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Stephanie Judd
Wolf & Heron
How To Influence Using Storytelling
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Stephanie Judd is a self-proclaimed influence nerd and has spent her professional life exploring how to inspire people and change their hearts and minds. ​ ​Wolf & Heron helps people increase their impact at work by training them to be influential storytellers. We offer interactive workshops and one-on-one coaching as professional development opportunities for sales teams and product managers in tech, and consult with executives to craft the stories that will shape their organizational culture.

In this episode

Storytelling is so fundamentally human, informs Stephanie Judd of Wolf & Heron.

The goal of telling a story as part of your sales process is to create human connection. You can only do this by bringing emotion into your story. Influential storytelling is inherently a vulnerable process but it leads to authenticity and high levels of effectiveness. Two mistakes salespeople make in communicating with prospects is 1) they want to feature their product or service as the focus of the story (it should be the client) and 2) they focus on data and information and leave out plot and human emotion. Stephanie provides the 4 components of an influential story in her roadmap to implementation. Listen to the end to get the details of her gift.

How To Influence Using StorytellingStephanie Judd
00:00 / 27:54

A glimpse of what you'll hear

02:38 Don't rely on facts, figures, features, and benefits when you tell a great story instead.

04:42 Make the story about your client but then you have to bring yourself into their story.

07:12 Salespeople need to think of their storytelling with a lens of influence in mind.

09:12 The benefits of becoming an influential storyteller.

13:40 How to become an influential storytelling organization.

19:06 Learn about Stephanie. Email Stephanie at

Episode Transcript
(Note: this was transcribed using transcription software and may not reflect the exact words used in the podcast.)

Centricity Introduction 0:04

Welcome to the Best Kept Secret videocast and podcast from Centricity. If you're a B2B service professional, use our five step process to go from the grind of chasing every sale. to keeping your pipeline full with prospects knocking on your door to buy from you. We give you the freedom of time and a life outside of your business. Each episode features an executive from a B2B services company sharing their provocative perspective on an opportunity that many of their clients are missing out on. It's how we teach our clients to get executive decision makers to buy without being salesy or spammy. Here's our host, the co founder and CEO of Centricity, Jay Kingley.

Jay Kingley 0:43

I'm Jay Kingley, co founder and CEO of Centricity. Welcome to another episode of our Best Kept Secret show where I'm happy to welcome Stephanie Judd, partner with Wolf & Heron, they help people increase their impact at work by training them to be influential storytellers. Stephanie is based in Buena Vista, Colorado, welcome to the show, Stephanie.

Stephanie Judd 1:10

Thank you. So happy to be here.

Jay Kingley 1:13

Stephanie, when I think back at human history, go back to prehistoric times. cave person times, if you will, what we know is that storytelling was the dominant form of communication, even before there was written language, culture, ways of living tips and tricks for survival, the family stories, family history, was passed down through the use of stories, it seems like humans are wired to both tell and listen to stories, we can do it for hours. If you think back to the early days of the 1900s, and the rise of Hollywood, through its cultural dominance today, think one of the reasons that Hollywood shines is that they are among the best storytellers in the world. Now, interestingly enough, there's only seven different story arcs that they have found to exist. And they've been able to categorize the millions and millions of stories that have been told into one of seven formats. And yet, we never get tired of hearing stories. So given the power of storytelling, Stephanie, why is it in the business world, that the people who are communicating on behalf of their business, people in sales, people in marketing, tend to over rely on facts and figures and benefits and features and attributes and totally miss out on the power of stories?

Stephanie Judd 2:58

Yeah, it's a very good question. And something that we talk about all the time, because storytelling is so fundamentally human. Sales people actually do, on some level, understand the power of storytelling. They bring, they try to bring stories into their pitches and into their conversations, because they do understand implicitly that stories are important for building connections and communicating information. And yet, fundamentally, there are two mistakes that they make. The first is that storytelling that salespeople want to tell stories that bring forward whatever it is that they're trying to sell their product, their service, their, you know, their thing. And so they first think that the stories that they tell have to be really literal, they're ready to tell stories about the product, or about the feature or about the benefits. And the second mistake that they make is that they focus very heavily on the data, and the information and maybe even the story that they tell is how the data was found. Right and what they lose. What they leave out is plots and most importantly, emotion. They leave out the human experience the part of us of what makes a story actually create connection and be influential.

