Four Sales Story Archetypes

Models Sales

Four Sales Story Archetypes

“Story is about eternal, universal forms, not formulas”, Robert McKee, Story

Sales professionals often must persuade customers about their product or solution. Stories, when appropriately used, can be a powerful tool for influencing people. Well-told stories illustrate the impact of a product or a solution; they build credibility and can bring about an emotional connection with the product or service. 
In this article, I outline four archetypes which can help sales professionals tell compelling stories.

What are Archetypes

One can think of archetypes as universal forms and patterns from which other expressions can be derived. Christopher Booker in his book “The Seven Basic Plots” identified 7 common archetypes that have guided stories and storytellers. These are:

  • Overcoming the monster
  • Rags to riches
  • The quest
  • Voyage and return
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Rebirth

More on the seven archetypes here: The 7 Classic Story Archetypes

Each archetype follows a story arc that takes the listener on a journey with the story’s protagonist from an inciting incident through conflicts, twists and turns, finally reaching a climax and resolution.

1. We Saved the Day

We Saved the Day

These are stories where your product or service helped a customer avert a crisis or resolve a big problem — the more critical the situation, the more impactful the story.

Keywords: Tension, crisis, near-death situation, survive, return from the dead


  • The tension / conflict / problems / constraints in your story must be similar to the ones being faced by your client or customer
  • You should be able to answer all the ‘W’ questions — Who, Where, When, What, Why

When to use:

  • Works well for both products and services
  • You want to show your ability to solve BIG and hairy problems
  • Demonstrate how your product / service has worked in the real world and in within the same industry or use case


Apple Watch saves the life of a US man who fell into an icy river

2. Co-creation Stories

Co-creation sales story archetype

These are stories of partnership and collaboration.

Keywords: Collaboration, building together, integration, partnership, understanding


  • Works best when the customer / client you are pitching to is looking for a long-term partner
  • The specific capabilities that a customer is looking for should have contributed to your success in the story
  • Co-creation stories are about partnerships, collaboration, and cooperation. These stories have no room for ‘heroics’
  • There are wins on both sides

When to use:

  • You are pitching for a long-term partnership
  • Best used when pitching services
  • You want to demonstrate both your technical and operational capabilities
  • You want to highlight skills and competencies that your customer needs to augment
  • You want to show how you can be a dependable and a long-term partner


3. The Magic Ingredient

Magic ingredient sales story archetype

These are stories of transformation where your product or solution has drastically turned things around for a customer.

Keywords: Before and after, transformation, magic, impact, turnaround


  • Show measurable impact
  • Quantify the before and after
  • The impact must not be small or incremental but improve things by several orders of magnitude

When to use:

  • Best used when pitching services
  • You want to demonstrate both your technical and operational prowess
  • You want to show how you can transform the client’s business
  • The customer is struggling with a critical business KPI or facing stagnation


How billionaire Ray Dalio helped launch McDonald’s Chicken McNugget

4. A Love Affair

A love affair sales story archetype

These are stories of long-term partnerships that have grown to become love stories.

Keywords: Trust, respect, symbiosis, love, tradition, maturity, evolution


  • They usually start with the other three archetypes
  • Longevity of the relationship is important
  • There are wins on both sides
  • Mutual trust and respect are the critical emotions
  • Great story archetype for OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers)

When to use:

  • Best used when pitching services
  • You want to demonstrate your operational prowess
  • You want to show how you can be a dependable and a long-term partner


Formula 1 and DHL renew multi-year global partnership ahead of F1’s biggest ever season

Additional Notes

So those are the four archetypes. Here are some additional notes on using these archetypes more effectively.

  • Tell true stories that are factually correct
  • Ensure that the story resonates with the customer regarding the challenges, problems, issues, and risks they face
  • Pick stories from a similar domain or industry as your customer
  • Identify the archetype that best suits your customer story
  • Focus on the high points and low points
  • Use the right archetype at the right stage of a sales conversation

I hope that these archetypes help you tell your sales stories better.

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