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Effective sales stories build connections and show your relevance to the buyer. Stories identify the common ground you stand on today and the future destination you can achieve together. | Source: Shutterstock
Effective sales stories build connections and show your relevance to the buyer. Stories identify the common ground you stand on today and the future destination you can achieve together. | Source: Shutterstock

The art and science of storytelling in sales

Storytelling is so often crucial to a successful sale. RYAN ESTIS explores the importance of understanding a narrative in retailing.

“I understand - let me tell you a story.”

These are some of the most powerful words we can convey. The invitation to listen is also my favourite moment in an exchange with a customer.

This inflection point so often determines the outcome of a sales opportunity, which is precisely why storytelling is a critical competency for all sales teams.

Stories matter! Borrow a few ideas from my framework for incorporating stories into your sales pitch or presentation and exchanges with customers and takes your business to another level.

Create a bond

When you hear stories your brain starts to synchronise with the storyteller. Reading stories activates the parts of your brain that imagine people’s motives, perspective, and next actions.

In other words, people experience stories as if they were going through the experience themselves. Think of how you’ve been affected by deeply touching stories and how you can do the same for your audience.

Data and facts are important however your audience wants more than dry information.

"All the best stories have a crucial insight. What should customers do with your story?"

Research suggests that after people hear short pitches 63 per cent of participants can recall the stories, however only 5 per cent can remember the statistics. Compelling stories help you connect with your audience in a way that no data point can match.

Gerald Zaltman of Harvard Business School says 95 per cent of purchase decision-making occurs in the subconscious mind.

Therefore, by telling stories you’re creating a connection that can help you move the prospect toward a purchasing decision.

Creating that bond requires you to be brave, to be different, to be willing to do things that your competitors won’t.

Effective sales stories build connections and show your relevance to the buyer. Stories identify the common ground you stand on today and the future destination you can achieve together.

As you develop your storytelling protocol consider the following ideas.

Establish connection

What experiences can you explore that demonstrate how you can help the customer get to where they want to go? Facts and figures support your value proposition, however, stories bring it to life.

Three common story types you can use are:

  • Success: Explain how your customers have previously found success with your product. Use these case studies to illustrate not just that your product or service succeeded, but also the difference it made.
  • Vision: Tell a story that looks to the future, helping your audience see themselves advancing with your help. Describe a proposal using an engagement ring you offer, or perhaps the perfect birthday present for a family member.
  • Consequence: What is the cost of not failing to take action? What is lost or gained upon assuming the risk and cost associated with change? Examining the alternative can motivate and inspire action.

As you are deciding on the type of story and which story to use, ask yourself - are you trying to establish the customer’s need for your product? Do you want to share customer success to inspire confidence in your business?

Inflection point

The inflection point is that significant moment that changes the trajectory of a business or a person. The pandemic’s enforced pause, for example, was an inflection point that forced many people to confront themselves and commit to change personally in the business.

Inflection points can be powerful moments in the stories you tell customers. You should tell stories that expose moments of adversity as catalysts for moving forward positively. The details within these stories can pull in your audience and move them closer to your objective outcome.

By the time you get the chance to speak to many potential customers, they are already ‘aware’ of you and have likely done some level of research on your store. In person, they’re analysing you and deciding whether they should move toward action – a purchase.

Understanding your customer’s situation can help you craft a story that aligns with their journey. Powerful stories help your audience clarify their understanding of you and how they can move toward a purchasing decision.

Create the vision

You need to demonstrate how your product or service will improve or fulfil someone’s life. Of course, every business says, “We can help you.” Can you describe how that will happen?

Great stories paint the picture of what the future looks like with you by their side.

Storytelling can illustrate how you can help them reach their goals and how your product or service is different from what they’ve experienced previously.

To create this vision, set the scene. Get specific — put energy into this description to help your customer feel that it’s happening. Guide them forward from the current state to the future state. Show how you’ll help them overcome obstacles and reach the finish line together.

Make the customer the hero

You are the narrator of the story and not the protagonist!

The stories that move us are about people. When developing your story listen to the questions your customers and prospective customers are asking.

Don’t stop there. Ask them more questions. Get to the root of their goals and concerns. Be obsessed with customer outcomes and pain points. By listening deeply and following up, you build trust and help the customer choose you.

Four key factors

All the best stories have a crucial insight. What should customers do with your story? I borrow a page from the playbook of author and sales expert Kindra Hall and use the ‘think, know, feel, and do’ framework.

  • Think: What mindset do you want and need them to be in?
  • Know: What is the most important thing you want your customer to absorb from this conversation?
  • Feel: What emotional connection are you trying to make with them?
  • Do: What is the action that you want them to take immediately after your conversation is done? Purchase a piece of jewellery?

When you’ve used these story techniques successfully, you’ll have your customers excited and ready to take action, however, there’s still a chance they may hesitate. You still need to build that ‘yes’ momentum.

One way to create and maintain momentum is to anticipate the resistance that you’ll receive and incorporate it into your story. Resistance isn’t rejection. It should always be remembered that resistance signals someone’s interest in your product and service. Use that curiosity to propel them toward a yes.

Sell a sense of urgency

How can your stories illustrate not only that your product is phenomenal, but also that the purchase simply can’t wait?

Many businesses sell around compelling events; however, you don’t need to wait for the calendar to turn. Be the catalyst for a compelling event through your storytelling.

Great storytelling brings a presentation to life and helps customers see the value of your jewellery.

Speaking from personal experience, developing quality storytelling skills changed my business, my trajectory, the opportunities I receive, and the impact I can deliver to a potential customer.

Master these fundamentals and you are on the move!

Use this framework to organise and strengthen your storytelling and you’ll build stronger relationships with customers, better understand what motivates them and learn how to inspire a customer to decide and commit!

More reading:
Networking for small business owners is crucial to relationship building
Simple ways to improve your selling mindset when you're swimming against the tide
Diving deep into the personality traits of great business leaders
Perception is the name of our game
Don’t be afraid to break the rules

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Estis

Contributor


Ryan Estis helps companies to embrace change, attack opportunity and achieve breakthrough performance. Learn more: ryanestis.com

SAMS Group Australia
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