Attract Clients with a Then-Now-How Story

attract clients

Would you like a subtle strategy to get your prospective clients, customers or even prospective employers leaning forward, wanting to hear how you can help them?

Try using a client attraction story with the the Then-Now-How strategy.  This strategy was developed by Craig Valentine, a top business speaker and a Toastmasters World Champion Speaker.

The secret to the power of the Then-Now-How story lies in the order that you present the points.

First, you tell about a “then” situation with a client like the prospect.  You want to focus on the problem that your client had that was like the prospect’s problem.

Second, you tell about the “now” situation.  This is a benefit focus where you talk about the client’s results of having used your product or service.

Third, you tell “how.” By delaying “how”  until after the “now” you get people leaning forward and wanting to hear the how.

It’s like when you see  weight loss products or services advertised.


You see the “before” picture and the “after” picture and you want to know “how.”

Here’s another example, one I use for Toastmasters:

Several years ago, Barb, an older woman in her 60’s joined my Toastmasters club.  I was thrilled! (Mostly because I was the only other woman in the club).  The day came for her to give her first speech, the ice breaker speech.  She walked up to the lectern like she was on a death march.  She set her notes on the lectern, gripped the lectern with white knuckles, looked down at her notes and never looked up.  Then she started shaking and her breathing became shallow.  I thought she was going to faint.  It was one of those speeches that both the speaker and the audience are glad when it’s over.

She sat down next to me and didn’t say a word until the end of the meeting when she turned to me and said, “That was awful.  I quit.”

I didn’t want her to quit.  I didn’t want to be the only woman in the club again.

“Barb, why did you join?’

“Well, I want to help do some fundraising for a medical missions team. But I don’t think I can speak in front of people.”

I managed to convince her not to quit that day.

Fast Forward 6 months.  Not only had Barb successfully raised thousands of dollars by giving presentations for the medical mission effort, but she had even won our club speech contest.

It was through the supportive, encouraging environment of Toastmasters that she was able to go from fear to finesse as a public speaker.  The regular practice and advice and feedback from fellow Toastmasters helped Barb meet her goals and gave her the skills that give her continued success.

Just like Toastmasters helped Barb, Toastmasters can help you, too.

Did you see the pattern (Then-pain of the fear of public speaking, Now—successful at public speaking, How-Toastmasters)?

Try a Then-Now-How client attraction story and get your prospects leaning forward!

This concept is in my new presentation for sales groups, “StorySELLing.”

Storyselling talk, Diane Windingland


A Grown Up Lesson from the Gingerbread Man


As I pulled out the Christmas decorations from storage last night, preparing to send a few ornaments to my newlywed daughter for her first Christmas without me, I waxed nostalgic about the fun holiday times when my children were younger.  One of my favorite memories was making cookies with my daughter.  Well, actually it was more about eating the cookies than making them.  I especially loved eating the gingerbread man cookies, probably not so much for their taste as for the recollection of the children’s story, The Gingerbread Man.

Remember the story?  An old woman is baking the Gingerbread Man when he hops out of the oven, saying “Run, run as fast as you can.  You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!”  The old woman, her husband and a multitude of other creatures chase after the Gingerbread man until a sly fox finally tricks him and gobbles him up.

As a child, the lessons I learned were 1. Don’t brag because it eventually will result in your demise and, 2. Someone who offers to help you might be a liar and actually want to hurt you instead.

But, looking at the tale with fresh adult eyes, and seeking  positive lessons, I see  a couple that stand out:

1. The Bandwagon Effect (or social proof):  If other people want something, it must be good.

2. The Chase Effect: Creating fear of loss through forward momentum produces a desire to posses.

At first only one person wanted to eat the Gingerbread man; no one else knew he existed, so they had no desire to eat him.  It was only when he started running away, with someone chasing him, that others noticed him, and noticed that he must be desirable because others wanted him.

The lessons of the Bandwagon Effect and the Chase Effect have applications both in personal life (dating, for example) and in business.

In business, testimonials, ratings and reviews are a few ways to create your own Bandwagon Effect.  If you are approaching a client, consider providing testimonials from other, similar clients.  Of course, you have to get those testimonials first!  The best time to get a testimonial is when you have delivered a product or service with excellence.  If you are a  solopreneur or employee, ask for a LinkedIn recommendation–that way you have it on your LinkedIn profile and you can use it elsewhere (website, marketing materials, etc.).

You can also create a Chase Effect.  People naturally want what they can’t have, especially if they feel they deserve it or already have a sense of ownership.  Now this does not mean making it difficult for people to buy from you, but it does mean creating a sense of impending loss if they don’t take action quickly.   So, you have limited time or quantity offers.  If you are an employee, your skills and time are the limited resources that you offer.

