What’s Your Story?
Recently much has been written about putting the power of story to use in sales in order to better communicate the value of your product, service, company to your prospects. Despite the quantity of stories around the value of integrating stories and storytelling into selling, I am seeing very little storytelling put into action at the field level. Salespeople are still defaulting to telling the “story” of the features and benefits of their products and services, rather than learning how to relate the value of the same to a specific customer whose problem they solved.
The concept of using a story to sell is a great one. However, sales people are going to resist integrating stories into their selling if they believe that they are difficult to create or remember. Part of the problem lies with the sales trainers and thought leaders who make the subject too complex.
Here are some basic tips and techniques to craft effective sales stories.
Keep It Simple
The key to a great story is to keep it simple and make it memorable. If you try to accomplish too much with a story, if you make the story too complex or too long, then the prospect won’t remember it. Or understand it. And neither will you.
Put The Prospect in the Picture
Stories become memorable if they put the prospect in the picture. Your stories must relate to the most common challenges and pain points your prospects experience. When they hear your story they will picture in their minds what it would be like if they were using your product or service. They will be taking a mental test drive of your product or service. What your prospect will remember is how you helped to solve the problems of a company just like theirs.
Illustrate A Defining Moment
Sales stories should illustrate the defining moments that your customers have experienced with your product or service that best communicate your value proposition.
Use Stories To Provide Necessary Context
Salespeople can fill prospects to brim with the raw facts and figures, and the features and benefits, of their products and services. It’s what they do best. But your prospects are looking for some context for all the content they have consumed. What does the content mean and how can they make sense of it to reach a fully informed purchase decision? Stories about why your current customers chose your solution and how they are using it to solve their problems and eliminate their pain points is one of the most effective sources of context for a prospect to use in their decision making.
Answer These 4 Simple Questions For a Compelling Story
Start crafting your effective sales story by answering these four simple questions:
1. What problem was your customer trying to solve?
2. Why was your expertise relevant to your customer?
3. Why did the customer order from you?
4. What value has the customer received from your product/service?
Where Do The Stories Come From?
These stories are company content. Who within your organization is responsible for creating content? Ideally marketing and sales should collaborate to identify the customer stories that will have the broadest relevance to your current prospect.
Use Detail to Draw In The Prospect
To make your stories more relatable and memorable use characters and dialog. Don’t start a story by saying “We have this customer who has used our product for two year and our main point of contact there is a big supporter of system…” Instead say “Larry is VP of Ops at ABC Widgets and has been a customer for two years. Recently he said to me ‘Andy, I love your product because…’” It is these details that draw in the listener and gets them to visualize themselves in the story.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Remember the old joke about “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The punch line is “Practice, practice, practice.” The same applies to your sales stories. They have to be memorized and rehearsed so that their telling is second nature to you. How do you use your stories to get to an order? Practice, practice, practice.
How Many Stories Do I Need?
I recommend that every sales person be equipped with 3 stories. This is enough to cover a wide array of potential prospects.
How Long Should My Stories Be?
Each story must be no more than 2 minutes in length. There are two reasons for this time limit. First, if the stories are any longer they will become too complex and difficult to remember. Which means that you and salespeople won’t use them. Secondly, if your story drags on for longer than 2 minutes your prospect will stop hearing your words and start hearing “blah, blah, blah.” Blah is not how you want the prospect to remember you, your product and your company.
The simple, well-crafted stories you tell are more memorable than any facts or figures you can provide to your prospects.
Andy Paul is author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales. A frequent speaker, Andy conducts workshops and consults with B2B sales teams of all sizes and shapes to teach them how to sell more by selling faster. Sign up for our monthly newsletter, “The Speed of Selling.” Enjoy what you just read? Subscribe to our blog!
© Andy Paul 2012