The Statistics Don’t Lie – Numbers are Forgettable
Think about a recent presentation or sales proposal that you’ve heard that didn’t include stories. Chances are, it was filled with numbers, data and statistics.
What do you remember?
Most likely, nothing.
You don’t, because it was geared to the logical, left-side of your brain. Research has shown that numbers do not easily stick in the long-term memory of most people.
For instance, the London School of Business recently found that people have different levels of information retention based on how information is delivered to them. When they hear statistics alone, they retain only 5% to 10% of what they hear.
When the statistic is coupled with a picture related to it, retention jumps to 25% – a good increase compared to statistics alone, but, probably not enough to compel others to make long-lasting change.
When stories are used to convey that same information, retention jumps to a remarkable 65% to 70%.
Why is this? Because stories engage both sides of the brain. Appealing to the right side involves the emotions of the listener. Strong emotional ties create better ‘anchors’ for the points you are trying to make.
For example, there are many excellent examples of the power of stories from the financial planning world. One of my coaching clients, Julia, tells the story of a client – Kay – who called her.
She said, “Julia, I’m sitting on my back porch overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The one I always dreamed about, but didn’t think I could ever see after Frank died.
I’m calling because if it wasn’t for you, I don’t think I’d be here. When we first met eight years ago, do you remember what a wreck I was?”
Julia smiled as she thought back to that first meeting. “Yes, you were going through a pretty rough time.”
Kay said, “Rough? I was a basket case. But you took the time to understand me. You learned everything that had to do with my money. And, you never pushed or rushed me to make a decision. You gave me time to grieve.
Because of your patience and care, I was able to understand my situation a lot better when I had a clear head. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for what you’ve done for me. Thank you for helping me make my dream home become a reality”
Do you think Julia should tell that story to as many people as possible?
Think about a typical approach many financial advisors take:
“We can help you reach your goals because we have a holistic planning approach that takes into account your income and expenses, as well as your assets and debt. We then run the numbers to create a plan. Based on that plan, you’ll know how much you need to save in order to purchase that dream home.”
Factually, is this correct? Yes. Is there any kind of emotional connection to this ‘story?’ None. It’s clinical. It appeals only to the left side of the brain, and engages no emotions. It’s also why a majority of financial professionals struggle to succeed at attracting many new clients.
By the way, I’m not pointing fingers. The second approach is one I used for years in both my selling and speaking careers. It wasn’t until I discovered the power of stories that my career, and the lives of my clients, became markedly better.
If you want to create a deeper and quicker level of trust with others, the numbers don’t lie. Throw away the statistics and data, break out the stories. You – and your clients – will be much happier.
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Hi Michael. That data from the London School of Business is fascinating. I’d love to use it in a blog post of my own, but I can’t find it anywhere. Can you tell me where you found that information?
Dave, I am so sorry about this delayed reply. I picked up this information from author Jeff Bloomfield. He wrote ‘Story-Based Selling.’ In the Kindle version, the link to source material through the London School is no longer an active page. I’ve also seen Jeff share these ideas in a workshop. If I find the source materia, I’ll forward it to you.
Excellent point. Put enough details into your story to paint a picture, but also allow the listener to fill in her own details. As one of my coaches taught me, people buy into what they help create.