The use of stories in business is a powerful tool that is used by the successful salesperson. Stories allow you to attract and engage potential customers, and help them to understand why they need your product or service.
Storytelling has been around for as long as we have had language. People of all cultures love a good story. I remember my own childhood and the many fairy stories I was told: Cinderella, Snow White, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, etc. These timeless stories have five things in common:
1. There is always a hero
2. They always go on a quest or adventure
3. They meet a challenge or obstacle
4. The hero always overcomes the obstacle in an intelligent way
5. Every one lives happily ever after -- right?
These stories are often told to illustrate a moral.
In business, stories are a powerful tool a good salesperson can use. Stories allow you to engage your customer and once you have finished with your story they will understand why they need your product or service. Just as you were engaged as a child listening to stories, so will your prospects or customers be when you share relevant stories.
Always remember that stories are retold. To tell a successful story you must have all of the elements that you find in every successful story. Through a story you can create an important emotional link with an event, which will give it more weight than any number of dry statistics. Ultimately your story is about a hero who is you or, more usually, your client in the story. You are showing how your client can be perceived as the hero in his or her own business story.
Client attraction stories have the same key parts:
- Once upon a time there was a hero (your client is usually the hero). This is where you introduce your client and provide information about their situation, setting the context for the story.
- The hero has a reason to go on the journey. (The journey is the goal the client wants to achieve.)
- A huge challenge is met. (The client confronts an obstacle.)
- The hero is inspired to find a solution or a way out. (With your help the client overcomes the obstacle.) This is the most important part of the story. Identify the steps that must be taken to overcome the obstacle and how you help the process. This is where the learning takes place.
- They all live happily ever after. (Thanks to the solution, you help your client implement changes for the better, which result in increased revenue or profits or efficiency gains, or whatever it is your client is hoping to achieve.)
When your client makes the connection and realizes, ''I must do something," then the numbers can be shared to show a relevant and workable solution.
Using stories to sell your products and services is a powerful form of persuasion. A well-crafted story will give you powers that you never knew you had - super powers, if you show them to your advantage.
For stories to really work for you, they must:
- Entertain. This gives you the power to attract and hold attention. No-one wants to hear a depressing story about how your pet fish died.
- Be rich with detail and have the power to establish instant credibility. This is where you add your charts and show how the profits will benefit. This is also how you describe your story. If you are going to talk about an experience at a baker, then talk about the smells, the experience and the taste.
- Create context. This is the power to explain what really happened. Create a vicarious experience; this is where you connect them to the story. It cannot always be done but by connecting them to the story it allows them to see themselves in the same situation. This is really powerful.
When stories are simple, with real lessons that people can pick up on, then they will be remembered. The easier the story the easier it is to repeat
Now start to piece together your own story.
Storytelling is a powerful sales tool when it is incorporated properly. When you tell the story it will help you to create new connections, engage prospects and convince them that your solution will work for them as well as it has worked for others.
Tell your story to a customer or prospect. Have a range of stories suitable for an array of different solutions and customers or prospects. Think of the stories you share with prospects as retelling a testimonial, different stories for different scenarios. Perhaps a, "why should we meet story" or "I had a customer with the same question story" or "Why someone didn't want to change vendors story"
Telling a story is more memorable, more powerful then a written letter or testimonial, and definitely better then a corporate brochure.
As a story teller there are a few things you should keep in mind. Storytelling is all about timing. Make sure your audience is ready to listen to what you have to say. You just can't go up to someone and say "Hi, can I tell you a story?'' You need to wait until you know about the person you have just met as this allows you to create a connection between them and a story that relates back to them. If you are meeting with a prospect and they present you with a problem, that is the perfect time for you to tell a story about how you helped someone in a similar situation. Things will start to flow together
A powerful story has a powerful delivery. Believe in what you are saying, but also believe in your story.
The ability to tell a good story comes with practice and a great way to start any story is by saying “Before we get started . . .” Do you know why? By saying; “Before we get started,” you just started it and your listeners are leaning into what you are about to say and you are able to share your story naturally.
You might want to try your story out first with your peers, your family, friends, dog or cat - somebody. Try them out before you use them on your customers. If you have a friend who tells good stories, think about why they are so great. Listen to them telling you a story. Is it their tone, their excitement, their face or their expressions? Maybe it is something they do that comes with a surprising ending. Try to identify what you like about their storytelling techniques and incorporate them into your own storytelling.
Practice is the key. The more you tell the story the more you will become familiar with the nuances and you will begin to relax and enjoy the storytelling processes.
You have been told stories your whole life. Once you know how to do it, this strategy will be just as important to your success as anything else you do when selling. If you can master sharing stories, then you are going to see your business explode.
Go share a story.