Selling by storytelling, the Steve Jobs way

The other day, I discovered an interview with Steve Jobs from exactly 26 years ago. Yes, 26 years ago. He was 29, and Apple had just launched the $3,000 Mac. The interview itself is superb and I strongly recommend you  read the whole thing, but what really struck me is how well he prepared his stories, even back then. Here are a few of examples:

About the computer:

Computers are actually pretty simple. We’re sitting here on a bench in this cafe [for this part of the Interview]. Let’s assume that you understood only the most rudimentary of directions and you asked how to find the rest room. I would have to describe it to you in very specific and precise instructions. I might say, “Scoot sideways two meters off the bench. Stand erect. Lift left foot. Bend left knee until it is horizontal. Extend left foot and shift weight 300 centimeters forward .” and on and on. If you could interpret all those instructions 100 times faster than any other person in this cafe, you would appear to be a magician: You could run over and grab a milk shake and bring it back and set it on the table and snap your fingers, and I’d think you made the milk shake appear, because it was so fast relative to my perception. That’s exactly what a computer does. It takes these very, very simple-minded instructions–“Go fetch a number, add it to this number, put the result there, perceive if it’s greater than this other number”–but executes them at a rate of, let’s say, 1,000,000 per second. At 1,000,000 per second, the results appear to be magic.

About the mouse:

If I want to tell you there is a spot on your shirt, I’m not going to do it linguistically: “There’s a spot on your shirt 14 centimeters down from the collar and three centimeters to the left of your button.” If you have a spot–“There!” [He points]–I’ll point to it. Pointing is a metaphor we all know. We’ve done a lot of studies and tests on that, and it’s much faster to do all kinds of functions, such as cutting and pasting, with a mouse, so it’s not only easier to use but more efficient.

About life:

There’s an old Hindu saying that comes into my mind occasionally: “For the first 30 years of your life, you make your habits. For the last 30 years of your life, your habits make you.” As I’m going to be 30 in February, the thought has crossed my mind.

Selling is all about telling a story that’s relevant to the person you’re telling it to, but at the same time creates an emotional impact or connection. If you look closely at the paragraphs above, you’ll notice that the stories involve the interviewer directly. It may not make the person buy whatever you’re selling directly, but it might make people pay more attention to whatever your saying.

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