Selling is more challenging in the modern world we are living in. It seems that customers have a lower tendency to listen to us when we call them. Actually, they see themselves much more aware than they used to be, and hence they are hesitant to trust sellers. Moreover, a bitter reality is that the effectiveness of many tactics for selling has declined significantly, particularly the methods that focus only on logical reasoning. In other words, talking with customers just through numbers won’t work anymore as the competition isn’t about quality or quantity nowadays, but it is about the customers’ positive perceptions. While your competitor claims to have a product like yours, you can succeed if your customer receives a higher value from what you offer. This is the reason why Storytelling has gained a lot of attraction in sales and marketing.
Storytelling plays a game-changing role in sales as it is a precious means to humanize the sales process. In this article, I want to show you why stories are important for your sales conversations and I will offer you six kinds of stories that you’ll need to boost your sales.
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How Storytelling Matters in Sales?
In his book, “Sell with A Story“, Paul Smith sheds light on the importance of stories in the sales processes. Based on his research and investigation, storytelling in sales provides a number of positive results. Here, I summarize some of the most important ones with my own wordings.
Therefore, albeit there is no need to say long fictional stories during a sales conversation, an engaging two-minute real sales story can be followed with great results. These results are:
Storytelling Courts Customers’ Attention
When you tell an authentic mesmerizing story, most probably your customers would free time to listen to you even if they are involved in some other tasks. I mean you would find a door to talk to your customers effectively when you start your conversation with a story.
Storytelling Builds Relationships
Storytelling will help you to forge relationships with your customers soon and effectively. Actually, in sales you need to build trust and trust is an outcome of a good relationship. Without relationships, sales are almost impossible. Among a lot of things that you need to consider to establish a new relationship, I would recommend you to tell a story about yourself. This story can be about a success, a failure, or a time that you were stuck in a rut. So, find your authentic stories, tell them authentically to find new relationships, and close more sales.
Storytelling Creates Value
Stories also have the potential to add value to your products. In sales, the perceived value is extremely important when you are negotiating the price. By telling a story about your product, you can improve this perceived value. Let me explain it more.
All of the people have some personal values such as freedom, learning, innovation, etc. So, they would consider a product valuable if it has something to reinforce their values. You can do this by telling a story.
I had a customer who valued research and development in different companies. When I wanted to sell him some specialty industrial lubricants, I just told the story of the cooperation between our company and two top German Universities to develop lubrication solutions. This story was really game-changing in all of the sales negotiations I had with this customer and fortunately I didn’t stick in a long talk to cut my price to close the sale. It was one of my most profitable sales records.
Storytelling Sends Your Message to Decision-Makers
Once in a B2B sale, I was blocked by a gatekeeper and I couldn’t meet the decision-makers. I could just talk to a procurement expert. So, I decided to tell a story of myself and a story of my company to her. Two weeks later, when she went to his manager’s room to tell him about our offer, she hadn’t talked about numbers in our proposal, but just had retold my stories. This was the moment which the decision-maker called me and I could close the sale.
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Storytelling Facilitates Decision-Making for Buyers
Decisions are more based on emotions rather than logic. It is even true for B2B sales. So, if you shower your customers with a lot of data and neglect stories, you would just make them bewildered. But when you have a message for your customers such as reducing their expenditures, improving their effectiveness, fostering their abilities, and so on, send it in the context of a story. This would help them to feel your message utterly and perceive the benefits completely. Besides, they won’t be involved to find alternatives for your proposal and find a logical solution. They would opt for your offer and then they would justify it by their logic.
Stories you Need
I hope, you’ve found a clear understanding of storytelling in Sales. Now, let’s talk about the most important stories you need to say to win more customers.
I see that selling is done in 6 main stages. Actually, sales start before you are going to make your first call and this is when you need to find a purpose to start your call. So, this is your first step. After you know why you are selling, it is time to understand your customers and next make your main sales pitch. As selling is the art of coping with “NO”s, you will face a gazillion of objections, so you need to cope with them. But when objections are eliminated, still the deal isn’t done. They may want to decide to buy in the future, but you need to close the sale. Unfortunately, some sellers make a big mistake by not staying in contact with their customers after they sold a product. To have sustainable success in your career, you need to make your customer loyal.
I see sales occur in 6 stages as follow:
For each of these 6 stages, you can benefit from storytelling. So, we have 6 kinds of stories.
Number One: Purpose-Finding Stories
In sales, you also need to Start With Why. If you don’t know why you are going to sell, most probably you’ll fail. Tell me, What is your purpose?
It is better to reword the question. What makes you uplifted to make your first sales call?
Umm, What do you say in your mind about your job?
Actually, a story.
Your story can be:
“I need to sell this product because I would need the money. I’m in red and if I don’t sell, I would be unable to pay my debts, and also I may need to pause my relationship with John. I need this money. I should do something.”
Or it can be:
“Last time, I helped a customer to cut its operational costs by 25 percent. Actually, it all started when they were in some financial trouble. For them buying a new product seemed like exacerbating the crisis. But, when I explained to them how our services would make them reduce their operational costs, they saw it from a new vantage point. Now, 7 months is passed and they are not just happy with our product, but their financial problems are solved. Fortunately, our product helped them when they were dealing with their problems.
I could help some people. So, I can do it again in the future”
If you say any of the stories, you’ll have a purpose. In the first one, your purpose is money while in the second one, it is helping others. The question is, which one can help you to close more sales? The answer is clear. The first one will make you just work for money and hence you would never be able to succeed.
But in the second, you have a real purpose: Helping Others. When you want to help others, the money would also ensue. Storytelling starts at the first stage and it is highly recommended to before starting your sales call, list some stories in which you have helped other customers. Tell them to yourself and ditch any negative story which spoils your aim.
