beating around the bush, she said “Philipp this month I called 52 leads and out of these 52 leads I closed only two deals. It’s bad, really bad. I don’t know what’s going on but they always tell us that we are too expensive.”

After that I asked her “why do you think that happens? She told me a few things, she also told me how she responded in these situations. When she told me how she responded, I asked her “Julia I know you are interested in politics. Imagine if you were to persuade someone of the complete opposite camp. You use bulletproof facts, the perfect arguments but do you think that you would actually persuade them? Probably not. Why is that? Decision making is often not logical but emotional. If you want to persuade someone, change someone’s opinion, you’ve got to appeal to their emotions.”

In Julia’s case, we met two days later for a two hour session in which we crafted two stories to pitch her product and three to overcome objections. I actually got a call from her six weeks later, when she said “Philipp, this month I closed my eleventh deal. I know we only had two hours together but when can we meet again? What can we get done in five hours together?”

That’s just an example of a story from my own experience but hey there are tons of stories. The key is to find the ones that resonate well with you.

Joe: Are there any sort of recurring common mistakes you see with people storytelling in sales? Any that you’ve heard of, has anyone said “I tried this story, it just didn’t land.”

Philipp: Common mistakes are, first they are not relatable. “So let me prepare just this one story and I’ll use it in every single conversation”. That’s not how it works, you have a customer and you pick a story that is relatable to that customer. That could be a similar industry, similar problem and then once you have that you reshare the story. That’s one.

The second, is making the story about yourself instead of the customer. So if the story is all about I, I, I, I, instead of making it really about a specific customer that you are helping. You are the guide of the customer, you’re not the hero of the story.

Then the third, is by making a very awkward transition into the story. Often we just mumble and then “Once upon a time……” try to weave the story into your conversation as smoothly and as naturally as possible. There shouldn’t be any difference to how you normally communicate. So don’t make a massive show out of this.

Joe: Are we saying, literally go away and come up with a set of stories? Or is it trying to bring that structure into your already pre-existing ones?

Philipp: It depends on where you are. Most people don’t have that many stories to work with. So I would say in these cases go through your list of customers and identify who are the ones that seem decently satisfied with working with you. Then for each one of the customers ask yourself what was the situation of that customer before meeting you? What problems did that customer have? How did you help overcome that problem? What was the result, how was their life transformed?

There you will see there’s probably one or other story that sticks out a little bit. Take that story, then refine that story.

Joe: What do you love about your industry, Philipp and is there anything that you would change about it?

Philipp: What I love about this industry is by helping people to become better storytellers or speakers, you help people to live happier lives. What I like about this is, I noticed for myself, for years and years I felt very insecure about my speaking abilities, about my storytelling skills and I felt like that was holding me back. Learning the skills was so liberating to me.

I know that becoming a better speaker is just so liberating for so many people and helps them reach any of their goals. That’s what I like most about this industry, you can have such a profound impact on people.

Joe: Is there anything you would change about it?

Philipp: Yes, I guess the biggest downside but that applies to every training industry is how much change can you get in most of the engagements. Most of the engagements are “Ah we’ll do a cool workshop” and everyone forgets about it a day later.

So the industry should be much more focused on how can we get a lasting change in behaviour? Instead of just trying “Ah let’s have a really cool session here” but how can we help people in the long run?

Joe: We all have examples of training days that we went away from where we’ve actually come away with some good stuff. So it’s got to be trying to find that sort of level, I suppose. What really motivates you, Philipp? What gets you out of bed everyday?

Philipp: It’s pretty similar to my previous answer. It’s knowing that with each extra video, each extra article right now and just helping someone else live a more confident, comfortable life. I didn’t have that mindset for the first two years after I started. Then it was I want to do this because I want to be financially free and so on but I had the entire focus on myself.
Lately, I would say in the past half year, I’ve completely shifted that and tried to think everyday I have this cool opportunity to change someone’s life. It sounds super cheesy and probably tons of people are saying it but for me it has been the biggest motivator, by just shifting my energy and really going purposeful through life and through the job.

Joe: I don’t think it’s cheesy at all. If you have the ability to help somebody, you are morally obliged to. No I don’t think it’s cheesy at all, I think that’s a wonderful answer. I am intrigued at how you’re going to answer this one. Who inspires you, Philipp?

Philipp: Familywise, I was blessed in being raised in a really awesome family. My mother gave me a lot of love which I tried to bring into my work. My Dad taught me discipline. But I would say in terms of business, I don’t have a single guru that I admire everything that they do. But I always find one person is good in one thing, for example Alex Hormozi, the author of $100m Offers and he has inspired me a lot on my entrepreneurial journey. Just to reflect on what really matters. Or let’s say Grant Cardone. Even though I am by no means a fan of Grant Cardone, books like his 10X book have inspired me just to reach for much larger goals in my life. To go for things that I would have thought would never have been possible before.

