“It’s raining in the basement!” shouts my 10-year old son, looking up from his video game. Upstairs, our 13-year old daughter is lying on her bed, talking on the phone. The laundry room sink, where she had been washing delicates is still running…and still overflowing! And that the laundry room is on the second floor, with all of the bedrooms. I rush home to standing water and white mush, which used to be kitchen ceiling drywall, soaking into and through the wood kitchen floors. Carpet…pad…walls…floors… ceilings…all saturated. My wife arrives home, crying, “We’re going to have black mold!” A water remediation specialist deploys massive fans. Our brand-new dream home, so meticulously planned, was flooded. Oh, did I mention we had moved in just F-I-V-E days prior?

You weren’t there. In fact, that event happened over 15 years ago. Yet, I’m betting you felt my anguish. Such is the power of story. Uri Hasson, a researcher at Princeton, claims a story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience (Harvard Business). We actually see ourselves in a good story, and it turns out our brains are wired that way.

So, you better believe there’s a story behind the humble laundry room drain. And if that’s true, isn’t there a story behind almost everything in the home you’re selling? Facts and figures (3-bedroom, 2 ½ baths, 1,800 square feet), and even bulleted feature lists activate left brain functions where we “think in words.” But story activates both the left brain’s logic and the right brain’s feelings and imagination. Neuroscientists have discovered brain chemistry is partly responsible. Story triggers the release of oxytocin, associated with good feelings, emotions, and in particular, empathy, allowing us to connect with the story. A second brain chemical, dopamine, is also released as we engage in story. Dopamine helps in focusing our attention, aiding memory, and pleasure.

Photo by Skyloft Photography

Simply put: information educates; story sells. You’ve heard the expression “buyers buy on emotion and then justify those decisions rationally.” Story is the key. And how we tell those stories matters, too. A story we’ve personally experienced, such as my water event, are charged with emotion and believability. As such stories educate, and become memorable, we can help shape buyer’s opinions, especially with regard to the desirability of certain aspects of a particular home. Walking in from the garage, there’s a drop zone on your left. Sometimes, story is simply triggered by a question – “When you arrive home from a long day and your hands are full as you come in from the garage, where does everything end up?” Inevitably they answer, “On the kitchen counters/island/table,” which leads to your story about the drop zone. To your right is a pet center complete with elevated shower for small dogs. Simply having an adorable stuffed beagle there begins to tell the story. A couple of potted plants nearby tells another story – it’s a gardening center!

At the risk of overstatement, your success in new home sales hinges on your prowess as a storyteller. This is where your team becomes so important. Make an event of walking through the home together, in particular identifying things you do or offer in the home other builders don’t, and then share your thoughts/experiences/stories regarding those things. What you learn from each other will help you develop your storytelling. Similarly, as you tour prospective buyers through the home, certain amenities may trigger the buyer’s own stories, some of which will become gems you’ll retell.

As you consider new home designs to offer, think too about the stories they will tell. We can help. Call us when you’re looking for that next hot design and we’ll talk with you about some of that home’s inherent stories. Even better, have a Design Basics; storyteller come spend a morning with your sales team, walking through your model home(s), identifying and rehearsing stories to sell!

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