adam_and_eve“You can’t put a sausage into a meat grinder, crank the handle backward, and get a pig,” a friend once told me. The gruesome reference has always helped me with the concept that once mixed, some things remain that way forever.

The same can be said for business and storytelling. While it’s trendy to portray them as new BFFs, the duo has always held a tight relationship. It’s revealed daily as buyers and sellers perform the transaction tango.

Business, like the sensual dance, is driven by four-letter words. One feeds off of our carnal instincts. The other attempts to justify the pursuit of these pleasures. And before your mind has a chance to caminata through the gutter, the four-letter words that I’m referring to are want and risk. Professional communicators that understand these core motivators excel at winning hearts and minds through stories.

Want is a primal survival trait that was programmed into our DNA thousands of generations ago. Like it or not, it comes from a deep and selfish place. And although such primitive urges are strong, they don’t rule our actions. Instead, they’re kept in check by risk. We may want to eat that triple-decker cheeseburger, steal a car, or have an affair, but the logical side of our brain counters with the risk of a heart attack, prison, or the shame of a messy divorce.

The television show Shark Tank is a petri dish for studying want and risk. Sellers (entrepreneurs) want to receive the largest investment for the least amount of equity. Buyers (investors) want the most return on their investment. Both pursue their wants by negotiating to minimize risk. If a balance is found, an investment (sale) is made. If not, the conversation ends without a deal. It’s the archetypical story.

Want and risk manifest themselves in business discussions every day. But, are you paying attention? When prepping for that presentation, sales pitch, or marketing copy, do you study desire and the consequences of pursuing it?

Look at your company’s messages from the perspective of want and risk. Ask yourself:

  • What do my customers want?
  • What risks are they weighing to make a purchase?
  • What does my company want?
  • What risk is it willing to accept to make a sale?

Performing an in-depth analysis of want and risk will reveal the throughlines that drive your business stories.

Oh, and as with all four-letter words, choose and use them wisely.


Photo Credit: Library of Congress