Episode #311 – Mark Smyth

The Three Forces of Story

Mark Smyth


Mark Smyth

Mark Smyth is an entrepreneurial Sales leader, strategist, problem solver and self-described ‘story nerd’.  With 22+ years of experience in the proverbial ‘sales trenches’, Mark helps growth-minded organizations connect easier and convert to action faster using the greatest human connection tool ever created, the proven power of story. 

Human beings are intuitive storytellers. We look up to certain storytellers and clam up and think “Maybe I can’t do that.” But through practice and utilizing narrative frameworks, we can transform from being intuitive to intentional storytellers. Anyone can be just as compelling as someone they seek to emulate. But in this episode of Sales Reinvented, Mark Smyth points out that it helps if you use the “Three Forces of Story.” Learn more about his framework in this episode!

Mark Smyth shares the three forces of story in this episode of @SalesReinvented! #SalesReinvented #Sales #Story #Stories #StoryTelling #StoryBrandClick To Tweet


Outline of This Episode

  • [0:51] Why storytelling is an important skill
  • [2:11] Can you learn to be a great storyteller?
  • [3:17] The three forces of story
  • [5:03] Great storytellers are insatiably curious
  • [6:37] Resources to improve storytelling abilities
  • [8:10] Top 3 storytelling dos and don’ts
  • [10:14] Why a compelling story is impactful

The three forces of story

Mark notes that every story contains a familiar structure: A setup, a problem, and a resolution. Act I, II, and III, a beginning, middle, and end. What makes a great story work? You need to include the “Three forces of story.” You want to start with a statement of agreement.

You clarify: Who is your audience? What do they want? Why does your solution matter to them? Then you introduce the contradiction, i.e. the problem. Without a problem, you don’t have a story. Then you share the consequence or resolution, or “Here’s how I can help you get over the issue.”

Step two is adding in necessary details. The power of a story rests in the specifics. Add in simple things like when it happened, where it happened, who the character is and what their backstory is, what happened, and the revelation. What will help prove your business point? 

Great storytellers are insatiably curious

Great storytellers are great listeners. You have to be able to put yourself in your client’s shoes—and take the frameworks you’ve learned—and listen for the components of a client’s story. Doing this helps you learn what story to tell at the right time. And when you can repeat their story back to them in a way that’s even more clear, you build trust and connection.

No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Take an authentic and human-first approach to connect with your audience. Storytelling is the greatest human connection tool ever—and more important than ever.

Great storytellers are insatiably curious. But what makes a salesperson great at telling stories that sell? Find out from Mark Smyth in this episode of @SalesReinvented! #SalesReinvented #Sales #Story #Stories #StoryTellingClick To Tweet


Top 3 storytelling dos and don’ts

Mark shares some great storytelling dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t repel, do compel: Don’t bore and confuse your audience by leading with facts, figures, numbers, charts, data, etc. without the context of a story. Instead, help your audience understand what you’re trying to say by wrapping it into the context of a story that compels them to action.
  • Don’t be the lightbulb, be the flashlight: Don’t shine the light on yourself. Be the guide that illuminates your audience. Understand what they want, why it’s important, the problem they have, and how you’ll help get them where they want to be. It’s about what you make possible.
  • Don’t multiply—simplify. Don’t include multiple narratives that will confuse your audience. It’s too easy to let your excitement overwhelm your customer—especially when you know how to solve their problem. You want to tell the world, right? But when you say too much, it’s worse than saying nothing. Focus on the one thing that matters the most to your audience.

Why a compelling story is impactful

Four years ago on a crisp fall day in the suburbs of Chicago, Mark got a knock on his front door. When he opened the door, he knew he was standing in front of someone about to sell him something. It was a charismatic young gentleman around 10 years old, holding a rake that was twice his size. He introduced himself and explained that he was trying to earn money and noticed that Mark’s yard was full of leaves. He offered to rake his yard.

Mark had been putting the project off for weeks, so it was an easy yes. The young gentleman, Charlie, got to work. Before heading back inside, Mark paused in the doorway and said, “What are you saving up for?” Charlie said he was saving up for a gaming system. His parents said he could have one but he’d have to earn the money to buy it himself. Completely impressed, Mark headed back inside. 20 minutes later, Charlie knocked on the door. He couldn’t possibly be done with the yard.

Charlie’s cheeks were bright red, his nose was dripping, and he had a look of utter defeat written across his face. When Mark asked him what was wrong, he said, “Sir, you’ve got a ton of leaves in your yard. It’s so windy, this is the best I could do.” Mark glanced over to see some barely recognizable leaf piles. But he offered to pay him anyway and asked what he’d charge.

Charlie proceeded to ask Mark to pay him what he thought the work was worth. Mark paid him a premium because his story was compelling. His story—paired with his oversized rake—made Mark’s day. The look on his face when Mark handed him the money was priceless.

What’s the lesson? Never miss an opportunity to share your story or discount the power that it can have on your audience.

Why is a compelling story so impactful? Mark shares one to demonstrate his point in this episode of @SalesReinvented! #SalesReinvented #Sales #Story #Stories #StoryTellingClick To Tweet


Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Mark Smyth

Connect With Paul Watts


Audio Production and Show notes by

Learn More About Mark Smyth

Are there any books on or including storytelling that you recommend? “ABT’s of Selling” & “Brand Bewitchery” – Park Howell, “Power of Moments” – Chip & Dan Heath, “Stories that Stick” – Kindra Hall

In the field of business storytelling, who do you most admire and why? Park Howell of The Business of Story, who first introduced me to the simplicity, power and practicality of the “ABT – And, But, Therefore” narrative framework.

Are there aspects of your own storytelling skills that you are working on improving at the moment? Always exploring new ways to apply storytelling both as a listening tool and a communications strategy

Hobbies and interests? Golf, tennis and chasing around 3 kids and a puppy.

How can our listeners connect with you? mark@businessofstory.com, linkedin, mark@hussoul.com