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Do You Love Your Sales Story?

Post image for Do You Love Your Sales Story?

by Mike on February 28, 2011

Story telling is an important life skill. We all love to hear a great story. Our kids spend endless hours in grade school learning how to draft, write and edit stories. We’re drawn to people that have great stories or are wonderful story-tellers.

So why have businesses and salespeople, for the most part, become so bad at telling their story? It seems like “Telling the Sales Story” is a lost art. I’ve got my running list of common reasons salespeople fail at new business development. Near the top of the list is the salesperson who doesn’t have or can’t communicate a succinct, compelling, relevant, differentiating and customer-centered story.

The sales story is the most used and most important sales weapon.

It’s essential that sales teams are equipped with the necessary weapons and that they’re proficient at firing those weapons. The story is the most critical weapon because it’s used all day, everyday.

The sales story becomes a source document or foundation for other key sales weapons: Snippets of the story get used to help craft proactive telephone call and voicemail outlines. Other parts end up in emails launched at prospects. Great probing questions are crafted from the powerful part of our story where we talk about the pains/problems/issues we solve for customers. Presentations are built by pulling elements of the story.

A great sales story produces confidence and pride.

I love the picture I found for this post. Check out the boy’s expression. He’s not embarrassed. He’s not scared. I’ve seen it over and over. Having a great story helps the rep be proud of what he/she is selling. The salesperson loves being able to articulate the value their solution brings and is excited to share it. A powerful story produces confidence in the salesperson. How much easier is it to make a proactive (cold) call to a prospect when you know your story is on-target and powerful? Unfortunately, the opposite is also true (and more common). Salespeople with a lame story usually lack passion and are less willing and less excited to talk with prospects. How sad is that?

Your story is an opportunity to differentiate in the market and justify your premium pricing.

The sales story is “gift-wrap” on your offering. It’s the packaging, curb-appeal of the house, the plating of an exquisite meal at a fine restaurant. It’s the verbal communication of your brand, of the value you create, the experience you deliver. Your story provides the chance to set your company apart from competitors. You can’t expect to win business with a premium priced offering if your story doesn’t justify the higher price!

It’s worth the time, thought and energy to take a look at what you or your team is using for a story. It’s your most important sales weapon.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Peterman March 1, 2011 at 3:29 am

Story matters. I could not agree more. I love the examples of gift-wrap, curb-appeal, and plating as pictures of how this works. All too often the less effective sales person gets wrapped up in features, functions, and pictures of the factory. Those of us who manage need to be sure we know the story and that we know how it’s being told in the marketplace. Keep sharing your wisdom and passion, Mike.

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Mike March 1, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Mark, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I love your point about the ineffective seller get caught up in features, functions and factory pictures! Yes, we need to ensure our teams are equipped with a story that communicates the value our brand/offering delivers.

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Kelley Robertson March 1, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Another great post, Mike. Far too few sales people understand the importance of story telling. Unfortunately, even fewer people are taught how to deliver a compelling story to enhance their presentation.

I remember browsing through a new furniture store a few years ago and when I asked the sales person a question about a diningroom chair he said, “Can I tell you a story?” and he proceeded to tell me about an experience one of his customers had that related to my question. This approach was much more effective than saying, “Yes, they’re easy to clean.”

Keep it up!

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Mike March 1, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Great input, as always Kelley. As I read your comment, had this thought: whatever happened to “puffery” and the pride a salesperson took in dressing up what he was selling. Seems like the pendulum has swung too far the other direction. We went from exaggerated sales-talk, to understated, sloppy sales stories that under-communicate the value the solution or company deliver.

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Jack Scharff March 1, 2011 at 3:25 pm

I’d love to hear some samples of how you use story telling in sales.

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Mike March 1, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Jack, based on your profile and question, I think you are going to be disappointed with my answer.
When I say “telling the sales story,” I am not referring to telling stories. To me, your “Sales Story” is how you talk about what you and your company do. It’s how you respond to the question “tell me about Acme Supply.”
Sorry I wasn’t able to help you here. I do have a post from last October 1, 2010 that deals with framing and essential components for a great story. Thanks for reading Jack.
Mike

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Guy March 1, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Hi Mike,

In today’s get to the point business mind-set. It is so very easy to revert to feature selling. When we remove the “puffery” we go to far and forget that we need to tell a Compelling and Powerful story packed with Information this is Useful, Meaningful and Important to the Prospect.

Your post is a great reminder to review our own story and ensure it is on target, not just to the brain but to the heart as well!

Cheers…

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Parker March 1, 2011 at 4:57 pm

you are 100% right. The truth is if your not a good story teller you can not be a good salesperson. one of the best reasons to tell good stories is you can weave in to the story answers to objections before the even come up

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Dan March 2, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Great stuff as always, Mike. The power of the story, and the point you drive home in this post, rings so true. It’s absolutely amazing how a well built, well portrayed story can quite literally change a sales force overnight. People tend to forget that time whenever a great commercial struck a chord within them, whenever they invested in the “latest, greatest” gadget on a whim, whenever the classic car dealer put his arms around your shoulders, spread his hand across the horizon, and you drove away with a new sports car…all because of a great story! So many people have allowed themselves to fall into a business environment of numbers and spread sheets, of useless sales babble and numbers, and my favorite, electronic conveyance of “You can download the data sheet and price table on our website”. Thank you for helping bring us back on track!

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