Let Me Tell You a Story...
Somehow, we usually lean in and listen a little more eagerly when we hear the phrase, "Let me tell you a story…" I suppose it's just human nature, but the promise of a good story captures our attention and, if told well, emotionally connects with us and sticks in our minds. This isn't an epiphany or a contentious concept—we all know it to be true; but, can this technique be used in the sales process?
The answer is a definite yes, but you probably won't get very far if you show up at a customer site starting your conversation with "let me tell you a story." Stories need to be relevant, timely, supportive of your conversation, and, above all, well-crafted and practiced. Let me give an example.
One of our PODi Institute instructors, Phyllis Mikolaitis, has been using story telling in sales and in sales training for many years. Back when she was doing sales training for Xerox she ran a project where she interviewed customers in eight different industries about their companies. She asked them to explain what they did and what set them apart. Every single one of them presented a laundry list of their capabilities and the services they provided along with an explanation that they stood out from their competition due to their quality, responsiveness and customer focus. She knew they believed this because that message was consistent across their brochures and websites but it made no sense to her how giving the same answer as everyone else could be considered a differentiator. So she dug deeper and learned more about why their businesses were really selected by their clients.
The answers were belief, insight and trust. Yes, when you find the least common denominator among all your successes it results in quality, service and delivery but the way business is actually won is by getting people to believe you can deliver what you promise. It's won by getting people to feel that you understand their situation and have effective solutions. It's won by getting people to trust that you'll be able to help them succeed.
Once she realized this, she knew that the answer was in the stories. The best ways to differentiate and convince are through meaningful and relevant examples delivered as compelling stories. These stories have to be related to your core message and support it, but used properly, stories not only help sell; they help define your brand.
Personally, I believe in the power of stories. I write blogs; which are stories. PODi, has a huge library of best practices case studies that are used by our members to win business; which are more stories. Also, the most successful salespeople I know are great storytellers and, perhaps without even realizing it, constantly use stories to win customers. The problem is that the stories these salespeople tell are almost always from their own experiences and the branding and trust they engender is focused on them rather than on their companies. How many sales teams have one or two star performers while the rest struggle? How many times have you seen clients follow top sales reps when they move to competitors?
Think about how you already use stories to brand your business and sell your services. How can these stories be shared and learned across your sales teams so that they’re used by everyone instead of just the top performers? How can all your reps become great storytellers? And, how can your stories be crafted so that the emotional bond is created with your company.
There are answers to these questions and Phyllis has them, in the form of stories. If you'd like to hear them and want to learn how other companies successfully and strategically use storytelling to set themselves apart and win business, you should sign up for her upcoming PODi Institute course.
Phyllis' course is titled "Win More Business with Your Story," and runs weekly from January 26th through February 16th. You can learn more what it covers and register for it by clicking here.
Greg Cholmondeley is president of Cholmonco Inc. Cholmonco is a technology marketing consulting company that researches, analyzes and documents best practices and innovative solutions. Cholmondeley is especially interested in how industry leaders efficiently get work through digital printing and marketing services operations. He has also written two fictional novels. The first is titled “Nakiwulo and the Circle of Shiva” and the second is called “Princess.” You can learn more about his consulting practice and read more of his blogs at www.cholmonco.com. You can discover his books at http://books.cholmonco.com.