But the Chase Effect isn’t just about fear of loss, it is also about time moving on, about needing to take action now.  Think about how you feel when you see something advertised with “only 95 left.”  Isn’t there a part of you that feels a sense of urgency to act before you lose out?  Or, if you have ever sat through a time-share presentation, you know the feeling of being shown how wonderful your vacations could be, the vacations you deserve, and at a great discount, “today only.”

Take the grown up lessons of the Bandwagon Effect and the Chase Effect and be your own Gingerbread Man–just don’t brag too much and watch out for those foxes!  Run, run as fast as you can . . . to the bank!


Business Storytelling Instant Teleseminar: Captivate, Connect and Convince!

“Get Naked” Business Storytelling for Leaders:
For Stronger, Memorable Communication and Presentations

Learn at your convenience! Instant Teleseminar. Summer learning opportunity.

Download the presentation and materials to learn on your own schedule!

Would you like your message to be remembered and repeated? Would you like to build trust and gain buy-in from all your audiences, from clients to team members to stakeholders? Would you like to feel confident that your presentations engage your listeners?

You can do all that and more with strategic storytelling. Strategic storytelling is nothing new. Scheherazade, the ancient storyteller of 1001 Arabian Nights, beguiled a king and saved her own life and the lives of countless others by telling stories. In our own times, Steve Jobs was a legendary storyteller, who engaged the imaginations of millions with his strategic, engaging storytelling skills—and helped his company make billions of dollars and build a brand mystique while he did it.

Their storytelling secrets can be yours.

You get all this with your registration:

(your confirmation email will contain 4 links to download the content)

  • 60-minute mp3 of the teleseminar
  • 14-page reference workbook pdf
  • teleseminar transcript pdf
  • Bonus:  link to another 17 minute mp3 on Business Storytelling!

This pre-recorded teleseminar has the same content that Diane provided to a major training company which sells it for $229.  You are getting the same content at a $200 savings!

Only $29!  Click Here to Register

Storytelling is a powerful way to captivate, connect and convince. If you want people to remember your message and to remember you, tell a story. Let Diane show you how!

Learning Objectives:

  • Why storytelling is a communication tool that gets results
  • The number one thing all stories must have
  • How famous people, such as Steve Jobs, use storytelling to be more memorable
  • How to uncover your own unique stories
  • Which stories should you use in different situations?
  • How to craft a compelling story that’s true to your personality
  • Master storytelling techniques that ensure your audience doesn’t “check-out”

Who would benefit:

  • Managers
  • Directors
  • Professionals
  • Business owners
  • Sales professionals
  • Business speakers

Fast, convenient learning with no travel or out-of-office time lost!  

100% Guarantee:  If you are dissatisfied, you are entitled to a complete refund.

Presented by:

Diane Windingland       Diane Windingland      Diane Windingland at Best Buy

Diane is a speaker and the author of Small Talk, BIG Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success!, and the co-author of Perfect Phrases for Icebreakers. Diane speaks internationally for organizations that want to help their people have better, more profitable conversations.

Audiences find her Small Talk Big Results presentations engaging and authentic. An engineer by training, Diane has owned several small businesses and has trained business owners, corporate employees and non-profit volunteers on how to become better networkers, conversationalist and presenters. She also has a presentation coaching business, Virtual Speech Coach

School Lunches: My 15 Minutes of Field Research

I decided to eat lunch at my son’s high school today as “research” for an upcoming presentation at the Minnesota School Nutrition Association Annual Conference, but also because I recently read Free For All:  Fixing School Food in America (an engaging analysis of the complexities of school meals).  I wondered how much the school lunch experience had changed since I last had lunch in a high school cafeteria 32 years ago!  Yep, I graduated in 1980.

Now as then, I don’t think parents eat in the school cafeteria very often.  When I called the school to see if I just needed to check in at the office, the secretary had to call me back because she “didn’t know the protocol.”  And then, when I got to the cafeteria, and went through the salad line, when it was my turn to “pay,” (all the students were using PINs) the woman at the “register” said she couldn’t take my money.  She told me to leave my food and go pay at the cashier in the middle of the cafeteria and then come back and get my food.  When I got to the cashier, he told me to tell  the salad lady that “Mike said it was OK to take my money.”  I traipsed back to the salad area and cut in line to pay—it was $3.60 and she didn’t have change for $4, so I told her to keep the change and I’d take a milk (maybe that came with lunch . . . I don’t know.  I would have much preferred water, but oddly, I didn’t see any water).  This process took about 4 minutes.

When I brought my food to sit down across from my son, I noticed he didn’t have any food!  “What?” I said, “I come to eat lunch with you and you don’t eat?”

“I already ate,” he said.  “You took too long.”

Four minutes was too long?

I’ll have to have a conversation with him about it being considerate to pace yourself to your dinner companions.  I felt incredibly rushed to finish my food and ate so fast that I started coughing!  I really could have used some water.

