I want to tell you a story…

We want to tell you a storty

We live in the information age. All day, every day, we are bombarded with 24-hour news, an estimated 425 push notifications each in a working week, and over 300 billion emails sent globally every single day. From a sales viewpoint, when numerous bits of information are sent out without unity, it can make it difficult to clearly express a value proposition.

No wonder it’s hard to stand out from the crowd

There is a way to engage your audience, though. Its basis is as old as time itself. Develop the art of storytelling, and suddenly, delivering a compelling narrative is so much easier. We’d go as far as to say that effective storytelling is one of the most powerful tools you can develop in your sales arsenal.

Why does it work?

Telling stories is a way of humanising the sales process. There’s a reason that all sorts of tales are ingrained in every culture. People can relate to them and the way they convey information in a logical flow, presented in a way that is entertaining. You know what it’s like when you listen to a great raconteur. You get caught up in their anecdotes and are able to listen for ages without boredom setting in. 

There’s science to back it up too. Give people data, and it activates two parts of the brain. Give them a story, and seven regions are stimulated.

The art of storytelling

We’ll let you into a secret. A good story always embraces three concepts. Incorporate them into your sales approach, and they will help to drive customers to take action.

The first of these is ethos. The Greek word for character, this is all about your credibility. It’s one of the first things your customer will conclude about you in early discussions. But how do customers define credibility? It’s not enough to be well-intentioned, as customers can’t see your intentions, only the results. To be really credible, you need to get to know your customer and truly understand their needs. If you allow assumptions to drive your intentions, you will fail. Align what you deliver with your customer’s expectation, and your ethos rating will soar.

Secondly, you must develop pathos. This word is the root of ‘empathy’. It’s all about the emotional connection you build with your contacts. Empathy is important to your story. It is a tool that helps you overcome the norm and encourage the customer to think differently. Good sales stories should solve a customer’s problem, ease the pressure they are under, calm a crisis. Develop a great sense of empathy, and you’ll deliver a feeling of calm, trust and order. The aim is to be seen as a trusted ally rather than a salesperson.

Finally, logos. Not the Golden Arches or Nike Swoosh kind but pronounced to rhyme with ethos and pathos. This is the logical element of the story. We’re talking data and analytics here. The numbers that underpin the emotional side of your story. But beware of throwing a ton of analytics at your customer. Remember it only activates two parts of the brain. Use data to shine a spotlight on an important element, to underline a key point or to cement a killer sales argument. Present numbers in a relevant, interesting and succinct way, and it can help to drive home your story.

Building your story

Every story has a main character, and most deal with challenges that character meets and how they overcome them. Cast your customer as the main character. Make the story clear and easy to follow and take them through a flow.  

A persuasive opening shows the customer how things are and identifies the obstacles they are facing. The middle section builds the story, how it could be different. Show how your solution will help your client to overcome their challenge. The finale should be a compelling close — a reiteration of how life could be and a clear call to next action.

Finally, if you are doubting the power of a story, decide which of the two sales pitches below you’d prefer to receive:

1. We’ve won Vendor of the Year five years in a row. Our customer satisfaction ratings are 98%, and we have twice the market share of competitor A. Swap to us, and we’ll save you time and money.

Or ….

2. I was talking to Julie at XYZ company the other day. When I first met her, she was struggling with similar issues to you. She was telling me that since moving across to us three months ago, she’s already saved the company £5,000 and over 6 hours a week in time. And she’s had brilliant feedback from her team, they all love the product. It was so great to get her feedback. Can I talk you through how you might achieve similar results?

What’s your view on stories in the salesperson’s toolbox? Have you any success stories of your own that you can share with us? Comment below to add your thoughts.

Published: 11th June 2020.

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