Jay Kingley 4:25

Stephanie I had a boss once they used to bring all of the partners was in a consulting firm together and with a twinkle in his eye, we'd be going through, you know how we were progressing on bringing in clients and he would look at someone who was struggling say, so are you using the old enough about you let's talk about me. tactic. And you know, I'm wondering is one of the issues that you see that when people try to tell stories they want to put themselves at the center of the story rather than their client at the center of the story?

Stephanie Judd 5:04

Ooh, ooh, good question. So Yes and No is the answer to that. And so what we talk about often when we're, when we're helping folks be more authentic in their storytelling is figuring out ways to actually bring themselves into the story. Very often when people are talking about their product or service, they're talking product service, product service, and they don't bring their own authenticity to the story that they're telling. And by not bringing their own authenticity, they miss the opportunity to create human connection. That being said, Absolutely. When we talk to salespeople, the other thing that we're trying to train them on is you actually want to as a salesperson, pull stories from your prospective clients, right? And pull ideas but ask the right question so that you're getting information about who they are and what they need, just as just as importantly, as part of your as part of your pitch. And so yes, to both of those, it's, it's actually bring more of yourself, and less of your product or service, or you know, and simultaneously, stop talking about yourself and ask questions and get stories from your, from your prospective,

Jay Kingley 6:24

One of the all time great stories that I find very helpful when it comes to the sales side. And it was done as a movie in the 1950s by Cecil B. DeMille, called the 10 commandments with Charlton Heston and Neil Brenner, and it also happens to be the story of Exodus in the Bible, and that is, your customers are stuck in their own, if you will, land of slavery, and they want to get out into the promised land into what they want to achieve, but they cannot get there on their own, they need a Moses to come in and lead them and ideas that you are Moses, your your company, what it is that you can do for them, they need you to get into the promised land, but the story is really their story. You're just a key component, a key enabler in that and and I've always found that sort of a helpful way to to balance out your role versus your your clients role in the stories that resonate with you.

Stephanie Judd 7:33

Yeah, absolutely.

Jay Kingley 7:34

So what is it Stephanie, that companies and sales departments need to do to become more effective at storytelling?

Stephanie Judd 7:43

First and foremost, sales, people should think about their storytelling, with a lens of influence in mind, it's not just entertainment, it's not just, oh, I'm going to I'm going to talk about myself, right, we want to come to come to the storytelling with the with the focus of influence. With that, as the framing, the first thing is to focus on bringing the emotional experience of the story for for to the fore, and only leaving in the data and the plot that is relevant to bring the story forward. But really focusing on bringing that emotional experience, to the to the center stage, if you will, the emotion is what creates connection, it's the way that we find shared humanity with each other. And so that is why we want emotion to sit center stage with our stories. The other thing that salespeople need to think about is how to bring elements of themselves and really show up as authentic and vulnerable human beings and not robotic, perfectly quaffed versions of themselves thinking that that's going to be what is is sales, sales appropriate, you know, that this stereotype of the super slick salesperson is exactly what you shouldn't be.

Jay Kingley 9:02

Stephanie, I think that you're making a an interesting argument as to changing the mindset of salespeople becoming, as you put it, influential storytellers, anchored to authenticity. So and it's not that common of a thing. So I think there's enormous opportunity. So let's talk about if a company in their sales and makes that transition, and really focuses on being influential storytellers. Let's talk about the benefits to the executive that is leading that charge, and then we'll talk about the benefits that a company can expect to their top line from making this switch over

