Storyteller Francisco Mahfuz: ‘Selling through video helps shorten the sales cycle substantially’

Francisco Mahfuz is a real all rounder with many qualities and years of experience. He’s a Keynote Speaker and Story Coach who’s very active on LinkedIn to engage with his audience as much as possible. His focus is on storytelling, in any way shape or form – could be through text, video or podcasts. He helps people overcome their fear when it comes to speaking in public or doing presentations and he also wrote a book about it which is called ‘Bare: A Guide to Brutally Honest Public Speaking’, he’s the Host of The Storypowers Podcast and so much more. 

Whisbi is a Live Commerce platform that provides services like Live Video Shopping, Virtual Selling, Live Broadcasting and more. We help brands achieve 100% of their web revenue potential through online sales conversations powered by video. In this series ‘Whisbi Talks’ we’re inviting experts of the Live Shopping world to share their experiences and knowledge with us around these topics. Please read on!

Let’s start by getting to know you. Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?

I describe myself on LinkedIn as a Keynote Speaker and Story Coach – anyone that is a speaker tends to have these other areas of expertise. You speak, you deliver workshops, you give corporate training sessions and occasionally take on clients individually – that’s where the coaching comes in. The main mission is working with storytelling and helping people become – as I say on LinkedIn – more interesting than Netflix. I’ve been specifically working on storytelling for the last few years. I’ve just finished one hundred episodes of my storytelling podcast, so there’s no shortage of material there for another book, but I expect it in the next couple of years or so to happen. This year I’m putting a little more focus on the speaking and corporate training part – because that’s really where I like to spend most of my time. I enjoy the coaching, it has some interesting aspects to it as well but if I have to choose – I would go for engaging with people in real life speaking or training them.

How do you use video in your career? 

With video what I tend to find is always this balance between how creative you want to be with your videos and how sustainable it is to keep being that creative. I use video mostly for marketing purposes, for me it’s about finding that fun and consistent balance between wanting to do different things like character skits, videos that have the occasional special effects but at the same time I want to put them out on a regular basis. It’s finding the sweet spot so you can have a regular production and yet not spend four hours per video. Right now I’m putting out videos once or twice a week. There’s definitely no correlation between how much effort and production you put into a video. I’ve always done the most produced videos and the least produced ones. I think what attracts most people to the stuff I do is that it’s storytelling. I’m always telling stories on video. The most basic videos are still about me telling a story. 

I heard something a while back and it stuck with me. Either your videos need to be raw – and live videos fall underneath that – or somewhat professional. The middle ground is the worst place to be. All the way doesn’t mean that everything in your video needs to be perfect and super professional. But with low production values, like live video, it also really works. 

What do you think is the thriving factor about digital media and creating content online and why?

There are a few different things. Creativity to start with, is one thing that wouldn’t have been so obvious three, four years ago. Now it’s undeniably one of the factors that will get you engagement. Generally speaking the worst thing you can possibly do in digital media is to do what everyone else is doing. Then you just don’t stand out. Finding your own way of being creative is key.

The second thing is a certain amount of consistency. It doesn’t matter how good your content might be, if you’re not showing up on a regular enough basis nothing is going to happen in terms of engagement. Creativity, content consistency, and community are the three C’s of social media and that’s something people should always have in mind in my opinion.

What do you think the biggest advantage of selling through live video is?

What I’ve seen and heard from a lot of people is that video works in a very similar way compared to storytelling in terms of that it allows people to know you a little better. Or even feel like they know you. Once you’ve watched five videos or live streams of someone you get this feeling like they’re not strangers to you anymore. When you decide to contact that person, it’s very unlikely that person will completely surprise you with the way they are. The feeling of familiarity helps shorten the sales cycle substantially because it’s very different from just text content. So I think this is definitely the biggest advantage. 

What is the most important feature for marketers and creators as technology advances how to effectively sell on live video?

It depends on the platform I think. On some platforms video gets a lot of engagement. The quality of the engagement is higher when you’re using video. I experience that when I speak to prospects that approach me for business and I ask them what attracted them to my content, the majority of cases said that they’ve watched a lot of my videos. I get that way more than people saying that they’ve read a lot of my posts. Video does much more for you when it’s done well.

Do you know any pain points about user engagement on the current enterprise websites?

Companies still struggle a lot with engagement. Not only on social media but on other channels as well. One of the major pain points for them is that it’s difficult to identify with something that is not a person. The challenge for many companies is finding the sweet spot between how we engage with our audience – as a company or different people that will engage on our behalf? It’s much easier for customers to relate to actual people than just plain products. There are parts of the customer journey particularly for certain types of products where all you want is just talk to somebody. You don’t want to go to the website, look through five different pages and end up sending an email where you will get a reply after a few hours or days. You want to get more information on the spot. I think that a lot of companies make it very difficult to just talk to an expert. Finding different ways to allow that engagement to happen that is more satisfactory for customers or potential customers is definitely something that I think most companies could benefit from. Live video could help companies as a solution to engage easier with customers and for them to be able to talk to a brand expert in real time. 

Can you tell me some brands rocking the user engagement now in this field?

One that comes to mind is JetBlue, they are always good with their social media content and with how they engage with their customers. Another company I’d like to refer to is The Ritz-Carlton, they have services that are very high standard and that generates engagement. I do struggle to think about many other brands and that’s probably because brands are not terribly good at user engagement, which needs to change. 

Do you have some tips for brands that want to start mastering the craft of getting their message across through video?

The tip I have for brands is the same tip I have for anyone when it comes to communication: storytelling or a version of storytelling. Brand experts or anyone in that field have the easiest resource ever to sell themselves which is the stories of all the other people that you’re doing something good for. If brands would look for those stories and train their people to share them, they will have lots of marketing material that has so much potential to connect with people. They need to have a habit of collecting that from their customers. Don’t try to be perfect. The stories of when you get it wrong are very powerful as well. Companies don’t use those enough in my opinion. It’s not an issue to make a mistake, it’s the way you handle that mistake and how you try to fix it, that’s way more natural and empowers people. We tend to like the brands more because you can relate.

Where do you get your inspiration for your content?

There’s a number of different habits I’ve developed over the years. The one that gives me the most material is something called ‘Homework for life’ which I learned from another storyteller. It’s a simple practice where at every end of the day I ask myself: if I had to tell one story of something that happened today, what would it be? Something that was funny, strange, or taught me a lesson. I end up writing the smallest possible things. When I’m thinking about content I look at those and try to find the point of it. What’s the parallel that I can make in a business situation? It’s very rare that within a few days in my list I don’t find something I can develop into a story or video. It could be very simple things but if people can relate to it, it makes them interested.  

Who is the most interesting person in this field that you recommend us to talk to?

The person who is now recognized as the main person for video on LinkedIn is Alex B Sheridan, so definitely reach out to him!


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