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Ravishankar Iyer

Storytelling Tips from Shaan Puri (3-2-1 by Story Rules #59)

Published about 1 month ago • 6 min read

Welcome to the fifty-ninth edition of '3-2-1 by Story Rules'.

A newsletter recommending good examples of storytelling across:

  • 3 tweets
  • 2 articles, and
  • 1 long-form content piece

Let's dive in.


𝕏 3 Tweets of the week

This would be a great resource for authentic data on India.


I saw this statistic in the Indus Valley 2024 Report too - Indian corporates need to up their R&D spend!


Don't wait for inspiration to begin writing.


📄 2 Articles of the week

a. 'Selling Smart: The Insider's Guide to SaaS Success in India' by Vignesh Jeyaraman and Rohit Kaul (Blume VC)

You might think that a B2B SaaS company based in India would primarily be building for the world. But the times, (as the article notes), They Are A-Changin'!

2 out of every 3 customers of CloudSEK, a cyber security startup, are from India. The global giant Salesforce makes about 1 billion dollars of ARR (annual recurring revenue) from India.

There are several such surprising findings in this interview of Rahul Sasi and Kuldeep Dhankar, two B2B SaaS founders, by Blume. The insights are super-useful for anyone in B2B Sales.

I liked this simple mantra - don't buy Zoom, buy air tickets! High-value sales deals are built on trust. And trust is built on face-to-face connections:

In India, if you’re not meeting your customer in the real, you’re not selling efficiently. Not to say you cannot sell on video, but you are missing an opportunity to right-size your deals and build customer trust. I tell people if you meet a customer in person, your average deal size will be 20%, or 30% higher, guaranteed, and your renewal rates will go up. Don’t buy Zoom; buy air tickets.

Some folks might think all this travel makes selling tough in India. But I loved this superb perspective-setting insight:

Remember, your buyers are mostly the top 0.01% of India and they are most probably in NCR, MMR or Bangalore. These are short, inexpensive flights, in the same timezone and everyone speaks perfect English. There are no markets in the world that have these advantages.

An interesting metric that works in SaaS:

Cost per meeting: “If there is one metric that matters in SaaS, it is cost per meeting. It is basically everything the company spends and the meetings (in a selling context) they can generate. For example, it also includes the cost of engineers writing code. That number is surprisingly revealing, and it solves a lot of things. Five years ago, this number used to be $900 for me. Today, the number on average is around $1500-$1600 because things have gotten more expensive… flights, hotels, all of that. But between $900 and $1500, you can have a ‘selling’ meeting in India. This number is about 10x in the European and American markets,” said Kuldeep.

Have clear criteria for what custom feature requests will be accepted:

"Build any feature that matches all three criteria:
1. Useful to more than the one asking,
2. It is part of the current long-range roadmap
3. Customer commits to pay and promote the feature
You don’t say no to a customer; you say that if these three conditions are met your answer is default Yes. Once they know this, they will not ask for custom features 9/10 times.” - Kuldeep

b. 'Tales From the Eclipse' by Tim Urban

Trust Tim Urban to put the epic in a solar eclipse. Here's his simple yet surprising explainer for why we on Earth are lucky to have this phenomenon:

Earthlings are very lucky, eclipse-wise. Most planets don’t have a big enough moon to create a total solar eclipse. Not only is our moon big enough, it’s about exactly the size of the sun in our night sky because, by sheer coincidence, the sun is about 400 times farther from us than the moon and also about 400 times bigger than the moon in diameter—making our eclipses especially breathtaking.

This is such a breathtaking description of the wonder that Tim experienced:

We see stars all the time, so we’re well-acquainted with our reality living in outer space (even if it’s easy to forget during the day). But when I looked up at the sky during the total eclipse, it was the first time I had experienced another, totally different way to see with my eyes that I lived in outer space. I saw one sphere positioned in front of another sphere, with two other spheres—Venus and Jupiter—floating nearby. More than ever before, it felt obvious that I was standing on the edge of a fifth sphere. For the first time in my life, I was looking at the Solar System.

The piece is a great example of evocative writing and the use of emotions while describing science. It also has some stunning pics taken by Tim others.


📄 1 long-form read of the week

a. 'How to Master Storytelling' by Shaan Puri on the How I Write podcast with David Perell (YouTube)

This is a conversation with a ton of useful tips and insights on storytelling by Shaan Puri - US-based founder, investor, creator of the popular 'My First Million' podcast and a consummate storyteller on social media.

Shaan frames storytelling as a skill which has value but is not being taught:

I think everybody intuitively knows storytelling is a pretty dope ability and I look for this mismatch between things that have a lot of value, but you're not taught, or even better, it sounds lame to say you're working on it.
...
So if there's a thing that has value that other people don't practice or try, and even better, it's almost taboo or lame to say you do it. I've found that those skills are actually premium skills to me because you almost differentiate yourself in the marketplace. Storytelling is another one of those."

You build connection through vulnerability:

I learned this from Hasan Minhaj, the comedian because I was going to go on stage. I was like, "Hey dude, you do this for a living. I don't know how to do this stuff." And he goes, comedy is a low-status game. So he goes, you're going to be up on stage and you're nervous, so your natural tendency is going to be to puff your chest out to project this false bravado. But he's like, actually what you want to do is build connection with people and you build connection with people through vulnerability, through low-stakes, through low status specifically.

Write like you talk:

David: How is storytelling different for you in writing versus speaking?
Shaan: It's not that different. In general, one of my biggest writing rules is, write like you talk. Most people have this false thing we do. I think it's from school. School teaches you, they're like, read Shakespeare, write these essays. I need six pages minimum, double-spaced, all this stuff, use big vocabulary. All the things that don't work in the real world, you learn in school. I think what school teaches you is basically just pretend. Hey, be something you're totally not. That's what good writing is. In the real world, I don't think that's true. I think good writing is simple. Good writing is easy to read. Good writing is entertaining to read. Good writing has a voice. It's not just like this archaic-sounding thing. So anyways, one of the principles is write like you talk. So if I'm going to write a story, I will actually say it first and then I'll just write down what I said.

The only four reactions that will make people share content - LOL, WTF, OMG, AWW!:

This guy, Chris Quigley, he ran an advertising agency that would make videos go viral. And at the time I was like, "Going viral is like a lottery ticket. How do you do a viral video?" I don't know. It's just like something amazing must happen. So I go, "What's your hit rate on virality? 1 out of a 100? 2 out of a 100?" He goes, "No, 8 out of 10." I go "8 out of 10?" And he's like, "Yeah, look." He showed me their views, and I was like, "How do you do this?" And he's like, "Well, over time, the more viral videos you make, you have a base of an audience." But he's like, "That just gets you... Some people will see it, but how viral it goes is how much they share it."
He goes, "So what we do is we work backwards from an emotion." He goes, "The only things people will share is things that are LOL, WTF, OMG, AWW." All the acronyms for all the emotions. So, like, "Oh my God. Wow. Ha, ha, ha." If it doesn't do that, nobody will share it. So he goes, "We first start with this is the desired reaction we have, then we'll write a script or write a blog post or whatever, and then we'll go check, do we think that's going to create this reaction to somebody? No. All right, let's juice it up. How do we make it more funny? How do we make it more outraging? How do we make it more endearing and heartwarming?" Whatever those are.
And so once I heard that three times, I was like, okay, I get it. I need to create a reaction out of the average person, just in their bedroom or at their desk, and I need to start with my target emotion and then work backwards from that.

That's all from this week's edition.

​Ravi

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Ravishankar Iyer

A Storytelling Coach More details here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ravishankar-iyer/

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