Stephanie Judd 9:50

The benefits of the executive leading the charge first, if they are leading by example. they will build credibility and authentic connection with their team, they will become compelling leaders simply by sharing stories at work, sharing stories with their team members that are designed for connection. And for that authentic human bond. True, influential storytelling is inherently vulnerable. And leaders who are willing to step into that vulnerability are reportedly, you know, research as being the most inspiring leaders on their teams and out in the world. And so it's really, really important to kind of show up as a human authentic, vulnerable leader to be compelling. The second side effects of building influential storytelling skill set is a more connected team. So the team works better together, there's less social friction, the group is going to have more institutional knowledge, because they're sharing stories across constantly with each other, that institutional knowledge is also disseminated more effectively and faster as new folks join the team. And finally, the sales team is often able to capture these stories into some kind of storytelling library, we often hear of leaders who build video libraries or documents where they can collect these stories. And that helps, of course, make sure that all the knowledge is shared and contained and captured within the team and, and held on for progeny. And it just keeps the sales team working really, really, really effectively together. And then of course, we see storytelling lending more deals. So yes.

Jay Kingley 11:39

I think the other thing is that, as a salesperson, you are not restricted to only tell stories that you personally, were participating in, you can take someone else's story on your team, make it your own, and with full credibility, because it really happened. And you're representing your company, put that out there. So the more as you say, you create that library, the more powerful and impactful the stories that you can choose and select, which I would assume, would flow through into that bottom line impact?

Stephanie Judd 12:16

Absolutely. It's amazing actually how one story can take so many different flavors, as different storytellers own them. And, and yes, we see sales teams, taking a customer success story, for example, and transforming it into 10 different versions of it for 10 different salespeople. And it is always really, really amazing how that can then become the institutional story that has so many different flavors.

Jay Kingley 12:46

And certainly been my experience. And I think many people's experience that messaging is so critical to get right to drive your top line revenue, and to drive your efficiency, that being able to convert, and storytelling is probably the most effective way to message and to make it compelling. Because if you can succeed in getting your customer to say, I see myself in your story. And I and as you pointed out earlier, with the emotion, that you understand the pain I can I can feel my pain in the beginning. But I see that light at the end of the tunnel. And I see that very positive, you know, and they lived happily ever after ending, which is what we all love about stories. And I can see myself in that I've got to be much more likely to work with you than your competitor who's telling me all about features, functions and benefits.

Stephanie Judd 13:50

If I can see myself and if I can see you as a human that I also connect with. Right? Yes, yes to all of that.

Jay Kingley 14:01

So I think you've made, you know, a compelling argument as to not just the power of storytelling, but why certainly in the sales function, I might also argue marketing, the same needs to put influence your storytelling, that front and center of how they're communicating to the marketplace. So given that, let's talk about implementation. So if I want to adopt this approach, what are the things that I need to do to transform my organization into a storytelling group?

Stephanie Judd 14:35

Two really big buckets. The first is you got to get your group telling stories that are actually influential, and I'll talk about what that looks like in a second. The other thing that you got to do is build a practice of storytelling, build a routine habit, so that the muscle gets stronger over time. So in that first bucket what actually makes a story influential, there are four critical components to an influential story. And these are different than what makes a story great. Because we look at storytelling from the perspective of influence, we're taking, influence science and influence knowledge and overlaying that overtop of story, storytelling, and the art of storytelling. And so these four, these four components are what makes a story influential. The first is you got to keep it real. And that's, that's about the authenticity that's about showing up as a human being. It's about telling a story where you as the storyteller authentically connects to the story. If it's not a story that you lived, then at least your authentic connection to that story should show up in the story that you tell. The second is invite curiosity, that is about the intellectual experience of your audience. So you have to tell a story that is, gets gets people curious, gets people asking questions gets people guessing what's going to come next, they have to be intellectually stimulated, their prefrontal cortex has to be activated. And so that is what invite curiosity is about engaging emotion is the third, this is the one that's about activating the physiological emotional experience of the audience members. And so we we call feelings feelings, because we literally feel them in our bodies. And so we talk a lot about when you're engaging emotion, you want your audience to have a physical sensation, you if you're talking about goosebumps, you want them to have goosebumps, if you're talking about getting hot in the evening, you gotta, you want them to sweat a little, right. And so you want to bring forward physical activation, so that the story becomes fundamentally experiential. By making your story experiential, you've now captured your audience in a completely new way. And then the final one, and this is the one where we differentiate most from the Hollywood storytellers and the other entertainers out there. The final one is pick one theme. And that is basically built around the idea that we as human beings are inundated with so much information and so many things to think about that if we tell a story that has only one point, and it makes that point, very clear, then our audience can walk away with at least the one thing that they're supposed to remember, internalized. And so pick one theme is very much about just hone your story, refine it, narrow it, focus it, get it so tight, that you focus on only one thing, and one thing only. So those are the four components of influential story. And then of course, once you have that built into all of your stories you have now practice the muscle, practice the muscle. And so we often encourage sales teams to think about how you can build into your weekly stand up meetings, your monthly routines, even your quarterly showcases, for example, where you have folks stand up, share stories, capture them, practice and then give feedback to each other, keep working the muscle, because that is fundamentally what will make it something that you can pull out as an extemporaneous skill in the moment when you need it.