Number Two: Customer-Understanding Stories
When you found your why it is time to find your customers’ why. How? By exchanging stories. You know your’s and your company’s stories, But you still don’t know about your customer.
In your first talks, by asking open questions such as “What makes a supplier popular for you?”, you can motivate them to tell their stories. Remember, you need to listen with all of your attention at this stage. By asking an open question and wait, you would find a lot of your customers’ stories.
But, before talking about the features of the products and start your main sales pitch, you need to build rapport. For this, tell the stories about yourself, your job, your company, and why you are calling them.
I emphasize. Tell stories, don’t say “I call you to increase your employees’ productivity”. Instead, tell them in a story how you are going to do this.
Or tell a story about when your company was established? Or tell, why your company is following some particular values?
In short, to understand your customers for building rapport, start to exchange some stories. Ask open questions to receive their stories and tell your stories in their response. It doesn’t matter who tells the story first, it is important to share stories because this is going to bond the relationship which is a must for your success.
Number Three: Product-Stories
Now, you’ve paved the way to talk about the spectacular features of your product and services. Here is time to show why your product is going to help them. Basically, you need to talk about numbers and analyses. Do it, but tell some stories in between. Or start storytelling with data.
In between your sales call, you can tell some stories about how your products were invented? How your product had helped others? And how your product is going to provide them Value?
For example, if you’re going to sell a book that can help people to have better relationships, you can share this story that one of your customers had told you:
“When I went to college for the first time, I needed to socialize with my peers. But when I wanted to talk to somebody, I got stressed and after that, I was just smattering. I needed a change and also help. I went to a psychologist for a while, but I see no progress. Then I started to participate in some workshops, but no result. After a long tormented ordeal in my life, a day I saw an advertisement for a book. I thought it would be my last straw. I bought it. Read it in 2 days. But after two weeks I saw the first steps forward. I could make my first at university.”
Here, your message is to show how this book is going to help. But you didn’t do it via numbers but via storytelling.
I want to offer you to have a notebook with yourself and then write any kind of similar stories you’ll come across. This would help you to make an arsenal full of effective stories.
Number Four: Objection-Handling Stories
Objections are in fact, some stories in the minds of your customers. By telling them a new story, you can change their stories and therefore handle objections.
Objections are various. However, one of the most annoying objections is price. Particularly, if you sell a high-quality product which your customer needs to pay higher to you than your competition, it would be a big hassle to show them why your price is rational.
A very compelling story in such cases is the story of Chernobyl. If you’ve had watched the mini-series of Chernobyl, in the last episode the scientist elaborates why the explosion had happened. The essence of his talks was that the disaster happened because they went for cheap products.
This is the story that I told a lot of times to my customers and it really helped me to ditch the harsh talks about the price.
You may encounter a lot of other objections. So, why don’t you make a list of your usual objections and find a suitable story for each of them?
Number Five: Sales-Closing Stories
Welcome to the hardest part of the sales. “Closing”
“I’ll send you our offer in the next months”. How disappointing it is when you receive such a message from your customer after a lot of time that you had persuaded them to buy?
Till next month, a lot of things can happen. A competitor may come and change their mind. Or there would be a new decision-maker in the customers’ office, or a lot of different things may happen.
You should close the sale as soon as possible. Now you need to make a sense of urgency and the best way to do it is through storytelling. Some sellers threaten the customers that the price wouldn’t be valid in the next month. This is also an option, but not the best.
You have a message here and that is something bad would take place if they would postpone their order. For example, goods won’t be available, prices would go higher, or they would lose an important opportunity.
When you know your message, why don’t you send it in the context of a story? You can say a story about one of your former customers who delayed in selling the product and faced some challenges. Or, you can say how it is hard for you to keep the products available in your stock for the next month.
So, you need to know what is exactly your customer’s pain for not putting the order as soon as possible, then find a story that can heal that pain.
Please comment below and tell me what is your biggest problem to close a sale?
Number Six: Royalty-Building Stories
Do you want a customer who buys one time from you and thinking about your competitors for the next purchase? If yes, don’t call them after you’ve made the deal.
But if not, find solutions how to make them loyal to your company and your brand. Can storytelling help here? Certainly. How?
By telling customers some stories that ensure them they had gone for the best choice. Also by showing them that they had received the value you were promising them.
I remember once I told a customer that by using my products, you pay more at the first but after 6 months this money would be back because your machine will consume less energy. For showing this issue, I myself went to their factory and did different measurements to show them. But, I didn’t want to just talk in numbers. I needed a story. I said:
“These numbers remind me of the day that I started my job at this company. I first was thinking that the salary isn’t decent. I was so ambitious and I needed to make a lot of money. My manager told me that at our company people don’t receive salaries, they come here, learn, and make values to create wealth. If you do so, after a while, money won’t be your priority.
I stayed. The company not only brought me money, but it helped me to hone my skills and be an expert”
After that I add:
“I’m sure that you had also some doubts when you wanted to buy our products. But I’m here to show you, it was the best choice”.
So, based on your customers’ situations and also the value you create for them, You can find a lot of nice stories to tell and make your customers loyal.
All in all, selling has changed a lot in the last couple of years. The emergence of technology has made buyers more powerful. So, the competition isn’t about quality or quantity, it is about delivering value. Therefore, marketing activities have gained a higher share in different organizations. By the same token, sales reps need new ways of selling.
Storytelling at personal selling isn’t a new thing, but focusing on it is somehow new because it is a very effective way to ensure the customers that they are receiving real value.
In this article, we discussed that in a sales process, there are 6 main stages. Storytelling at each stage can significantly have a positive impact on your outputs.
I eagerly look forward to receiving your comments.