Not much has changed in 32 years when it comes to cafeteria “atmosphere.”  Crowded lunch room. Long cafeteria tables. Noisy. Rushed.

What has changed tremendously was the food! There was better food and more variety.  When I was in high school, we had 2 choices—regular hot lunch or the “new” McDonald’s-style lunch of a hamburger, fries and a chocolate shake.   I was pleased to see offerings of a hot lunch with pasta, a few sandwiches and the salads.

Although I thought that the school lunches looked pretty good, the four students I spoke with at lunch were less than impressed.  They all wished there was more variety (“When we have pasta, it’s for the whole week.  When we have the taco bar, it’s for the whole week, too.”) and “better food.”  I asked them what they meant by “ better.”

“Better tasting and better for you—healthier” was basically what they said (actually the 2 guys didn’t say anything about health; just the 2 girls did).

Interestingly, they all also said that schools in the suburbs get better lunches than schools in the city (two students, one being my son, had direct experience with this—Rogers, MN and Wayzata, MN).  One student even said, “the rich, snobby kids get the good food.” The other two students formed their opinions from talking with friends at suburban schools.   Why would lunches be better at suburban schools?  Is it because there is more property tax money?

Getting my food, eating and talking with the students took all of 15 minutes.  Even though there were 10 minutes left of the lunch period, almost all the students had left to go outside by the time I finished.  I don’t blame them for wanting to hurry through lunch to be outside with their friends on a beautiful spring day.  I couldn’t wait to leave myself!

What do you think about school lunches?

Or, what kind of interesting “field research” have you done in the interest of understanding your client or customer better?

Mind Meld: Stories Connect Brains

Spock Mind Meld

Like many children growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I sat glued to the TV every week for reruns of my favorite show, Star Trek.  Captain Kirk was dashing, but my geeky, 10 year-old heart belonged to Mr. Spock, the logical half-human, half-Vulcan science officer.  Mr. Spock had a particular talent, the mind-meld, that fascinated me.  Usually through physical contact, Mr. Spock would share thoughts, experiences and feelings with another being.  This power to connect with another mind was incredible, and as it turns out, not so far-fetched.

A 2010 study suggests that there is a brain connection between storyteller and listener.

Using fMRI, researchers recorded the brain activity of a woman telling a real-life story about her comically tragic high school prom experience.

Here’s an excerpt from her story, right after her family is returning home from a scuba diving trip that went awry on the day of prom:

“. . .we’re pulling into my house at like 6 o’clock, like two and a half hours late, just as Charles, who’s always on time, of course is pulling up.  We pull up together.  And, I don’t know if you’ve ever been scuba diving, but pretty much the worst you’ll ever look is after you go scuba diving.  You’ve been under 60 feet of water, which is two atmospheres of pressure, for an hour and a half.  You have a goggle mark permanently sketched into your face, which takes like 5 hours to get rid of that.  And um, just your hair, it’s just a mess, you’re just a mess.  And now I have approximately 5 minutes to get ready for the prom.  So I’m like trying to put on make-up while my sister is shaving my legs, while my mom is brushing my hair.”

I rather wish I could have been one of the 11 listeners who had their brain activity recorded while listening to an audio recording of that story!  The researchers found that most of the time the listeners’ brain activity mirrored the speaker’s brain activity with a slight delay of 1-3 seconds, which suggests that a listener’s comprehension slightly lags a speaker’s formulation of the story.

Application:  Story does connect with listeners; however there may be a slight delay between the conceptualization of the story in the speaker’s mind and the conceptualization of the story in the listener’s mind.  Too many details at once, especially if delivered too quickly (or on a bullet-packed PowerPoint) may confuse a listener.  There can be power in the pause.

The researchers also found a subset of brain regions in which the activity in the listener’s brain preceded the activity in the speaker’s brain.  The listener anticipated what the speaker was going to say.  This anticipatory brain activity, which is facilitated by the speaker using highly predictable words, may allow the listener more time to process the input for greater comprehension.  The extent of the listener’s anticipatory brain activity “was highly correlated with the level of understanding, indicating that successful communication requires the active engagement of the listener.”

Application:  Listeners anticipate what might happen next, if the story is one they understand or relate to.  Key words and structures that are predictable can enhance understanding and engagement.  This does not mean that the story has to be entirely predictable.  People, with years of conditioning for story structure, expect that there will be conflict and change of circumstance followed by some kind of resolution. 

The coupled speaker/listener brain activity resembles the action/perception coupling observed with mirror neurons.

Mirror neurons, first described in 1992 by researchers studying monkeys in Parma, Italy, are neurons that respond both when an individual performs an action and when the individual observes another performing a similar action.  Mirror neurons transform observed information into knowledge.  Mirror neuron research has far-reaching implications including applications in learning by imitation, predicting actions, and in empathy.  Mirror neurons are probably activated during storytelling, although direct proof remains elusive.

