No one really listens to sales pitching anyway.
Are you focused on business storytelling? Or have you reverted to those old, tiresome sales pitches that go on and on about why you’re so great? Newsflash: Nobody wants to hear that.
What do you remember about a speaker, a movie, a novel? Not the ads for those events or products. You remember the stories. People are riveted by stories. We grew up with storybooks like Chicken Little, The Little Engine That Could, Click-Clack Moo, and Green Eggs and Ham. Each story has a main character and a moral, but stories aren’t treatises on morality or overcoming obstacles. We get the main point through a story. The same is true with business storytelling.
“Facts tell, stories sell.” I heard those words years ago from a prominent speaker, and they’ve stuck with me. Facts are important when you’re a scientist, when a client asks you for proof, or when you’re taking a history test. Well, any test for that matter. They matter for a detective like Jack Webb playing Sergeant Joe Friday in Dragnet, who said: “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” (Whether he actually said that is debated, but it’s stuck. )
But in the real world, it’s storytelling, not sales pitching, that makes all the difference. Why, then, do sales reps spew facts instead of connecting with people through stories?
We have sales playbooks, when what we really need are sales storybooks.
You’re Not the Hero in This Story
How do you answer the question: What do you do? If you’re like most salespeople, you’ll talk ad nauseum about what you do. Facts and more facts. Every sentence begins with “I” or “we.” Here’s the thing, though. No one cares.
Prospects don’t care about your facts. Prospects don’t care about you … or me, for that matter. They only care about what you do for them—how you solved a huge problem, how you impacted their business, how you saved their job, how you gave them insights that shifted their thinking, how you … fill in the blank, but make it about them.
You bore people and sound like everyone else on the planet when you talk about yourself. It’s time to ditch the personal pronoun in sales. When it comes to business storytelling, you’re not the main character. You’re not the hero. You’re the narrator.
The Components of Business Storytelling
When someone asks what you do, frame your response like this: “The best way to explain what I do is to give you an example.” You can even start with a question.
The formula for a good story goes something like this:
Situation or Problem
Describe what the client was facing and the threat of what would happen if they didn’t solve the problem. Take your time. Your goal is to tap into the emotion of the problem so the person you’re speaking to understands and nods their head. It’s visceral. Unless you connect on an emotional level, you haven’t really connected. Remember the adage: People buy with emotion and justify with fact.
For example, I might start my business storytelling like this: “A sales VP came to me with a big problem. They needed more leads in their pipeline. (He forgot to say “qualified” leads.) He was frustrated that reps weren’t calling high enough, it took way too long to reach a prospect, and they weren’t making quota to boot. If this scenario continues, the sales leader will be fired (average tenure is just 18 months already), the company will lose market-share, and reps will leave a sinking ship. Not a pretty picture, is it?”
Explain what action your client took to solve the problem. (Do not be tempted to say how you solved the problem. They don’t care at this point.)
Describe the outcome the client got by working with you. What impact did your solution have on the business? Use a “from-to” scenario with metrics, such as: “The client went from reps taking more than eight touches to reach a prospect to just one call, which decreased prospecting time by 20 percent. They increased qualified leads in the pipe by 30 percent and increased their close ratio to 70 percent.”
Wait for It
Wait for the question: “How did you do that?” Caveat here—Don’t go into too much detail, just enough to intrigue them to take the next step. This is not a data dump. It’s a movie trailer, not the movie.
That’s business storytelling in a nutshell, and it’s so much more effective than sales pitching.
Inspire Hope Through Business Storytelling
I recently heard Brett Culp speak about telling your story and creating storybooks. Brett is a documentary filmmaker and a keynote speaker. (Hire him. He’s amazing!) His acronym is BITS: Building Inspiration Through Stories. He said there’s a secret weapon in every story. It’s hope. Hope is magic. Hope equals possibility. Share your story and invite people to be part of what could be—what’s possible.
That’s why business storytelling makes the difference between an average seller and a superstar. Superstars get their prospects to imagine that same possibility of success for themselves as the hero of the story.
A compelling story differentiates you and connects you with your buyer. I’ve shared many stories in my blog over the years. Many are about specific people or places, and some are personal anecdotes—like my visit to Normandy and standing on Omaha Beach. People have told me how my personal stories resonate with them. They’ve also told me straight out that they learned about me as a person—my values. I connected with them on an emotional level.
How are you going to turn your sales playbooks into sales storybooks? Let me know, and I’ll write about best practices in a future blog post. In the meantime, have fun with your stories. They’re magic!
Want to learn more about connecting with prospects? Invite me to speak to your sales team about the power of referral selling.