As sellers, aren’t we always looking for an easier way to talk to buyers?
We’re looking for easier conversations. Looking for ways to relate and be relevant to our customers.
We’re trying to find ways to make people WANT to listen to us amongst the crowded field of our competition and the thousands of messages our buyers are bombarded with every day.
There are so many details we want to convey about our products and services. We create presentations, brochures, proposals, demos, and websites to answer every possible question our customers could have. And then we try to get in front of them to make sure they know each and every reason they should choose us.
For buyers, it can be too much. They can do the research and read the numbers themselves. It’s no wonder they duck our calls, ignore our emails, or hide under the desk to avoid us. Give them a more compelling reason to listen to you: Draw your customers in through stories.
Sharing (note – not “telling”) stories appeal to both logic and emotion – and we prioritize emotion in decision-making . This happens because stories engage different parts of our brains than straight numbers or features. We also retain more details when we recall stories where facts and data are framed with context. Listeners grab hold of details that feel relevant and they’re able to connect to you – up to 65 to 70% retention versus 5 to 10% recall when listening to statistics.
So how do you use stories when selling?
Here are 4 places to share meaningful stories with your customers:
Context Proof – Sharing stories about similar clients you’ve worked with or people you have in common is a fantastic way to start building your credibility in prospecting and early “first impression” opportunities. Whether it’s a cold call, a warm call, or an initial follow up, you need to grab a listener’s attention in those first few moments. Using relevant names and solutions in story context help your audience quickly connect with your reason for calling. As a sales rep, this was tremendously effective for me. I leveraged my experience and the inside knowledge of my clients’ industry and shared specific stories about solutions I had created for clients in the same industries. It helped get cold calls returned when I left specific voicemails to HR Directors of fast food franchise companies detailing cost savings I’d achieved for similar companies on their training materials and manager handbooks. Clearly, I knew their business and created a credible, compelling reason to call me back.
Mission, Vision, or “The Why” – Your buyers and customers have more options for suppliers and vendors than ever before. Technology has been a tremendous equalizer – giving competitors the opportunity to quickly close innovation and features gaps in products and solutions. With all products or solutions being relatively equal, buyers want to know the company they chose aligns with their values. Introducing your companies’ “soul stories” to your customers helps them understand the culture, the operating philosophy, and what it’s like to work with you. Sharing how your company came to be in business, the challenges, the struggles, or the future plans, can connect and move your listeners to see how they align with you. There are thousands of great founder stories, from how Sarah Blakely created Spanx because she wanted her bum to look better in white pants, to how William E. Boeing created his aircraft company after crashing his plane and not being able to get replacement parts for months. The stories that set the foundation and paint the future of your business help your customers see the human side of your company instead of an amorphous entity.
Overcoming Challenges – Often times, if your product or solution is new to your buyer, it can be difficult for them to connect all the dots from the problem they have through how your solution resolves their problems. Sharing similar challenges from previous experiences and how you worked with your customers to tackle each phase of the problem to get to the positive outcome can help your customers understand the exact process and see how they can be successful. This is also a great way to educate and give insights without your buyer feeling out of control or like they’re being talked down to when they’re not the expert in this area. Share how you lead the project, tell the story of the people issues, stumbling blocks, and how you rallied the resources to help your client win. These “hero stories” paint the picture with your customers at the center.
Process and Progress – Another opportunity to draw your potential customers closer is to share the story of “the process” with them. Draw them in with the people and the steps that they’ll take on their journey with you. How does it start? When they sign on, who is their team and what is their experience? Why are they going to enjoy this process? Can you share what others have experienced on their journey with you?
I’ve often invited production or operations partners into the latter stages of buyer meetings to help those future customers understand exactly WHO will be taking care of them. I would have my team prepare and prep examples of detailed administrative help they offer similar clients. This was incredibly effective at getting customers to imagine themselves working with us.
We listen to stories thousands of times every day. YES, I said THOUSANDS. Stories are told in a moment with a meme, songs on the radio, news, commercials, Facebook posts, LinkedIn profiles . . . EVERYWHERE! It’s abundant that this is how we feel connected to each other, express ourselves, and communicate concepts. Why aren’t you sharing more stories in your sales efforts?
Think about the places where your stories can impact how your future customers see you and relate to you. If they can see themselves reflected in the success, the values, the challenges, and/or the people in your business, they’ve just become much closer to you. And when you bring customers closer, you can have better conversations, create more focused solutions, and build long-term relationships.
Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!