Storytelling For Sales Challenge. Lesson 3

Lesson 3 – Call Out Your Villain 

If you missed the previous lessons, here they are:

LESSON 1: Start With the End in Mind.

LESSON 2: Who Is Your Hero?

Educate Don’t Sell

My natural inclination is to educate rather than aggressively sell.  It’s in my DNA.  That’s why I created digital marketing courses for people who can’t afford my copywriting service.  It’s also why I run coaching programs.  I like to teach.

And even if you’re not that way inclined from a marketing standpoint, educating your audience about your products, services and even about your business, is essential.

Let Stories Do the Selling For You

Listen up. This is a story about stories.

Businesses live or die by the stories they tell.

  • Think of Steve Jobs and the Apple Story. Was Jobs the hippest man on the planet? And what about Apple’s oh so cool devices, and the story of Jobs bringing the company back from the brink?  Like a white knight rescuing the damsel in distress, he rescued Apple from likely bankruptcy and oblivion.
  • Or the Story of Harley Davidson. I’m in Hog Heaven, what about you?
  • The McDonald’s Story.  Ray Croc transformed a one outlet hamburger joint into a global fast-food behemoth.  ‘You want fries with your burger, sir?’

What about you? What is the story of your business? Does it excite? Have you enrolled people in your vision?

I bet it enthralls you. But what about your customers? Does it get their heart racing? Or is it another case of ‘same old, same old’?

What are the stories your customers carry in their heads? Do you know?

And how will you bring these stories to life? You want stories that put customers at the center. Potent stories so relevant that they’ll instantly say to themselves, ‘It’s like he’s talking directly to me.’

Stories Rock

 What do you prefer – watching a dry documentary or a good movie?  Which has the most impact? And how much will you remember after a few days? Most people would say the movie, assuming it’s good.

Some movies feature an ensemble cast, but most focus on one main protagonist – the Hero.  Supporting characters might include:

  • The sidekick
  • The villain
  • The love interest

Think of John McClane in the Die-Hard series. A good guy placed in a stressful situation he didn’t ask for or want.

The audience became part of the story and lived vicariously through our Hero and his journey.  I bet you were barracking for that guy. I know I was. But more than this: I imagined myself as him.

Beware the Villain!

After many heart-stopping moments, John finally figured out how to get out of that ghastly situation and escape the clutches of the dastardly Hans Gruber.

We call this the ‘reaching the Summit’ stage. John encountered many problems and used his wit and resourcefulness to figure out different ways to overcome all of them. Phew!

That’s what needs to happen in your business. Your customers as Hero’s; they reached the summit and solved their problem with your product.

Who is your customer’s villain? The villain or antagonist is a metaphor for a challenge like coping with pain, lack of sales, or a leaky roof.  Other examples could include company red ink, poor time management, lost opportunity, or poor cash flow.

Money management problems, lack of energy, being overweight, or financing problems could also be appropriate depending on the type of business.

When you are crystal clear about the obstacles faced by your prospective customers, take them on a journey of discovery. We call it the Call to Adventure.

They’ll check out competitor offerings, and do their research. But until they find you, they haven’t solved their problem.

During this process don’t be shy about calling out the enemy.  We sometimes call this the Pick a Fight technique, and if used intelligently it can crystalize grievances or points of dissatisfaction about a product, service, industry, people, attitudes, and a myriad of other perceived enemies.

Your job is to nominate the villain/s in your industry.

Making the Shift: From Telling Stories to ‘Forcing’ Action

Well, not forcing – everyone is a free agent.  But you are required to take a leadership role by telling prospects what to do next.  Until that happens all of the good work you’ve done (to paint a picture of your hero’s transformation), will be lost.

This is known as the Call to Action stage; asking people to take the next step.  The next step will vary according to your business and at what point in the buying process your prospect is in.  The Call to Action, therefore, can come in many forms:

  • Buy Your Product or Service.
  • Request Your Lead Magnet.
  • Enroll in a Free Course or Educational Series.
  • Book an Appointment.

So, at the end of your story, it’s time for a clear call to action.  Is your reader ready to buy? Your call to action can be to buy or to contact you for a quote.

If she is not ready to buy, your call to action might be to download a report or an e-book. My favorite option to start a relationship with readers is to invite them to join an educational email series, so you can show them your credentials as a trusted guide.

