It’s easy to rely on “show and tell” when communicating with prospects, especially when reps are following a tried and tested sales process. When it comes to SaaS products for instance, a demo could involve a screen share where a rep jumps right into showing off the product by highlighting its main features. But what truly makes the difference in this situation and other stages of the buyer’s journey is the rep’s ability to add a personal and human touch by using stories and storytelling techniques in their sales conversations.
Why tell stories?
We all know this: it takes more than simple facts and figures to convert prospects to customers. If it were that easy, we’d just logically lay out the pros and cons and making decisions would be effortless. But more than we’d like to admit, humans are emotional beings and the power of storytelling helps to interlink logic and emotion.
Stories help answer the age-old questions – “What’s in it for me?” and “Why should I care?” But perhaps more importantly, stories help demonstrate empathy.
And if that ethos angle isn’t enough proof, a study has in fact revealed that the top 10 most empathetic companies generated 50% more earnings when compared to the bottom 10 least empathetic companies.
How to get better at telling stories
That may all sound great, but how do you improve your storytelling abilities? Here are some helpful techniques to keep in mind:
Make it about the customer so they’re the hero. It’s easy for reps to have their brand save the day. But this leaves the prospect on the outside looking in. Give them the most flattering role in the story.
Be entertaining, but stay on topic and keep it relevant. This keeps prospects engaged while making a point. Be sure not to get off topic, making the story too long. And only include details that relate to the customer’s situation. Otherwise it ends up just being a fun story and nothing more.
Have a clear goal before starting a story. Know what you’re trying to achieve such as guiding them to start a free trial or to select a particular package. This will also ensure that the message comes through loud and clear. And, the customer is most likely to proceed accordingly.
Make it personal, relatable, and real to provide context for what is being communicated. Include details that set the story in a situation similar to that of your client with an end result that resembles their desired outcome. This makes it possible for prospects to see themselves actually benefiting from your product or service.
Balance out the narrative with facts and figures to allow the prospect to justify their purchase decision. Remember that buying decisions are emotional and data driven. A well-told story develops both of these. Tell several short stories throughout a presentation so the prospect isn’t overwhelmed with too many facts at once. Plus, they’re more impactful and easier to digest when shared in small doses.
Follow a loose outline with a beginning, middle, and end. This structure increases the connection with the audience while making it easy to follow. For maximum impact, introduce your characters before presenting the main problem. At the conclusion, draw a connection between your product and the solution. This shows the prospect how it will help them bridge the gap between their present situation and desired end state.
Practice your delivery. The old adage “Practice makes perfect” applies here. A poorly told story often leads to more questions than answers. Create an outline as a guide so no important points are left out. Then rehearse until it’s easy to recount each story from memory. Stories need to sound like a natural part of the sales pitch. Plus, this increases confidence. Prospects can sense this making them more comfortable and confident as well.
Use imagery for a stronger impression. This paints a picture, brings the story to life and makes it more memorable. It also makes complex ideas easier to understand while demonstrating clearly how your solution actually addresses their challenges. Metaphors also make it more engaging by drawing prospects further into the story. Increased engagement helps drive the sales process.
Create conflict and suspense to elicit an emotional response. This draws in the audience and encourages them to root for the hero. A quick resolution isn’t relatable or memorable. Sufficiently developing the difficulties in the story and including potential setbacks makes it appear that goals may not be met. Then present your product or service as the solution that allows the hero to win in the end.
Developing your storytelling abilities will allow you to effectively lead prospects through the sales cycle. Doing so makes it easy to demonstrate empathy that distinguishes you from other reps. The resulting trust will accelerate the process and drive stronger results. So, start practicing these techniques so you’re ready to start telling stories to your prospects. In my next post, we’ll look at different types of stories and when to use them in the sales cycle.