Storytelling for Profit & Growth (David Gilliam Commentary)

by David A. Gilliam  on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 12:00 am  

David Gilliam

With lists of facts or arguments we use analytical processing in which one questionable fact negates the conclusion. Consequently, research in advertising has demonstrated that stories can overcome negative aspects of products while arguments cannot.

Relevance to the hearer is very important when telling stories. For instance, in a brief retail sales encounter it is best to focus on stories about the product. Story quality will also affect receptiveness: The story should be concise yet have all necessary background info, have clear chronological order and event descriptions and use vivid adjectives, adverbs and action verbs.

Another key is to stick to the facts as you know them — embellishment is a two-edged sword that increases interest on one side and damages plausibility on the other. Humor can be useful but may also backfire. My advice is to use it with great caution, especially in sales encounters.

Finally, don’t fret too much if you aren’t a natural born raconteur. Training and practice can improve your storytelling skills, which in turn will increase your ability to market your product.

David A. Gilliam is an assistant professor of marketing and assistant director of the Center for Professional Selling at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Email him at



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