What actually results in sales success? This is a difficult question and there is no one answer. Some say sales success is driven by process, structure, whereas others say sales is all about building relations. The answer lies in combination of these. Sales is as much an art as science.

Many of you have would have come across someone who inspite of not having a sales process, product, industry knowledge close sales successfully. They engage with customers far better than many sales experts. What is that difference these salespeople are doing?

It is most likely they are using stories to engage with the buyers. Stories are being used during building rapport, introducing company on how it was founded, introducing about oneself or explaining how they are than competitors using client stories.

Storytelling in sales

Storytelling is becoming a buzz word across the sales community. Marketing, branding always relied on storytelling but now it is becoming imperative for the sales team to use storytelling engage the buyers.

The reason is quite simple, attention is the scarcest resource now. Earlier as a salesperson, you had all the information with you and buyer was attentive to know details from you. You could show facts, numbers and he was keen to gather those details to arrive at a decision.

But today you don’t have that luxury. With the internet, most buyers do all the research and gather information and salesperson who just want to focus on facts, numbers, cannot engage with the buyers.

If you cannot engage with buyers, you won’t be able to build trust and capture the buyer needs.

There comes the need for the storytelling. It has been proven beyond doubts and everyone experience itself shows if there is one thing anyone gets hooked to is when someone narrates a story. Storytelling has that element of raising emotions which helps the opposite person to become attentive!

Stories are remembered

In a Stanford University research study, students were given data on crime statistics in the U.S and each student was asked to give a talk on why the crime is a huge problem or why it is not. After the task, the students were asked to write down what other speakers had said. Although only 10% of the speakers formed the data into stories while the rest relied on statistics, 63% recalled stories and only 5% recalled any statistics!

The reasons for stories to be remembers than facts are because,

  1. Stories command more attention and are interesting if told in correct sequence
  2. When stories include a surprise or any emotion, the listener’s attention will increase as will impact on memory
  3. Our brains are hardwired to remember sequences and stories provide a way to organize information for easy remembering
  4. Stories provide links to our prior knowledge and and thus it is embedded in memory in a more robust way.

Why to use stories for selling?

The simple reason is stories help us to persuade. Whether it is stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata, or Panchatantra’s we have all heard and been persuaded. It is was told that Shivaji was highly influenced by stories told by his mother.

There are proven studies as well clear experiences which shows when facts are shared in story form, it changes the beliefs buyers hold which in turn leads to changes in their attitude, intentions and behaviors.

The 3 primary reasons on how stories persuade are,

  1. Stories help people to apply deductive logic themselves instead of sales person doing. Helping someone to self-discovery is the best form of the persuasion
  2. Stories are such that it makes listener immerse himself and inhibit objections.
  3. Stories generally evoke emotions which creates a stronger belief in the brand, sales person, product or company.
  4. As a sales professional if you include stories in your rapport building, presenting solutions, handling an objection, you will sound much more authentic, credible than using some facts, figures et

When to use storytelling?

Now that we have established why storytelling is important and how it helps to persuade the buyers, the next important piece of the puzzle is when to use stories?

In B2B selling, stories can be used in the complete sales process. But depending on which part of the sales process, you have the biggest challenge, you can develop a story around that.

For most sales professional building rapport and understanding buyer needs is critical part. The prospective buyer don’t want to open up to a sales professional. For this a good hook story can be developed to introduce oneself, introduce the company (Called Signature Stories).

If the story is developed is articulated well, then instant trust gets built and it will make buyer to reveal his part of story. This is a critical stage where every sales professional must have a story.

Secondly, while presenting the solution a story is must. Have you encountered times where your buyer immediately interrupts or objects while you are presenting solution? This is mostly because, you are relying on facts, numbers to build your case and it doesn’t hold the buyers attention. Presenting in a story way can easily hold the attention

Finally, the best place to embed the story is during objections and closing of the sales. Whenever customer objects, if you have a story to communicate why his objection is not justified, the chances of buying into your idea. Giving facts, numbers are important but these if embedded in a story and explained, then it has higher influencing ability.

In the Book Seven Stories by Michael Adams, it is quite nicely explained the relevant stories to be used across the B2B sales process.

Give me an example

LL Bean an outdoor shoes company from US puts its founder story as below

Leon. L. Bean developed a boot with a leather top and rubber bottom to keep his feet dry and comfortable when hunting and refunded customer’s money when most of the first batch leaked. Future boots no longer leaked. With regular design improvements, this boot has been used by outdoorspeople to this day.

L. L Bean

Instead, what most companies do promote facts such as, Money Back Guarantee, Waterproof rubber-bottom boots, Comfort of full grain leather, Expert craftspeople etc.

For a buyer, which is more

  • Memorable?
  • Likely to Change perceptions?
  • Persuasive?
  • Likely to be retold?

Another example we do while introducing our company (GrowthAspire) to potential new clients, and which has helped us is as below,

Recently an engineering company head noticed his sales team was not able to command a higher price and was losing on margins or sales. The sales team was struggling with low morale and low-cost competition. The sales team was doing all they knew to help clients and explaining why their product is superior, but buyers only debated on price. The company had arranged multiple training programs with not much success. That’s when they approached us seeing our claim of success in this area.

We proposed a 100-day drive revenue model. With the team, we sat to understand their way of working. Our diagnosis threw very good insights and we shared the same to the team. The team really started understanding where they were missing. We motivated the team to take up an aspirational goal at team & individual level for the next 90 days. Our custom designed training program helped them to master the skills required to work towards the Goal. Finally, the team was charged to apply the newly learned skills and our coaching support ensured they applied the new learning to produce results.

At the end of 90 days, the sales conversion increased, they were able to sell at higher margins and achieved their best quarterly sales conversion and MD of company congratulated sales team for their phenomenal work.

End of the story, we ask the potential clients to tell their version of the story and what is the problem they are facing. This helps us get to know in detail the client’s requirements.

Of course, we keep improving this and have multiple stories for different businesses, but the gist is, the above story captures the attention of a prospective buyer and creates an compelling reason to share his side of story.

Summary

Storytelling is more important now than ever and every company and every salesperson must become good at using stories to communicate with buyers. Even in B2B sales, the important thing to remember is “People don’t buy the best products, they buy the products they understand”

To do that you need to tell stories which are memorable, likely to change existing beliefs (Perceptions), Persuade to take action and likely to be retold to others.

Hope this article encourages you to explore more on how to use stories. If you have any comments, like, dislikes please share..

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