Is It Really True that “Facts Tell, Stories Sell”?

How many times have you heard the sage advice that “facts tell, stories sell”?

Now, how many times have you heard it stated as a fact… instead of illustrated with a story?

Maybe you’re luckier than me. Maybe you’ve heard some good stories “proving” the fact that stories sell.

But here’s what makes it really interesting: “facts tell, stories sell” is both true and false.

Not that it’s bad advice. Quite the opposite. But something important is missing.

With one simple statement, a 10-year old Jeff Bezos made his grandmother burst into tears during a road trip in Texas…

He wasn’t trying to be mean. He wasn’t even trying to be persuasive.

He was trying to be show off his intelligence.

The story goes something like this.

During this trip, Little Jeff heard a commercial on the radio saying that every puff of a cigarette takes 2 minutes off of your life. Nana Bezos smoked cigarettes, so Jeff thought he’d do the math to impress and inform his grandparents.

When he came up with his number, he tapped grandmother on the shoulder, and proudly proclaimed, “At two minutes per puff, you’ve taken nine years off your life!”

That’s when the waterworks started.

We don’t know if she gave up smoking on that day, but we do know this: that “fact” struck a deep nerve.


Because stories DO sell… and sometimes the right facts make a person tell himself an emotionally charged story.

Back to the Bezoses:

When Jeff said “hey Granny, you’re going to die 9 years early because of those cancer sticks,” here’s what happened…

Grandma Bezos told herself a story. Could’ve been:

  • This habit of mine is stealing time I should be spending with my grandson
  • My grandson will be so hurt when I’m gone. No more summer road trips… no more birthday cards… when we should have had so many more
  • My behavior is making this sweet boy imagine me dying. How could I be so selfish?

You get the picture.

Little Jeff didn’t have to tell any of those stories. Grandma did that on her own… automatically.

So here’s today’s lesson:

Keep in mind that your clients and prospects are prone to telling themselves stories based on the facts you tell them.

Choose which facts you share and how you share them wisely.

And YES, tell more stories.

The good thing about telling a story is that you have more control over the story that plays out in the other person’s mind. You can more skillfully guide him as he draws his own conclusions.

Related: Will A.I. Put Copywriters Out of Business?