Episode 306: John Livesay

The 4 Elements of a Compelling Story
John Livesay


John Livesay

John Livesay, aka “The Pitch Whisperer,” is a sales keynote speaker who shows companies’ sales teams how to turn mundane case studies into compelling case stories so they win more new business. From John’s award-winning career at Conde Nast, he shares the lessons he learned that turn sales teams into revenue rockstars. His TEDx talk: “Be The Lifeguard of Your Own Life” has over 1,000,000 views.

Our Mission Is To Change The Negative Perception Of Sales People

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People buy emotionally and back it up with logic. Facts and figures are quickly forgotten. But a story makes you memorable. John Livesay jokes that you have to tug at people’s heartstrings to open the purse strings. To do that, you have to tell a compelling story. In this episode of Sales Reinvented, John shares more about the 4 elements of a compelling story: The exposition, problem, solution, and resolution.

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:55] Heartstrings open the purse strings
  • [1:30] The 4 elements of a compelling story
  • [4:34] Characteristics of a great storyteller
  • [5:21] Resources to improve storytelling
  • [5:57] Top 3 storytelling dos and don’ts
  • [7:19] The exposition, problem, solution, and resolution
  • [10:15] How to tell a concise and compelling story

The 4 elements of a compelling story

John notes that a compelling story that sells must consist of four elements:

  • The exposition: You paint a detailed picture of who, what, when, where, and why
  • The problem: Prospects need to feel like you have an understanding of what they’re experiencing emotionally
  • The solution: Share how your product or service solved a problem
  • The resolution: What is someone’s life like after they’ve hired you or purchased your product?

The old way of selling something was, “This makes surgeries 30% faster. Do you want one?” Now, John will create a case story:

“Imagine how happy this doctor was when he could update his patient’s family in the waiting room an hour earlier than expected because he used our equipment? If you’ve ever waited for someone you love to come out of surgery, you know every minute feels like an hour…” Another doctor can see themself in that story and recognize the need for the medical device.

To describe someone’s problem, you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes. When you are empathetic, you become a great storyteller. Your brain becomes a playlist of stories ready to go at the right time with the right person.

How to tell clear, concise, and compelling stories

Make your story clear, concise, and compelling. If you don’t, you’re confusing people. A confused mind says, “no.” And if you aren’t concise, no one can remember your story or repeat it. Without an emotionally compelling story, people won’t care. They’ll be bored. 

But how do you craft a concise and compelling story? John shares an easy process to follow:

  • Write down everything you know about a story/situation
  • Edit the story down until it’s clear and concise
  • Practice it and get feedback from peers to further refine the story

Remember that every word must earn a spot in your story. If you follow those steps, you should have a clear, concise, and compelling story. Another tip? Tell your story in the present tense so the listener feels like they’re eavesdropping on a story that’s happening in real-time.

The exposition, problem, solution, and resolution

A medical company was selling a 4k resolution monitor. When John came into the picture, they were talking about things like “pixels” in their sales pitch and no one was getting emotionally involved. So he crafted a case story:

6 months ago, Dr. Peterson—at a rural hospital in MN not exactly known for cutting-edge technology—decided to test the 4k resolution monitor. Brad, the sales rep, was in the operating room in case the doctor had any questions. The patient was overweight, which put him at risk during the surgery. Because of that, the doctor hit a bleeder.

To the naked eye, it was a sea of red. How was the doctor going to find the source of the bleed in time to save the patient’s life? The doctor calmly looked at the monitor, which showed what the naked eye couldn’t see: subtle color changes between oxygenated blood and non-oxygenated blood. This allowed him to find the source of the bleed and save the patient’s life.

The doctor turned to the rep and said, “You know, Brad, as a doctor, I don’t always need a monitor like this. But boy, when I need it, I need it.” That story brings tears to people’s eyes. Doctors want that equipment because they don’t want to be caught in a situation without that tool.

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Learn More About John Livesay

Are there any books on or including Storytelling that you recommend? My new book, The Sale Is in the Tale, is a business fable set in Austin, TX, is about a sales representative whose old ways of selling are not working anymore. The reader accompanies the rep on his journey and learns how to use storytelling and strengthen their soft skills to improve their professional and personal relationships.

In the field of Business Story Telling – Who do you most admire and why? I admire Tim Sanders the author of Dealstorming because he is all about collaboration.

Are there any aspects of your own Story Telling skills that you are working on improving at the moment? I am constantly working on updating and refining the stories I tell in my keynote talk : Tell Stories Win Sales

Hobbies, Interests? My hobby is photography – painting with light

How can our listeners contact with you? People can contact me at johnlivesay.com. If you text the word PITCH to 66866 you can get the first chapter of my book, “The Sale Is in the Tale” for free

by | Jul 13, 2022 | Sales Reinvented Podcast

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