Anecdotes: the Antidote to Premature Elaboration in Sales


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I imagine we’ve all seen it, and frequently suffered from it: the sales person who can’t wait to tell you about the features, advantages and so-called benefits of their product or service.

It all starts so promisingly – the sales person starts by asking questions about the buyer’s situation, and at first appears to be genuinely interested. But it doesn’t last.

These sales people must have a hair trigger – at the slightest hint of a buyer requirement, they flip straight into “why you need the Oki-Koki 2008 (version 4.1)”. They are bursting with pride about the capabilities of their product, and can’t wait to tell you about it. A buyer I spoke to recently amusingly referred to this habit as “premature elaboration”.

By switching into product pitch mode at the slightest opportunity, the sales person is doing themselves a serious disservice – they are not only denying themselves the chance to uncover what the buyer’s issues really are, they have broken – often irretrievably – their chances of being seen as a trusted adviser.

The gifted minority of truly empathetic sales people wouldn’t dream of getting caught in this trap – first, they carry on asking questions until they truly understand what really matters to the prospect, and then they return the value by sharing anecdotes which illustrate the point they are trying to make by reference to another similar buyer, with similar challenges, that their organisation was able to help resolve.

But this gift of story telling needn’t – and shouldn’t – be restricted to the gifted minority. It’s time to reinvent the idea of telling tales around the camp fire, and encouraging salespeople to share their most powerful experiences, stories and anecdotes with their peers.

Clients who have been able to build such a pool of stories – some call it an “anecdotes database” – tell me that even their average sales people seem better able to conduct business-to-business issue and experience based discussions with senior decision makers – and to establish the relationship of trust that is the essential precursor to winning the prospects trust.

And there’s no technical excuse – with the wide range of collaborative, user-driven content tools available today – why any sales and marketing organisation should not be able to harness the power of a good story, well told.

Bob Apollo
Bob Apollo is the CEO of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, the B2B sales performance improvement specialists. Following a varied corporate career, Bob now works with a rapidly expanding client base of B2B-focused growth-phase technology companies, helping them to implement systematic sales processes that drive predictable revenue growth.


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