In his book “Building a StoryBrand,” Donald Miller summarizes stories eloquently:

Here is nearly every story you see or hear in a nutshell: A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN, and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.

That’s it.  Your customer is the hero who ‘solves’ his problem with help from you as a guide and trusted advisor.


  • Who Is Your Villain? Write a paragraph of text describing your villain.  The villain could be anything – old ideas and practices, unethical competitors, bad products.    


Share your answers to the above question in the Sales Hacks Group.  Preface your post with this heading: ‘Lesson 3 Homework’.


 LESSON 4 – Storytelling For Leads


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BONUS SECTION – Copywriting Tips 3

1). Be a Better Editor Than a Writer

Ann Handley from Grammarly says this: “We’re all writers. We all write — emails, texts, social media posts, letters.” Does that mean she is a great writer? Far from it.

In fact, she says she’s “a terrible writer but a great editor.” And that sums it up for me. I’m not a great writer, but I’m pretty good at editing. In other words, I am good at removing surplus words and breaking up long sentences. I also like to fix the punctuation and grammar.

Other than that I’m good at making sure that my message hits the spot with the reader.

In times past I was often more focused on writing for me. Not now. I am not important – my reader is the star.

So this is my message for you. Start. By the time you’ve done your third or fourth draft, you’ll have something that looks ok, even good.

Keep an eye out for the second installment in this series.

2).  Overcome Mental Blocks

This one might seem a bit obscure.  But my experience has been that if we have mental blockages, the forward movement will be difficult.  After all, it’s not a nuts and bolts type of tip.  

3). Tell a Story

In my post titled How to Influence and Persuade With Powerful Story Telling, I said this:

“From time immemorial people have been captivated by stories. Why? Because stories inspire, challenge, provoke and give comfort.”

Starting as infants, we become immersed in stories. But as we mature and become adults stories still infuse our thinking.  Stories appear in different forms and inhabit different areas of our lives:

  • Work-based stories
  • The story of brands
  • Family stories
  • Nation-building stories
  • Morality Stories

To name a few.

Before I get into how you can use stories to grow your business, let’s firstly take a look at early stories, way back when Adam was a boy. Or was it earlier? Well, apparently the first stories were told by Neanderthals.”

End of Extract

Notice how my post about stories told a story? A cool way to get your point across – no doubt about it.

As humans, we’re hard-wired to love stories. From fairytales as a kid, through to movies and books in our adult lives, stories work.  In business copy, storytelling makes ideas stick. Relatable stories transform businesses into brands and customers into loyal, repeat clients.

Storytelling is how a brand becomes memorable.

And stories don’t always require a lot of words. By way of example, Apple famously uses succinct storytelling to market their products.  We know that we get a nice piece of kit from Apple that does loads of cool techie stuff.

But are some prospective customers put off by a worry that such an item would be heavy and cumbersome to carry around?

Quite likely.

And that’s the ‘story’ that Apple is selling here. And they’re doing it with just 3 words.  Move the reader along a journey. Create the sense that you’ll help the reader overcome a challenge and discover something new and valuable.

4). Spell Check

I hate typos, especially spelling mistakes. That’s why I use spell checking software. Some people say it doesn’t matter, but amongst discerning content consumers, it is incredibly annoying. Lazy too.

Sounds obvious, but how many people proofread their copy? And how many do it well?

Detail IS important.  Like anything else, to master copywriting you have to master the detail.  Small things matter.

If your readers see a lack of attention to detail they’ll mark you down.  In an instant, you’ve downgraded your brand.  From that point, the chances of them reading more of your content are low.  Your hopes of them ever becoming a fan has gone.  Gone, like a puff of smoke.

Tips to Eliminate Errors

  1. Use a Reliable Spell Checker.  Including an old fashioned dictionary.
  2. Create Different Forms of Your Content. Copy and paste the content into Word, EverNote or GDocs. Look at it again – I bet you’ll find a few things you missed earlier.
  3. Print the Content. Then read it again.
  4. Location Change. Move from one location or setting to another.  This technique often works for me – try it.
  5. Rest and Revisit. Let your content ‘breathe’ for a while. When you return, you’ll probably see more errors.

More tomorrow.



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