Mike Adams (pictured below) is a business storytelling specialist and author of Seven Stories Every Salesperson Must Tell. In this guest post, Adams argues any good salesperson would do well to master the art of good storytelling…
The best salespeople are storytellers but it’s often an unconscious skill. Average salespeople can learn storytelling and become much better at selling by telling specific types of stories to navigate the sale from first ‘hello’ to signed contract.
The seven sales story types are organised in the sequence they’d be told through a typical sales engagement, following the buyer’s journey. The salesperson’s first essential task is to connect with a potential client in a way that promotes honest and open sharing of information. The first three story-types make a connection of liking, authority and trust.
This is the story that explains who you are and why you do what you do. It shows your potential client that you can be trusted and that you are an authority. It’s not a bragging story, rather it should show vulnerability and humility. Your personal story should finish with “enough about me what about you? How did you get to do what you do?” It is the exchange of stories that leads to rapport and a fruitful business relationship.
Key Staff Story
Salespeople can prime their future clients to like and trust other people in your company if they’re able to tell their stories. The key staff story raises the credibility of your company and solves a common problem for salespeople: which is, getting too deeply involved in post-sales activities. By priming your customer to like and trust the experts that will perform and deliver your service, the salesperson can get back to their primary role — selling the next deal.
Your Company Story
Most businesses make exactly the same claims and assertions about their products and services as their competitors. But your company story is unique! How did your company succeed and avoid failure? That’s an interesting story. When your salespeople can tell your company story they position you as interesting, special and memorable.
The next task is to persuade your client to change. To do that you must offer compelling insights, differentiate your company and make it safe for them to buy from you. Two stories achieve this task:
Insight is knowledge you have about your customer’s market and business that they do not appreciate — but should! It’s neither wise nor practical for your 26 year old salesperson to challenge your customers with this knowledge. But if they tell the story of how your company discovered those insights, your future clients will listen with interest and absorb the information.
If you’ve been in business for a while you must have customers who have succeeded with your offering. But salespeople often fail to tell that story from the perspective of your successful customer. The well-delivered success story let’s your future clients vicariously experience your products and services before they purchase. It’s a way for them to mentally trial your business, risk free!
Even with a good connection and a differentiated offer it can be a tough to get the contract signature. Buying teams concern themselves with risk in the decision phase. The final two stories are designed to help mitigate risks and close the deal.
When a decision committee is thinking about a major purchase, they’re concerned about risk. How will your company behave after the deal is signed? Is your company an ethical company to do business with? What kind of staff do you employ? The central character in the values story is a leader in your company demonstrating by their actions how your company will behave in critical moments after the sale.
There’s an old saying in sales management “you need to teach your customer how to buy and you need to teach them how to sell”. Teaching how to buy means teaching what’s important about buying your products and services. Teaching how to sell means helping your client overcome normal stakeholder objections and barriers to making a decision. Stories about solving problems of internal politics or about the cost of delay, for example, can help a buying committee arrive a decision in your favour.
Most salespeople need help to prepare and deliver these stories but the majority improve rapidly with story coaching. And they don’t forget the storytelling skill because humans love and remember good stories!