Who doesn’t love a good story?
After all, stories help us engage, entertain, amuse and connect.
According to Lexico, storytelling is “an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.” But true to its nature, storytelling is also a powerful sales tool that can be used to further the commercial prospects of a company or business.
Sales, whether it is selling a good or a service, is essentially the selling of an idea. How well you can sell, depends on how best you can support the idea with a story.
The stories we read in books are often not very far from real-world scenarios. It is human nature to empathise with characters in a story who struggle and overcome obstacles and then succeed, whether the plot is rags to riches, overcoming the monster, or any other plot-line.
Stanford Professor, Jennifer Aaker, states that "stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone." Actually, studies have shown that storytelling can persuade people much better than conversations about facts and figures. This is why starting a sales presentation with a story can help to hook the client’s attention quickly from the very first sentence
Here are five tips for storytelling in sales:
1. Identify one theme per story.Although you may want to say everything, people tend to remember only one main thing at the end of a pitch. Determine that one main idea or theme related to the outcome of your sales pitch that you want to embed into your listener’s mind. This will help you customise the story, appeal to emotions, and intentionally influence the feelings of the client.
2. Flesh out the story.After you’ve identified the main story theme, create an outline of the story, including the characters, challenges, conflict and its resolution, and the physical setting. Create a plot that has a clear beginning, middle, and ending. Customers need to relate with the main character in the story to be able to see elements of themselves in the character and hence feel invested in the story. This is a critical factor for the sales presentation to be effective.
3. Know your audience.Do your research. Know whom you are speaking to. This will determine the choice of words, phrases, metaphors, and the length of the story. Whether you need to keep it simple depends on the language of communication of the prospective buyer. Considering short attention spans nowadays, stories need to be brief, crisp, pack a punch, and get to the point as quickly as possible.
4. Write in a conversational way.Read aloud the written story pitch to better understand the impact as a listener and modify it if need be. This is because there is a vast difference between the spoken word and the written word. This will help you to put yourself in the shoes of the client who is receiving the story. Practicing delivery will help to decide the visual clues, gestures, tone, and tenor of speech needed, which greatly enhances the listener’s experience of a storytelling performance. However, don’t over-rehearse. Keep the tone natural and casual for greater authenticity.
5. Use real-life stories.As far as possible, use personal stories, past experiences with actual customers, and success stories. You can always use others’ stories, but a personal story creates a powerful connection with the listener. Using personal examples and peppering the presentation with little humorous anecdotes can help to build a better rapport.
Business Storytelling IndiaUltimately, storytelling is an art that comes with practice and experience. However, learning to gauge the audience’s reaction mid-story in terms of engagement, eye contact, physical alertness, etc. can help to course change if you don’t see too many positive signals. And there you have it! Make it a point to add stories to your sales pitches, as great stories = great pitches!