Jay Kingley 18:12

The difference that you talk about between telling entertaining stories, a Hollywood and influential stories, which is the challenge for salespeople, is incredibly insightful, and is something that I think most of us don't fully appreciate. And so I want to thank you for your clarity around exactly how you create influential stories, which are going to move the needle for your business. So we're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we're going to learn a bit more about Stephanie.

Centricity Introduction 18:52

Wondering how much longer you have to grind and chase after every lead conversation and client, would you like clients to knock on your door so you no longer have to pitch follow up and spam decision makers. Well Centricity's The Tipping Point program uses a proven five step process that will help you get in front of the decision makers you need by spending less time on doing all of the things you hate. It's not cold, calling cold email, cold outreach on LinkedIn or any other social media platform, or spending money on ads. But it has a 35 times higher ROI than any of those things, leveraging your expertise and insights that your prospects and network value. The best part even though you'll see results in 90 days, you get to work with the Centricity team for an entire year to make sure you have all the pieces in place and working. So you can start having freedom of time and a life outside of your business. So email to schedule an 18 minute call to learn more.

Jay Kingley 19:50

Welcome back. We're talking to Stephanie Judd of Wolf & Heron. Let's find out a bit more about Stephanie. Stephanie, what are the pain points that you solve for your target market? And why do they need you to get rid of the pain?

Stephanie Judd 20:08

Salespeople, and especially technical salespeople struggle to make their product or their service accessible and understandable to their clients, they get caught up in the virtues of a specific feature, or they're focusing on the benefits of a particular thing. And they forget to focus on the bigger picture of value, what they can offer, and relate it to some kind of concrete experience or feeling that clients already know. And so therefore can connect to. So when we talk to salespeople, we help them tell authentic relatable stories that are intentionally structured with the science of influence and information processing in mind. So that salespeople can develop rapport, establish trust, communicate value in terms that everyone understands, and really, essentially build a connection that is going to land a deal.

Jay Kingley 21:02 Stephanie, one of the things that every business like yours, that sells expertise struggles with is how do they stand out from their competition. And one of the reasons that they struggle beyond not being able to tell influential stories, is they focus on what it is that they do, and not enough on what makes them great at what they do. Because I've always believed that, when you're going to retain someone to help you, you're looking to retain the best, not the average. And yet, when everybody sounds the same to you, you really only have one variable that you can use, which is price to determine one versus the other. So clearly, you and your colleagues at Wolf & Heron are really strong in terms of your capabilities. So why don't you tell us? What is it that makes you guys great at what you do?

Stephanie Judd 22:00

We are special in two ways. The first is unlike other storytelling companies, we focus on storytelling from the point of view of influence. So our backgrounds, our knowledge, and our research is grounded in behavior change, decision making biases, habits, development, information processing, employee engagement, culture change, we come from the perspective of what will change hearts and minds. And we lead that knowledge and expertise overtop of the art of storytelling to develop our perspective. So that, that from a just what's out in the marketplace, our point of view is a little bit different, which is compelling to some. The other thing that makes Wolf & Heron really, really powerful is that we design our products and programs informed with this knowledge of this expertise, and engagement and inspiration. So fundamentally, our training programs are built on what will change hearts and minds? And so participants in our workshops, they experience something that's highly interactive, facilitated by a change management expert, who understands how to inspire people change their mind about something and actually walk away with a new skill set, that they're motivated to build and develop and, and really integrate into their work.

