6 Tips for Engaging Storytelling

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There was a struggling salesperson who could not seem to close any deals. No matter how much logic and how many numbers he would throw at the prospect, they would never bite. He would spend hours upon hours sitting in his cubicle studying the economics of his product and how it makes perfect financial sense for prospect buy from him. The salesperson was understandably frustrated. He was even more frustrated when a rookie salesperson with half the knowledge seemed to be closing deals left and right.

The struggling salesperson decided to get to the bottom of what was going on. He went up to the rookie and began to ask her about different statistics and financial figures that she presents to the prospect. She looked at him like a deer in the headlights. Admitting that she had no idea about any of that stuff, the struggling salesperson asked what the heck she was doing to achieve such tremendous success then.

She responded with one sentence: “I don’t tell prospects about data or numbers, I tell them stories.”

Working in sales means you have to be proficient at a number of different skills. One of those skills is imperative to success in sales, marketing, and business. That skill is called storytelling.

Of course, the above example is an extreme example of how it can make or break your career, but if you job shadow some of the top performers in your company, you’ll see that they are all master storytellers. While it is important to have hard data and financial figures in your presentation, it’s important to note that people buy for emotional reasons, not always logical ones. That’s where the story comes in to play.

Here are some tips for you to tell engaging stories that will get the prospect to lean in and listen.

Make the Story Relevant

Storytelling is only as valuable as it is relevant, meaning that if you tell a story that the prospect has no connection with, they will be even more tuned out by the end of it. If you have a prospect who does not have any children, perhaps it’s not the best idea to share a story about all of your children and what they did this morning. If it’s not relevant to them personally or professionally, they simply will not care.

Use 3rd Party Examples

Using third party examples are a great way to illustrate how your product or service has worked for similar clients. It’s also a great way to “call someone out” without pointing your finger at the prospect.

For example, if you have a prospect who is visibly busy and too rushed to listen to your pitch, you could say something to the effect of “You know, I had a prospect who was always running around like crazy because they had so much going on, but they found that this product allowed their business to be more efficient, which gave him time to slow down.”

Paint the Picture

Any good storyteller is good at using words to illustrate their story. By painting the picture, it does not leave the story up to interpretation for the prospect.

One of my favorite examples has nothing to do with sales, but it’s relevant here. In J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books, he painted such a profound and clear picture of Middle-Earth and the characters. When reading it, you have a perfect idea of what the environment looks like. This was verified by everybody when the movies came out – what I viewed on the big screen was already in my head. You want to accomplish the same thing with your story.

Conflict and Resolution

Every story has a problem and a solution. That’s why people listen to stories. They want to hear how the problem was solved. Every book, from Harry Potter to Are you my Mother? follows the same formula, and your story in sales should do the same.

You want to have a problem that is relevant to your prospect, then show how it was solved with your product. If you are able to do this, it shows that your product or service is capable of solving real problems and should be trusted.

Incorporate a Surprise Ending

A twist is always a great way to engage someone in the story. Many movie directors and book authors have incorporated this in to their style of writing. It’s a powerful tool that can be applied in your sales pitch as well.

The way to do this is to explain the final result of your product and how it changed the way your prospect lived. If we were continuing the story from above with the two salespeople. the surprise ending would be that the struggling salesperson learned how to tell stories, then went back and closed the next 5 deals in a row.

Don’t Lie

This one is important. Do not lie. Do not fib. Do not make stories up. This is important because lying not only violates sales ethics, but also, destroys your credibility too. If you lie about a story, it won’t have the same impact on the prospect because they will be able to sense that you are not 100% invested in it. Your passions will not show in a fake story, so only tell true ones!

Use stories mixed with hard data, and you have the recipe for a great sales pitch. Take advantage of the above tips when telling your story and you will surely see engaged and active prospects.

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Author: Jason Karaman

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