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Weekly 3: Pixar Storytelling Tips, Confidence After Rejection & Obligating Questions

Summary: Tell a story like Pixar. Keep your poise after being rejected. Identify the genuine objectio

Idea Journal Weekly 3

February 18 · Issue #22 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Tell a story like Pixar. Keep your poise after being rejected. Identify the genuine objections to your pitch. (~5 min read)
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Cheo and Sherman

#1. Use Pixar’s storytelling framework to make your pitches more compelling.
Emma Coats, a former story artist at Pixar, writes that each of the animation studio’s films – from Toy Story to WALL-E – follows the below storytelling framework: 
Once upon a time ___________________. Every day, ___________________. One day ___________________. Because of that, ___________________. Until finally, ___________________.  
You can use this simple framework to better organize the narrative arc of your next pitch, to make it more engaging and memorable.
Here’s the framework applied to the animated film Finding Nemo
Once upon a time there was a widowed fish named Marlin, who was very protective of his only son, Nemo. Every day, Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim too far away. One day, in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water. Because of that, he is captured by a diver and ends up as a pet in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney. Because of that, Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way. Until finally, Marlin and Nemo are reunited and learn that love depends on trust.
#2. Having an optimistic “explanatory style” after being rejected can help lead to long-term success in sales (and in life).
Author Dan Pink writes in his book To Sell is Human that sales professionals face an “ocean of rejection” on their path to success. 
Pink references research by University of Pennsylvania Psychology Professor Martin Seligman, which shows that people’s ability to bounce back in the face of so much rejection largely depends on their explanatory style – how they explain negative events to themselves.
People who “give up easily, who become helpless even in situations where they actually can do something, explain bad events as permanent, pervasive, and personal.” They tend to believe that the negative conditions will last a long time, that the causes are universal rather than specific to the circumstances, and that they’re the ones to blame.
Instead, after a negative experience trying to sell (indeed, after any negative event!), Pink suggests that you ask yourself the following 3 questions and find a reasonable way to answer No to each one:
1. Is this permanent? 
Bad answer: Yes. I’ve completely lost my skill for moving others.
Good answer: No. I was flat today because I haven’t been getting enough sleep.
2. Is this pervasive?
Bad answer: Yes. Everyone in this industry is impossible to deal with.
Good answer: No. This particular guy was a jerk.
3. Is this personal?
Bad answer: Yes. The reason he didn’t buy is that I messed up my presentation.
Good answer: No. My presentation could have been better, but the real reason he passed is that he wasn’t ready to buy right now.
As Pink notes, “the more you explain bad events as temporary, specific, and external, the more likely you are to persist even in the face of adversity.”
#3. Ask the “obligating question” to distinguish between genuine and superficial objections to your product pitch.
Author and marketing guru Seth Godin recommends in his book Survival is Not Enough that when you’re selling your product or service, after the third objection (e.g., it’s too expensive, it’s the wrong color, etc.), you stop answering objections.
At that point, he recommends that you ask some version of the following obligating question: If we’re able to deliver x, y, or z at the price you’ve discussed, are you prepared to buy our product today?
Godin writes that most of the time the objections weren’t real, either because the prospect wasn’t ready to buy anyway (and just wants you to go away!), or because there was some other, hidden objection that the obligating question helps to bring out.
In addition to this filtering effect, the obligating question helps to separate wanting from needing – what might be nice to have versus what’s actually going to lead to success in the market.
Quote of the Week
“Don’t be afraid to give a little away for free – as long as you’ve got something else to sell. Be confident in what you’re offering. You should know that people will come back for more. If you’re not confident about that, you haven’t created a strong enough product.”
- Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson in their book Rework
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