Applications: Story can engage a listener by causing an empathetic response.  This response is evoked by the speaker helping the listener create a vivid mental image (often with a strong emotional component in which the listener can imagine himself in a similar situation).  Thus, story can also be a form of mental rehearsal, a flight simulator for the mind.  Stories can be an efficient way to share knowledge.

Stories connect.  Stories engage.  Stories help transfer knowledge.  I guess we don’t need mind melds after all.

My Story in 4 Faces: Using Photos to Recall Stories

Almost any presentation, even business presentations, can be enhanced by using personal stories to anchor your points.  But, how do you recall and apply those personal stories?  One technique is to look at photos, specifically photos of yourself and try to recall where you were at in life and/or the story behind the photo.  Often one photo can result in multiple story ideas.  In preparation for a workshop that I’m giving on Saturday,  Storytelling for Business, I dug up my old photo albums (I’ve only digitized a few photos taken prior to 2001) and dug up some memories.  The four photos above and their brief explanations below will give you a flavor for the concept.  That, and you will see some of the very fashionable glasses that I’ve worn over the years!

Every face tells a story.

Age 11 I am in 5th grade and am about 10 years older than my brother.  We are about to have a formal picture taken, probably at Kmart.  My mother took lots of pictures.  I think it was to preserve the fantasy of a happy family.  My parents were not happy together.  I would go to my basement room and tune out their arguments by playing my violin.

Themes:  Fantasy vs. Reality, Tuning Out the Negative

Age 22 This picture was taken right before I left for my first day of work as an engineer for General Dynamics in San Diego.  I look so young and innocent.  I had no idea about the realities of being a woman in a male-dominated field.  Or, how ill-prepared I was by college.

Themes:  Being Different, Discrimination, Experience vs. Head Knowledge

Age 27  I became a full-time mother and homemaker, while at the same time building an Amway business with my husband.  We were going to be rich and have perfect children.  I became an invisible woman—my husband’s wife and my children’s mother.

Themes:  Managing Multiple Priorities, Identity Crisis, Unrealistic Dreams

Age 48  This is my first photo for my professional speaking business.  I didn’t have much money to spend because our technology business wasn’t doing well.  At the end of the year, we had declared bankruptcy.  I smiled to hide the pain.

Themes:  Starting a business on a Shoestring, Dealing with Loss, Rising from the Ashes

Need a story to anchor your point?  Try looking at some pictures!



Super Bowl Commercials: Storyselling

I didn’t watch the Super Bowl last night, but I did watch most of the commercials this morning (it took me more than an hour).

Some of my favorite commercials incorporated storytelling.  The marketers applied “storyselling” to their brands.

One key to storyselling, or to any engaging story, is that there is conflict.  Conflict makes the story interesting.

Here are a few examples of conflict in this year’s Super Bowl Commercials:

Man vs. Man: Doritos Sling Shot Baby

A young boy taunts his grandmother and baby brother with a bag of Doritos.  The boy smugly seems to think that his snacks are safe as he teases from a backyard play structure.  But, Granny has an idea and launches the baby in his baby jumper.  The baby sling shots toward his brother and snatches the bag of Doritos.  Granny and the baby triumphantly enjoy the Doritos.

The other clever Doritos commercial—the one with the dog bribing the man with a bag of Doritos is also a Man vs. Man (the dog is personified)

Man vs. Self (Man as personified by a dog) Volkswagen-The Dog Strikes Back

An overweight dog wants to chase a car, but can’t fit through the doggie door.  He is inspired to action and begins exercising—throwing balls down the stairs to play fetch with himself, running on a treadmill and in the yard, pulling weights and swimming.  He also exercises will power and doesn’t eat scraps that fall to the floor.  Over time he loses weight and is later able to jump through the doggie door and joyfully run alongside a red Volkswagen car.  Then, the commercial takes on a twist by cutting to a bar scene with Star Wars characters watching the commercial and comparing it to last year’s kid-dressed-like Darth Vader commercial, calling back the feel-good commercial from last year’s Super Bowl.  It’s like getting a 2-for-1 story!

Man vs. Nature (sort of):  Hyundai CPR

I remember when the Hyundai brand cars were first available in the US in the mid-80s.  People made jokes about them being called Hyundai because people would die from the embarrassment of owning such a cheap car.  Well, now apparently Hyundai can save lives.  In this year’s Super Bowl commercial, a man saves his boss’s life with quick thinking and clever driving.

Man vs. Society:  It’s Halftime America America—Chrysler/Clint Eastwood

This is more inspiring speech than story, but it is the Everyman Hero Story of overcoming adversity and coming back stronger than ever.  I admit it, I teared up a bit on this one.

Have there been commercials that stick in your mind because they told a story?