Act on these tips and you'll be able to craft compelling sales stories that generate an emotional response in buyers – a feat that can send your sales skyward.
- Weave a Rich Narrative With a “Hero”: A well-crafted tale's power to influence buyers is derived from how the brain functions. When you share a story that's enlivened with vivid imagery, believable scenarios and a protagonist with whom others identify, you tap into the instinctive and emotional parts of the brain. These areas of the mind make buying decisions, with logic later being used to justify the initial determination, says Jeff Bloomfield, author of Story-Based Selling: Create, Connect and Close. “A strong narrative leaves people wide open to your message,” says Bloomfield.
- Lead With a “My Why” Story: Begin with what Bloomfield calls a “my why” story. “It's a narrative that is emotional and vivid that shows why you believe what you believe, why you do what you do – why you are a trustworthy human being,” he says. The story should last no longer than 90 seconds and should feature a “hero” other than you.
- Bloomfield has an evocative story that he shares with people interested in hiring him as a consultant. The story features his grandfather as the protagonist, and illustrates the influence the wise man had on shaping Bloomfield's character. He recounts how he grew up on a 100-acre farm in Ohio, working side-by-side with his grandfather. Using folksy language and rural imagery, he creates an unpretentious narrative that illustrates how his grandfather taught him values like hard work and perseverance, the importance of family and being a problem solver, and how he should always observe the “Platinum Rule” – treat people better than they expect to be treated. He concludes the tale by revealing that, while his grandfather died from cancer while he was in junior high, the man's character lives on in that Bloomfield's life has been shaped by the values the farmer taught him.
Bloomfield then invites prospects to share stories. People are often quite candid. A real rapport is established, setting the tone for a successful sales call.
- Be a Story Teller, Not a Story Reporter: Many salespeople think they tell stories in their interactions with buyers. But in fact what they're doing, says Bloomfield, is story reporting, which is not as effective.
A story reporter says to a human resources director at a software firm: “Ms. Buyer, I recently helped another software company that also wanted to improve employee retention. I worked closely with them to implement an incentives program that helped increase retention by X%. I'd like to do the same for you.”
A storyteller, however, elicits an emotional response by sharing a bolder, imagery-rich narrative that centers on a protagonist to whom the prospect relates. A story teller says: “Ms. Buyer, your situation reminds me of my friend Helen. She's head of human resources at a technology firm like yours. I'll never forget the look on her face when I walked into her office that rainy Wednesday afternoon. She was staring out the window when I came in. She was ashen, exhausted, clearly troubled. It looked like she needed to get away so we went to a little local coffee shop. We were lucky to get a couple couch seats by the window, and as we sipped our coffee and she looked out at the rain, she told me that she was worried for her job if she couldn't come up with a way for improving retention….”
Using a similar narrative style, the storyteller rep then reveals how she delivered products and services that helped“Helen” exceed retention goals with a dynamite incentives program that wowed the firm's bosses. Says Bloomfield: “The client starts to feel like (Helen). They can sense what she's going through and they relate. That makes them much more likely to trust that you can solve their problems, too.”