If you want to sell, you have to make people want to listen to you.
Not only listen—but want to listen.
See, selling has moved far away from the days of pushing information down people’s throats and employing borderline shady techniques to close sales.
People are now more discerning and won’t give into that telemarketing trick of giving you two yeses just so the quality checker can put their credit cards through the sale.
This is just as real to salespeople who are selling high-ticket products and long-term subscriptions. Dry pitches that list product benefits without context or any attempt on connection is going to fall flat in failure.
Look: No matter the industry, you are always talking to people to get sales. And people only listen when they want to—so in order to sell, they must want to listen to you.
Storytelling has existed long before recorded history. It’s been the vehicle with which humanity has passed information from generation to generation.
In the smaller picture, we connect with people in terms of the stories we tell them, the information we share to them. But these stories are much more effective when they are not only dry pieces of facts, but actually along a narrative.
Storytelling is a must-have sales skill. They need to be storytellers.
Here are the reasons why.
1. People retain more through stories
Stories. We remember them. That cartoon you were watching when you were five. That story grandma told you when you were seven. Heck, you probably still have some recollection of that story about how Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.
When facts and data are framed within a compelling story, you will hold the listener’s attention and help them connect bits and pieces of the story to their context.
This results in better retention—something we want in our prospects.
Imagine. If after the call they are in a situation that was similar to one that you mentioned in your story—say, you’re selling information security software and there was a report of an attempt to breach their server’s security—guess what will come to their mind?
Yup. It’s just natural that they will recall your story and not a dry pitch from another salesperson.
Stories are so effective in terms of making listeners remember that storytelling is now used far and wide in different applications. Of course, the shoo in is in marketing. Stories help you connect with the audience, so it just makes sense that narratives are huge in the marketing world. In training, storytelling is becoming a respected technique that’s recognized for its effectiveness. Participants cognitively retain information more completely and efficiently when taught in story form.
The London School of Business did a study on this and it confirmed what was experienced by people who’ve been using storytelling as a means to transfer information and convince people.
People retain 65 to 70 percent of information shared through stories while only 5 to10 percent of information is retained through dry presentation of data and statistics.
Since the sales process is very rarely a one-call affair, you want to stay on your prospects’ minds. Make the customers remember you by telling stories.
2. Stories appeal to both logic and emotions
Sales departments put together presentations that show why their products are the best logical solutions for clients. It’s very important to know your product inside and out, and be able to pair the features with the scenarios clients face everyday in their business.
However, being armed with all the features, numbers and tailor-made benefits is not enough to get you to a close.
If you think these are enough, you are probably getting a low close rate.
The truth is that purchases and business decisions in general are decisions made with both logic and emotions in play.
During a presentation or even a dragging pitch, the Broca’s area of the brain is e
The Broca’s area of the brain is stimulated during a presentation or even a dragging pitch. The Broca’s area deals with cognition and logic.
When listening to stories with rich imagery and meaning, the brain is stimulated as a whole. When this happens, emotions and logic are in play. Subjective biases are tapped and are considered when thinking.
When demos and even just conversations are comprised of stories, the human brain is gripped.
A salesperson who knows how to use storytelling to engage and lock in a prospect is one who can close by making prospects feel.
Stories connect human beings at an emotional level.
3. Stories make clients visualize the product in the context of their operations
There is no substitute to understanding the situation of your prospects. Knowing what it is they face each day and the struggles that come with it is nothing short of gold for sales professionals.
Sales professionals may be smart to bring up pain points and prospects’ experiences as they discuss benefits—but nothing will work better than a story.
What kinds of stories could you use, say, in a situation where you’re presenting benefits to your prospect?
Experience is powerful—even when it’s not yours. Use the experiences of your other clients, preferably in the same industry, to tell the story of how your product improves business. Take the prospect through the process. Present the case study in story form.
Tell them about the initial doubts that your other clients had and how those doubts were completely arrested when the product was onboarded. Let the details speak—what improved in your clients’ lives, how much did they save, what did they thank you most for. Believe me, your prospects want to hear this! They want nothing more than assurance that your product already became a success story. Then, they’ll want to be the next one.
Product in action
Aside from case study stories, prepare by making hypothetical situations where you product can help. Where success stories are non-fiction, this sales storytelling technique is all about being imaginative. Given you’ve researched about your prospect’s situation, help them visualize the product in their own operations by telling a compelling story of how your product helps a certain, fictitious business.
Be careful not to get carried away. Do not overstate! Remember that fiction is an amazing tool to tell the truth. Like Albert Camus said, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” So stick to realistic scenarios and make it as detailed as possible within the realm of what’s logical.
Folks over at Sales Benchmark Index say that a good sales story has these components:
- The Hero – the main character with whom the prospect can relate to. The Hero should share some traits with the prospect and must find himself/herself in situations that are similar or are metaphors for what the prospect regularly experiences.
- The Stimulus – something that pushes the Hero towards solving their own problem or changing the situation for the better. This could be likened to your product or the sales process you’re in right now.
- Tension or Conflict – problems, struggles, trials and dangers the Hero needs to overcome.
- A Crossroad – the moment of decision where the Hero needs to choose a path to bring him to the solution. In the sales process when you’re using a case study story or the prospect’s situation, this portion is when the client makes the purchase.
- The Moral of the Story – where the hero’s problem is solved by the solution he or she found.
- Also, sales stories are stories, they should be structured like so—with a beginning middle and end.Storytelling extraordinaire Kambi Crews says, “The beginning should hook your audience, while the end, the call to action, must be clear.”
4. Stories encourage action
If you’re successful in making your stories relevant to the prospect’s situation and you were able to grip them and their attention, you are in a great position to influence their buying decision. The way you position your brand and your product in your stories is essential in getting that yes.
See, the call to action should be strong and authoritative. Like we said, it should be right both in the logical and emotional sense.
Here are some techniques to make sure that your prospect is hooked until your call to action:
Make it about them – Even when you’re talking about other clients or hypothetical situations, make it so that the client can see themselves in the stories ALWAYS.
Keep stories straight to point – No need to be flowery and overly literary! We’re not writing an epic, we just want to hook the prospect. If you prepare well, you’ll get the points across succinctly.
Use imagery – Learn to tell stories that paint scenarios. Stories are a great leap from dry presentations, but don’t make your stories dry! Practice them on colleagues if possible.
Use humor – Great timing is a gift. If you have it, don’t afraid to make your prospect laugh here and there. Just don’t overdo it! There’s a thin line between clever and being a sideshow.
Everybody hates being sold to, but everybody loves a story.
Big and small brands use storytelling to pull in people, so why don’t we use that technique in sales. It makes the sales process human, relieves us of dry communication that plague many sales departments.
Successful inside sales professionals know how to use available information and bring them to life through stories. There’s no shortage of experience on the side of your company and that of your prospects. You just need to develop a keen eye on information that will figure in neatly along your stories.
Storytelling is a must-have sales skill.
Make the prospect the hero and make them see how their trials can be solved by your product without having to force the issue.
How are you utilizing storytelling in your operations?
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