My Grandfather was an amazing storyteller. I recall growing up and looking forward to his visits so we could hear more of his great stories. His stories were filled with exotic experiences, metaphors and drama. Most importantly, they created indelible memories and lifelong lessons for me.
Like a precious recipe that’s kept in the family for generations, I’m going to share my Grandfather’s secret sauce for telling compelling stories in the context of sales. There are three parts to telling effective sales stories:
- Have a simple sales story architecture
- Know how to tell an effective sales story
- Know what not to do in telling your sales story
Let’s start with the simple fact that people are hard wired to listen, learn and respond to stories. It’s part of our DNA and goes back to the origination of human beings. Just think back to the caveman and the stories that were told to teach and inspire that were drawn out on the cave walls for generations to see.
You need a simple sales story architecture or framework. Why? The fastest way to lose your customer in telling a sales story is to ramble and not engage them early on. Human beings are conditioned to the literary narrative architecture for the past hundreds of years. Why not leverage that framework and tailor it to sales?
Simple Sales Story Architecture
- Frame the Situation– This is the customer’s historical and current state related to the key business issues that they are facing. This helps to establish credibility that you understand their key business issues.
- The Challenge– These are the key challenges, problems, confrontations or enemies that they are facing as a business. You use this to set up dramatic tension. The literary story element parallel to this is conflict. What must our hero (the customer) overcome or conquer on order to achieve success?
- Success- This is what victory looks like by prevailing over their challenge or enemy.
- Credibility- This is supporting credibility to make the story believable and reinforce our assertion that we have the domain expertise to help them achieve success. Think empirical industry stats, facts, figures and your actual customer achievements…not your product specs!
- Consultative next steps– All good sales stories must conclude with a slate of consultative engagement options to present to the customer. These are best practice ways that we have engaged with customers like you facing the same challenges to achieve similar success that you are aspiring to.
How to Tell an Effective Sales Story?
- Make it relevant to the customer- Sounds obvious but the fastest way to lose a customer in telling your sales story is to not take the time to tailor it and relevant to them. That means relevant to their industry, their company, their line of business, their key stakeholders, their customers, their competitors and their partners. Generic stories will fail miserably!
- Build to a crescendo- Following the simple sales story architecture outlined previously in this blog post naturally helps you build to a crescendo in telling the story. Think of achieving success in your story telling as the nirvana that the customer will experience after they have vanquished the enemy and overcome major challenge/conflict. You should be excited as the sales storyteller because you know other customers and the feeling that they have experienced.
- Have a point- Start with the point that you are trying to convey in mind. Think of the ancient and great Greek storyteller Aesop. All of his fables (stories) started with a moral lesson that they were trying to teach. See my prior blog post on having a point (http://0dc.b66.myftpupload.com/blog/2014/8/does-your-sales-team-tell-stories-like-del-griffith).
- Make it succinct- The fatal flaw with most sales storytellers is that they drone on for too long and lose their audience. One of the common denominators of effective sales storytellers is that they deliver the story using less words and time. Think less is more.
- Use pictures- A picture is worth a thousand words. Whether you draw a picture on a whiteboard in telling your sales story to a customer, create a mental picture or use a relevant metaphor, your goal should be to create an indelible image with your customer that inspires them to action as a result of hearing your story.
What Not to Do in Telling Your Sales Story
- Lecture- Too many sales reps lecture their customers in telling their stories. Nothing is more offensive than listening to a lecture unless you are in college as a student. Storytelling is all about engaging the customer in a dialog, not offending them in a condescending way.
- Make it about you- Unfortunately, most technology companies suffer from making their stories about them and their products and speeds and feeds and features. Customers don’t care about you, your products, your product specs, etc. What they do care about is their key business challenges and how you can help them overcome them and achieve success.
- Digress- Marginal storytellers start telling an engaging story and then seem to lose themselves midstream. And in the process, they lose their audience and can never regain their attention. The previously provided simple sales architecture is a great way to avoid that from happening. It’s easy for people to remember five key elements to the sales story and tell it that way.
- Not checking for concurrence- I’m a big fan of asking the customer during the telling of the sales story if they agree, disagree or is that consistent with their experience. Checking for concurrence at natural inflection points in your sales story is a great technique to keep people engaged.
- Deliver in monotone way- Great storytellers use voice inflection and dynamic cues by way of letting the audience/customer know that this is something they should be excited about. It becomes contagious when you can tell a sales story every time as if it were the first time you told it and you are generally excited about them hearing the story.
I can’t transform your entire sales team into great storytellers like my Grandfather, but I can help pass along parts of his recipe and secret sauce that can improve their effectiveness:-) Happy and effective sales storytelling to you and your sales team!