So I always try to take a few of these things from these gurus and try to apply them myself but I don’t have a single person where I say I admire everything they do.

Joe: That’s a great answer because what it is, you are the sum of everybody around you. That’s the common idea, you are the sum parts of everybody that you know. So if you’re taking little bits from this person, this person and incorporating it you are only going to get the best out of yourself as well. I think that’s a perfectly fine answer.

This can be personal or professional or perhaps a mixture of the two, Philipp. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Philipp: I’d say my greatest achievement was last year, when I started applying to become a Ted speaker and my strategy was to say I went on the web and found all these organisers and just pinged them randomly. No strategy behind it. The next day one of the Ted organisers from the south of The Netherlands called me and said “Philipp, I don’t know if this is fate but we’ve had a speaker drop out. Do you want to join?” And I asked “Sure, when is it?” He said “Well it’s next Wednesday”. I said “Wednesday in six days?” “Yeah, are you up for it?” “Okay, I’m up for it!”

Then I had six days to prepare a Ted Talk, something that people prepare for months for. I was so happy for the opportunity because I had been dreaming about Ted Talks all my life. Getting one that quickly and having almost no prep time, I was like “Wow. I have this chance, I have to make it right.”

So the next few days I spent really purposefully on how to craft that Ted Talk. Six days later I delivered the Ted Talk and when it came out it was selected by the Global Ted Organisation as Editor’s pick out of hundreds of other Ted Talks.

So it was really cool to see that when you are behind something like these Ted Talks, you can just make it happen even with very short preparation. So I think this is probably my biggest achievement of the past few years.

Joe: That’s fantastic. I wonder if it might have done you a favour to have that short amount of time because you didn’t really have enough time to get in your own head about it and started overthinking.

Philipp: You are so right. I didn’t even think a single time how I would use my hands, gestures or anything. Nothing of that. In the end it became very natural but if I had more time I would have just been “Aaarrrgh, let me raise my arm in this way” and it would not have helped, I think.

Joe: How do you decompress from work? What do you do to switch off? Is there a blurring of the line between work and personal life for you or are you quite staunch about switching off from work?

Philipp: I would have to say it has been a struggle since I’ve been working but I am getting more and more to the sweet spot of what works for me.

How do I decompress? First throughout the day, I do tons of meditation, not only once but multiple. Just because I know I need to reset. I work, work, work, get upset and then I need to reset and then it starts all over again. So I meditate in the morning, during lunch break and potentially in the evening, just to reset.

The second thing, I dance tons of bachata. It’s a Latin-American dance, it’s a little bit like Salsa but it’s a lot more sensual. That just helps me so much to just forget the moment, be present, connect with the music with my body and just forget everything that’s going on at work. (inaudible) to forget everything about work.

Joe: It’s a very, very common trait I’m finding with the people I speak to and I ask that question to. The number of people who are extremely successful and are hugely busy but they make time for a physical activity which means they are solely focused on exactly what they are doing. I imagine with the dancing your focus is entirely on your steps and the beat and where you need to be. It really is a common theme that doing a physical activity where your brain only has the capacity to breathe……. You haven’t got enough capacity to think Oh I must send that email or anything like that.

Philipp: What I can to realise is that before that I thought that all these hobbies or personal development was optional, “Ah this is for my happiness.” But in the end, all of these things are a must. They impact the energy that you bring into work. If you energy is shit at work there’s no chance that you are going to close deals, you’re not going to persuade any internal stakeholders, nothing like that.

But if you bring up your energy, you are a much more inspiring person to be around. It’s much easier to be successful in business. I wouldn’t see them separate.

Joe: Philipp, my final question for you is, if there was one tip you would like, one takeaway you’d like the listeners to take away from this conversation, what would that top tip be?

Philipp: One tip that I would say to everyone is before you go into a conversation whether they are at work or outside of work, make sure you are in the right mindset. That’s one thing I do every time, I just shake my body before any meeting. Just shake every single part of my body. That way, you are there fully present with that other person. If you are present you can have the most beautiful conversation, if you are not present and thinking about other stuff it’s very hard. So make sure to just shake out your body one or two minutes before that next meeting and you’ll see how much impact that can have on your conversations.

Joe: Fantastic stuff. Philipp thank you very much for joining me on the Essential B2B podcast.

Philipp: Thanks for having me, Joe.

Well there we go, Philipp Humm on Storytelling in Sales. Remember to subscribe to the Essential B2B podcast and give us a 5 star rating where possible. I will be back next with another brilliant Essential B2B podcast.