Sales and Storytelling – 16 tips and 3 shout-outs for help


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Sales reps that are able to share engaging stories that resonate with customers can make a more compelling connection between their solution and the customer’s needs. It is one thing to list why a customer should do business with you; it is another to be able to relate a past success story that beings the value of that list to life.  It is not so easy to do but when you do it; it makes a big difference.

Much has been written about the importance of storytelling to sales success. We’ve shared 12 tips in a prior blog.  Here we have augmented that list with some tips shared by Dr. JD Schramm from Stanford’s Business School in an HRB blog.

▪  Know your AIM – Know audience, your intent, and your message.

▪  Focus on the prospect – Tell stories that relate to solutions that address the customers needs.

▪  Leave the jargon at home – Translate the story into language familiar and relevant to the prospect.

▪  Make the story make a point – Have well-researched, provocative viewpoints included in the story that relate to the customer’s environment.

▪  Follow the “Goldilocks” theory of detail – Give just the right amount of information – not too much detail, but not too little either. Use fewer words that carry more meaning.

▪  Don’t rely on PowerPoints – Verbal communication is a better way to create images when telling a story.

▪  Use images – They live longer in the listeners’ mind, evoke a reaction to what’s being said and are more repeatable and memorable.

▪  Dramatize the story – Contrast customer’s current state and desired state after using your solution.

▪  Build up your story inventory – Have an appropriate story ready to illustrate a point and advance the sale.

▪  Rehearse the telling in advance – It always sounds different when you hear what you say aloud! And a corollary …

▪  Choose your first and final word carefully – Don’t necessarily memorize your opening and closing, but rehearse. Know what you’re going to say cold so your opening and closing are powerful.

▪  End with an unexpected benefit – When possible, share unexpected benefits. For example after highlighting the benefits achieved, round off the story by saying something along the – lines of “and on top of that, the unexpected benefit was…”

▪  Spend more time on preparing the story – Don’t focus solely on the feature/function portion of the presentation.

▪  Fewer words may be better than more words – Don’t assume that you need to include everything you know when storytelling. Less is more.

▪  Punch the story – Put your audience in the story. Introduce a new thought.  Challenge conventional wisdom.  Use humor when appropriate but not jokes!

▪  Use silence for impact and emphasis – It’s a powerful, underused tool – intentional silence draws emphasis to what you’ve said or what you’re about to say.

Given all the skills that sales reps must master, it is easy to underestimate the priority of storytelling.  It is harder if you actually observe salespeople who are good at it – you can see the difference.

There are three situations where sales reps need some help it getting it right.

  • New product launch.  When a company launches a new product there is no history; hence there are no stories.  Here, it is important for Marketing to quickly gather, codify, and disseminate stories based on initial successes.
  • New sales rep.  A new sales rep will not have any stories.  So this is a case where the rep cannot both create and tell the story.  Here Marketing should have an inventory of stories that can be included in new hire training.
  • Multiple divisions.  In companies where separate sales reps are selling separate products to the same customer, the sales reps always need to be aware of cross-selling opportunities.  Although they are not responsible for selling the other products, they can identify opportunities and create initial awareness – stories are great for achieving the second goal.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Janet Spirer
For more than 30 years Janet Spirer has worked with the Fortune 1000 to craft sales training programs that make a difference. Working with market leaders Janet has learned that today's great sales force significantly differs from yesterday. So, Sales Momentum offers firms effective sales training programs affordably priced. Janet is the co-author of Parlez-Vous Business, to help sales people have smart business conversations with customers and the Sales Training Connection.


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