You might think sales communication training is a waste of time or that it’s expensive. Some could be. But also think of the cost of inaction. Can you continue communicating as you are now? Can you afford to have stalled sales cycles or ineffective communication?
In this article, we’ll discuss those concerns as well as ways to see the value in training your teams for better communication and storytelling. Let’s dive in.
Overcoming your fears
You might have concerns about bringing communications training to your sellers. Let’s unpack them and address them:
You might be fearful that your sellers can’t be storytellers. But think of it this way: If your team isn’t good at communicating, then the sales cycle can be stalled based on ineffective communication.
Besides, everyone tells stories. Some of your salespeople told you a hilarious stories they heard at a dinner party. Or they relayed the drama of the last few minutes of last weekend’s big game.
You’re concerned that the sales team can only parrot the message built for them. But some people don’t want to be parrots. Some clients don’t want to be parroted to, and they can eagle-eye a canned pitch from a distance.
And let’s face it, sometimes that standard deck isn’t robust enough for the prospect and the seller has more value to add, but is limited to the standard message. They may be afraid to go off script because they haven’t been given the go-ahead from the higher-ups.
You can’t let people make up their own story about what your brand is and what you do, right? However, this approach doesn’t allow a seller to build trust by building a narrative on what the customer needs most. It makes sellers feel inauthentic, and the buyers can often tell.
It could also prohibit making a bigger sale because they get caught up in a tactical solution — instead of being more aware that the customer is actually looking for a higher-level, more strategic conversation.
The point is this: With a little training and a few tweaks, everyone can learn the dynamics of telling a powerful, compelling story.
So, you want your sellers to create excitement or to differentiate your company from your competition, and yet creating custom decks each time wastes time.
What do you do?
Recognize the damage of inaction and the true value of storytelling
As leaders, we’re often afraid to make a seemingly “risky” decision because we don’t know the outcomes. As a result, we don’t decide at all. However, not deciding can be costlier than deciding, since inaction often creates larger consequences down the road.
For instance, not training your sales team could allow the pipeline to dry up and jeopardize future revenue. The standard messages or ineffective communication practices might not connect with the marketplace any longer.
But how do you train your team and toward what goal?
We believe that teaching sales leaders storytelling skills can help them apply basic fundamentals to hit on compelling messages every time, no matter the content or context.
Storytelling is simply a framework for connecting your brand to the evolutionary power of narrative in the human mind. It consists of five basic tenets:
- BIG Idea
So, what value will this story structure, and turning your sellers into storytellers, have on your business?
Build an audience-centric mindset
Every great storyteller knows that the audience is the number one thing to think about before communicating. Who are they? What do they care about? How do they consume and interpret information?
Like that old adage, you’re not a leader if you don’t have followers — you’re not communicating if you don’t know your audience. Some people prefer to speak over the phone, while others like to have video calls. Some like presentations, while others like written briefings.
How you communicate changes depending on the medium and the way it will be perceived.
By focusing on the tenets of storytelling, especially focusing on your audience, you can adapt your conversation to different audiences. This allows you to, like a consultative seller, freely move around the concepts based on how the discussion goes without your buyers feeling like they need to sit through a prepared speech. It truly becomes a conversation.
But what do you say?
Focus on the BIG Idea
Surely you’ve had an hour-long meeting where only in the last 10 minutes does the conversation actually move the needle. What if you could have started there at the very beginning and gained 50 minutes of important details and nuance through rigorous conversation?
That’s the promise of putting the heart of the story right at the beginning. What’s the BIG Idea you want your audience to take away from the meeting?
Peter Drucker famously said that the effective decision maker needs to “classify the problem.” Think of the BIG Idea that way. Do you want your audience to know something or do something based on what you’re about to tell them? Usually it’s both, right? But is the emphasis placed on the knowing or the doing?
That will help frame the rest of your story.
For example, you want to sell your product or service. That’s the doing. But it may be more effective for your audience to know that their largest competitor has gained 12% market share over the last quarter. That little insight will stoke what you want them to do.
Alternatively, you may want your prospects to take a next step, like to try your product for one week and measure the results. Then you can pair it with a knowledge bomb, like that every customer that’s tried your product has reduced annual expenses by 7%.
Clarify up front
All too often, we get weeks into a sales conversation only to realize that our terms or expectations were misaligned to begin with. Since we didn’t create the necessary conversations at the beginning of the sales journey, the prospects in the pipeline have slowed because there now needs to be several follow-up conversations with multiple stakeholders to re-explain what was missed in the original meeting.
This is the added benefit of leading with the BIG Idea.
But we can also clarify terms and expectations up front by beginning with the setting. Who needs to be involved as part of the buying committee? What knowledge or expertise do we need to make certain decisions? Are there underlying political contexts or timeline assumptions to be aware of before we begin having the bigger conversations?
Even just one slide on the main stakeholders, the problems, and the bigger picture can help smooth out the story going forward.
Find hidden ways to upsell
Clarifying the discussion with setting and the BIG Idea can shed light on additional ways your company can help your buyers.
By applying the principles of storytelling, you may be able to identify additional stakeholders or understand underlying assumptions that could either accelerate your sales cycle or find new services to sell to solve those additional problems.
When you’re able to focus on the needs of the client through more strategic conversations, you’ll unlock the ability to explore deeper into what the prospect was saying they needed.
Reduce the cost of inaction and embrace the value of storytelling
Inaction has consequences. Offering your sales team storytelling training can help your team overcome hurdles and meet their goals, one sales cycle at a time.