Jay Kingley 23:22

Stephanie and I encourage all of our listeners to go to LinkedIn, look up Stephanie get a chance to see her career education, get a sense of her background, that has led her to help create the unique perspective that she has. But I have a slightly different question for you, Stephanie. I'd like to understand, if we look at your you know, be it your personal life or your professional life. What happened that would most explain why you do what you're doing today.

Stephanie Judd 23:56

Oh, I had a quarter life crisis, a third life crisis. I don't know. When I applied for graduate school, I had out I had already had jobs in lots of different areas. I had worked in technology consulting, I had done environmental nonprofit work, I've been in public health, I've been around the world, I've done all these amazing things. And in the process of that I had come to the conclusion that I was going to focus on changing the world by addressing climate change, and that the best way to do that was was through for profit business. And so I went to an MBA, dual degree master's program where I got an MBA and an environmental science degree thinking this is this is my future, I'm going to change the world. And then I had because this this degree program was a three year program. When I got two degrees. I had two summer internships, and in the summer internships, I was going to start my my unit my worlds of changing, changing Are things around me and making the world better and, you know, saving, saving the dolphins. And fundamentally, when I was putting together my resume for my third year, when I was looking for full time jobs, ready to step out into the world with my, you know, badge of credibility on my back, I went back to my internship supervisors and called them up and said, hey, you know, I know that I was only there for 10 weeks, how is the implementation of my recommendations going? And in both cases, I got back this conversation that was like, oh, yeah, I remember your I remember your presentation, it was super compelling, really, really, really great. Yeah, we liked the finances. Yeah, we liked the, you know, the arguments you made. Oh, but change is hard. People don't want to change things or, you know, things are just going the way they're going. And so I came away from these two phone calls with this feeling of, Oh, my goodness, I can't change the world unless I know how to create change. And so that is what that moment really, for me was the genesis of what got me into influence science and change management, consulting, and the universe of what it is what it takes to inspire people and create groundswell. And really, really effectively change how people think and act bring their hearts and minds along. And so that was the beginning of the of the organizational change that I did. And then I also went and did became certified as a life coach, so that I could understand individual change and how people change themselves based on their own motivations. And so through all of these different experiences, I started collecting different perspectives on what it is that actually makes people think differently, and act differently as a result. And so when I launched Wolf & Heron with my partner in 2016, we decided it was time to actually help others drive change. And we started with storytelling, because, well, storytelling is where all the power sits.

Jay Kingley 27:05

I think you're gonna generate a lot of interest, particularly with your take on not just storytelling, but influential storytelling, in laying out how you need to approach it. So I'm sure we're gonna have listeners that want to reach out to you to continue the conversation, how best for them to do that.

Stephanie Judd 27:23

You can reach out to me directly at And of course, if you would like to go to the website, our website is On our website, we have a contact us form. And that comes to me as well. So either way,

Jay Kingley 27:40

The amount of insight that you gave us, during our conversation today was off the charts, I think you really put out a pretty clear call that we need to change our status quo, embrace the art of influential storytelling, it can really move the needle for your business. But Stephanie, I'm sitting here thinking, I want to move the needle for our listeners. And I think you're just about there. But maybe, maybe he could just sweeten the pot a little bit. So without wanting to put you on the spot, but I'm gonna do it anyway. How about a little something extra a little gift if you will?

Stephanie Judd 28:24

You want some candy, huh?

Jay Kingley 28:26

I want some candy. You got it?

Stephanie Judd 28:29

All right. All right. How about I will put together a discount code for all your listeners. We offer story coaching as a as something if you're interested in individual story coaching, but we also have coaching on how to put together workshops so that they're super influential. And some of the other some of the other coaching packages, I'll put together discount code secret SECRET for 20% off.

Jay Kingley 28:55

All right, let's take advantage of it. And let's all become influential. Stephanie, thank you so much for being a guest on The Best Kept Secret show to our audience. Let's continue to crush it out there. Until next time.

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