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Storytelling: TV Shopping Network Lessons

Sometimes we discover the importance of the narrative in unexpected places. And it is the narrative – the storytelling – that helps us successfully sell to clients.

A huge thanks to The New York Times for your feature story, “This QVC Host Can Help You Sell Yourself” (Erik Piepenburg, December 25, 2023). So many of the things I love in one place: QVC, the television and online shopping network (for those who know me well, they know…); storytelling; and purpose.

There is so much for us all to learn from it.

Shawn Killinger is the QVC host featured in the article. To me, she is not just fun, charming, and seemingly accessible, but super smart. But why is that? The answer, as the article notes in her words, “The big secret is that I don’t sell … I’m not a salesperson. I’m a storyteller.”

This is such an important message to be shared with the marketing and business development community. Brands, companies, thought leaders that excel in building strong brand narratives have mastered the art of storytelling. Their stories create emotional connections that resonate with the audience. They capture their hearts and their business. Something that Shawn Killinger does really well.

Isaac Mizrahi, the designer who sells on QVC (and over the years with Shawn Killinger as his companion host) compares his confidence to hers noting, “… he is more like bravado,” (which he calls a fake confidence) whereas she is breezily authoritative – with commitment.” Isaac Mizrahi is a very savvy marketer.

One way to tie your firm as a service provider is by giving your clients something to aspire to. By articulating your evolution, your commitment to quality and its impact on the client, your narrative helps build credibility beyond the confines of a standard pitch. And moves the client to action.

Embrace Selling

Or as Daniel Pink, the author of “To Sell is Human” says in the article, “The very best sellers build community with their audience by legitimately believing in their products.”

What Daniel Pink goes on to say in the article about Shawn Killinger – can also, and should, equate to the professional services you are providing:

“My hunch is that she’s an effective seller less because she’s a good storyteller but because she actually, sincerely believes in what she’s selling, and she thinks it will make people’s lives better,” he said. “That’s a difficult thing to confect.”

How true.

I believe you must anchor yourself in purpose, much as Shawn Killinger has. When you capture your passion as part of your identity, when you are able to articulate why the client should choose you versus another, your marketing is no longer haphazard. It’s intentional. With purpose.

Yes, it might be unexpected to compare television shopping to selling legal, financial, or consulting services. But with a strong narrative, anchored in stories, success can be shared by all.