The Wrong Story Kills the Deal

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The value of storytelling cannot be underestimated and extends far beyond finance. When I was fourteen, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to become an Eagle Scout. To this day, it remains one of my fondest experiences and most meaningful accomplishments. As part of earning the Eagle rank, a scout has to develop, propose, and execute an Eagle project to benefit the local community. In my troop, many scouts planted flower beds, often at exclusive private schools in the area. That didn’t strike a chord with me.

I had a different idea—I would create holiday decoration kits for a hospice that were packaged for each holiday to make it easy for the staff to store, decorate, and reuse. Additionally, since hospice residents were often too ill to provide physical gifts to their families around the holidays, we would gather donations of tape recorders and supplies so they could memorialize their stories for their loved ones. The staff loved the idea and welcomed my efforts.

Next, I had to pitch the project to the scoutmaster board and get approval. I went proudly in front of the board and stated, “For my Eagle Scout project, I want to do something more meaningful than plant flowers.” I told them about my project plans and about the support I had received from the hospice workers. Gong! The proposal was rejected.

I made a fatal mistake. I neglected to realize that the sons of a majority of the scoutmasters on the board had already completed Eagle Scout projects. As you may have guessed, they all planted flowers. I had told the wrong story to get the scoutmasters on board with my vision. Thankfully, after another iteration and pitch, they green-lighted my project. The hospice was thrilled, but that initial rejection has remained with me to this day.

When it comes to pitching (a project, a product, a service, raising capital, or selling your company), be sure to tell the right story.

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