The world’s best salespeople tend to avoid two communication mistakes that their less-successful colleagues fall victim to:
- Using one-size-fits-all communication templates for everything from emails to call scripts to presentations, rather than being authentic and connecting personally with their buyers.
- Parroting a version of the same tired sales communication instead of telling a compelling story each time — a story that differentiates them and your company and that drives excitement and confidence in your buyers.
Instead, great salespeople tell each prospect a story, and a story will always beat an impersonal product pitch. Why? Because people love stories — and the best salespeople know how to tell a great one.
Regardless of which stage of the buyer’s journey you’re selling to, great storytelling requires two key elements.
1. Use a Proven Structure
The trick to telling a story that will lead to the response you want is to use a proven structure for telling a compelling story that every salesperson can fine-tune and revise, in their own way, to engage and persuade any audience, every time.
2. Pull the Thread, From Nurture to Post-sales
You need to find the perfect thread within your story that will engage and excite your buyer. Then, you pull that thread through every stage of the sales cycle. To be most effective, you need to keep learning throughout the sales process and continue applying new information to win over your buyer.
With those guidelines firmly in hand, here’s a checklist of best practices to optimally apply great storytelling at each state of the buyer’s journey and close more deals faster.
Prospecting/Lead Generation: You Can’t Land ‘Em if You Don’t Hook ‘Em
Eight in 10 prospects prefer talking to sales reps over email. So, if you need to use email, review them to be sure they avoid the top 5 mistakes sales and marketing make in emails to prospects.
- Failing to make a case for why the reader should build a relationship with you
- Not telling a compelling story
- Delivering bland, forgettable subject lines
- Putting your product ahead of the buyer’s pain and situation
- Putting the call to action too soon
Lead Qualification: Don’t Waste Your Time — or Theirs
To get to yes faster, get a deep understanding of each prospect as soon as you can.
- Walk in their shoes — dig in to really understand their core problem.
- Build trust by focusing on what matters most to your customer — not by focusing on your product.
- Create empathy with your prospect and learn from them.
Demo or Meeting: Prove You’ve Got the Goods You’ve Promised
Buyers have done their homework and know what you’re offering. Now they want to know what’s in it for them — quickly and efficiently. Capture their attention with a universal story structure that ensure that you meet them where they are, every time. Your structure should include:
- Setting: Your setting is a snapshot in time, a place, or a circumstance. It immediately establishes the context for your message.
- Characters: Your characters are who or what is affected by the current situation — your customers, employees, or team. Characters help your audience relate to your story.
- Conflict: With the context of setting and characters in place, it’s time to reveal the conflict. Conflict provides the tension that gives your audience a reason to care and want to take action.
- Resolution: With setting, characters, and conflict established, your audience’s emotions will be built up. They will hopefully be ready to embrace your resolution — your recommendation, product, or solution.
- BIG Idea: The one thing you want your audience to remember
The Proposal: Make It Personal to Seal the Deal
Make your proposal personalized, accurate, and engaging. Check to see if your presentation succinctly applies three key elements of audience awareness:
- Appeals to what’s happening in their world (e.g., uses only data points that drive conflict and resolution for the buyer)
- Clearly identifies what they care about (hint: it’s not your product’s features and benefits)
- Speaks to the challenges they’re facing and how you solve them
Negotiating/Handling Objections: Be Ready to Pivot
Be prepared to smoothly and confidently change course late in the process — hopefully to negotiate terms and conditions. Be able to confidently:
- Leverage The BIG Idea of your story to successfully pivot
- Articulate a clear throughline of your sales story
- Apply a deliberate approach so you can flex your story based on the various needs and interests of each buyer
Opportunity Won/Closing: Stay Open, Stay Curious — In Any Environment
The old saying of “always be closing” has shifted to “always be connecting.” Whether virtually or in-person, closing a deal today requires you to practice these three skills:
- Always be studying your prospects
- Continue adapting, so you match their expectations and needs
- Continue to tell compelling stories beyond the sales presentation — in one-pagers and other formats
Post-purchase/Client Retention: Build a Relationship for Keeps
Take advantage of the “honeymoon phase” to boost revenues by selling more and getting referrals. Build engagement with your best new friend. Here’s a 5-point checklist for that:
- Continue learning about your customers.
- Use highly relevant, short stories to help your customer absorb difficult concepts.
- Continue to capture their attention with a universal story structure.
- Use compelling stories to deepen engagement.Make your stories more tangible by incorporating elements that engage the senses.
Successful salespeople apply great storytelling techniques at every stage of the sales pipeline. It delivers a set of communication skills that are proven to engage prospects, keep their interest, and guide them toward choosing your company — and staying with you.