In sales, you repeat a formula and that formula is comprised of many facets. These facets include a number of the ‘usual suspects’ like:

  • An introduction or pitch
  • A value proposition
  • A series of qualifying questions to evaluate pain

Salespeople often get caught up on solving the puzzle – piecing together the necessary components with a disproportionate emphasis on the close of the sale. Those pieces are important, but as your sales career evolves you realize that where the fun resides – and where the close becomes a natural conclusion – is in the questions asked and the story told.

What happens if you don’t have a story to tell?

Without a story to harness the prospect’s attention, you are likely engaging in a losing battle. Questions and stories are what drive conversations. Facts, statistics, features and benefits are vital but only useful if they support the story. The brand you represent and associated name recognition will only take you so far. The product or service standing alone is not enough to close the deal. Your brand that you sell for truly is comprised of the stories people tell about it. Crafted wisely, these stories will change how prospects think and act. Why? Within a story is your customer’s personality and belief system.

Your customer has a belief system comprised of:

Storytelling in Sales

Values impacting Thoughts impacting Beliefs impacting Attitudes impacting Feelings impacting Behavior.

A belief is a feeling of certainty; it is not necessarily reality or truth. A belief comes from what your customer chooses to focus on. As Sales Professionals, we shift beliefs. Your stories and relevant case studies impact thoughts and thus all components down the line to (buying) behavior.

One of the questions I get asked most often is how? How do I get the customer to (insert desired outcome here)? The answer is always to tell them a story: have them participate in their story or have them realize a similar customer’s story. Give them a beginning, a middle and a conclusion. Understand storytelling, and dedicate yourself to ‘what gets practiced becomes perfect’.

The classic storytelling structure tells us that a tale should be comprised of these 5 components:

Storytelling in sales

1. Plot = Product/Service, and how it applies

2. Character = Your prospect, and similarities with other prospects

3. Conflict = A struggle between 2 entities; the more interesting the conflict, the more intense the conflict – the better. This is where latent and realized pain is found.

4. Theme = Motivating factor(s), for example – the return on investment.

5. Setting = Context and situational fluency.

So how do I utilize storytelling in sales, or how do I use it more effectively?

  • Gather stories – if you do not have them, go find them. Find case studies online. Read white papers, blogs, and articles. Subscribe to RSS feeds. Follow industry news. Do some homework. Get plugged in. This time will become a long term investment.
  • Write down your own success stories; capture your most impactful solutions.
  • Always start with the point you want to make, then build supporting questions and relevant details
  • Focus on success stories or case studies that will speak to your prospect, then include them within the same story
  • Look to build an emotional connection; create a feeling about the pain that is uncovered and create a feeling around how a prospect will feel once you provide their new solution
  • Make it easy enough for the story to be repeated to key decision makers

People want to be happy. They will buy from you if they can visualize being happy with their decisions. When you weave a tale that allows your customers to insert themselves within the story, they will identify and start to create their own similar and powerful visualization. There will be no other option but to move forward. When they can see themselves being happy, they will buy from you.

Photo by Roberto Trm