I've been watching Suits with my wife for the past few weeks. I'm hooked. I admit it. I'm not proud about it, but what can I do? If you don't know Suits, essentially it's about a law firm. The main character is Harvey Specter, and he is a closer. He gets deals done. He never fails.
There's also another character, Louis Litt. He's a financial wizz, brilliant with the numbers, and the go to guy when someone has to dig into the data and analyze it, but every time he tries to close a deal the whole thing goes pear shaped. He's hopeless, and it's hard to watch, because all he wants to do is impress Harvey; he wants to be like Harvey and be a closer! But Louis just isn't cut out to be a closer. Louis is exceptional with the numbers, but can't connect with people effectively. Harvey is disinterested in the numbers, just palms that work off to his associate, but he's great at the communication piece, he knows how to reach the inner decision maker of each and every client.
Suits is just a show, but Louis and Harvey are everywhere.
Data is an opener. Stories are closers
Let's face it. Data sucks as a communication tool. It's a rockstar for analyzing activity, but don't give it a mic. Don't ask it to get buy-in from others, or sell the concept to a prospect.
Data geeks out on the numbers, but don't think its genius there translates to it being a closer. It's not. It sucks at sales. It sucks at getting buy-in to strategy. It's a genius at analyzing the WHAT, but its hopeless at communicating the WHY.
Data is a tool for analyzing. Stories are a tool for communicating. Think about that. It's a big idea.
Data helps you come to the conclusion you've got something to sell (sell a product or sell a vision), it opens up the process, just make sure you don't ask it to close as well. Like Louis Litt, it sucks at closing.
Stories are closers. They don't want to talk about the numbers. They don't even care about the numbers. Stories are not aiming for the head, they aim for the heart, for the gut, for the emotions. That's why they are closers. Because they know how decisions get made. Not with a person's rational thinking, but with a person's intuition, and intuition is linked to the heart, to the gut, and to their emotions. Once their intuition gives the green light, the head is left to write up the report and make it sound all business-like.
How decisions really get made
We don't make rational decisions. 90% of all decisions are made emotionally, and then we use our rational thinking to create the justification for the decision.
We have to remember that we are human, and, as humans, we develop trust through hearing and sharing stories; we also make decisions with our emotions, and storytelling hits our emotions better than any other form of communication.
It doesn't matter if that is around the campfire or in the boardroom, because we are still human in the boardroom. The same rules apply.
Nobody is saying data isn't important. Let it set the deal up, just make sure you don't ask it to close for you, too. In Suits, when they need a deal closed, they ask ,"Where's Harvey?" In your life and business, when you want to close a deal, ask, "Where's the story?"