Leading Is Not Selling Anymore

by Story

Look around. We live in a post-advertising age, where nobody wants to be “sold” anymore. Nobody wants to be interrupted to hear the pitch.

Instead, we will stop, lean forward and listen if we are inspired by a story that conveys truth, ideally relevant to us.

That’s why the demand for ad blockers is going through the roof, and so is the demand for uninterrupted entertainment like streaming on Netflix.

This trend is so universal and ingrained in our lifestyle that it applies to the workplace too, which is now your home, most likely.

Why does this matter?

If you want us to understand and adopt your strategy, idea, product, service, plan, project, startup, initiative, etc… you’ll have to earn our attention first. This applies to anything you’re launching.

Since we all have to stay behind a screen to cooperate, we can also hide behind it and pretend we’re listening to you while we’re actually scrolling down.

Leading isn’t selling anymore. Leading is storytelling.

How can you improve at this new game? Starting this morning:

1 – Invest more time to understand us. Empathy is the name of the game. It makes hostage negotiators excel at their craft. Stephen Covey said it best, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

2 – Mirror back what you heard, word for word, with a story where you put us at the center of a journey into transformation. We want to be the hero of the before & after. A story is an opportunity to show how you deeply understand our situation and challenges.

3 – Lead with purpose. Here, Simon Sinek said it best, “The goal is not to sell to people who need what you have, it’s to sell to people who believe what you believe.”

4 – Practice detachment when you tell us what to do. You will increase your influence if you remove any sign of neediness from the conversation. Neediness is a turn-off, that’s a simple human rule.

Only at this point, our brain decides that it’s time to be interested.


This is one of the topics I cover in my training workshop called “The Bigger Story: Strategic Storytelling to Drive Profit and Engagement”. I am gearing up to deliver it remotely for business leaders at Microsoft in a couple of weeks. You will hear me talk more about this topic in my upcoming posts and if you’d like to know more about this workshop, let’s talk.


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