What does it take to tell a compelling story in sales? For some, it’s just another box to check in crafting a successful pitch. But the art of storytelling in sales is a powerful force that can make or break your success. Too many sales reps confuse talking with storytelling, and they’re leaving money on the table when they overlook the underlying story driving their pitch.
The good news is that we’re all natural-born storytellers. From childhood, stories are how we relate to one another, learn about the world, and channel our feelings into actions. Likewise, storytelling in sales is all about humanizing your product and building confidence and trust with customers. You don’t have to be Hemingway, you just have to care about the customers behind your product.
Ready to craft your sales story? Let’s dive into why storytelling is so important to the sales process and a few ways to get your salesforce started.
Sell the Story, not the Product
Like many sales organizations, you’ve probably prioritized product knowledge in your sales training—and now your entire salesforce can confidently talk at length about product features, facts, and figures. That’s a good thing, right? Actually, if your sales reps get too comfortable talking about the product, they might overlook opportunities to tell a compelling story. Your sales reps are programmed to stick to what they know, so make sure they’re as well-versed in storytelling as they are in product knowledge.
The most powerful presentations don’t just focus on product features, they talk about how those product features have changed the lives of those who use them. Your real selling point is in the value and benefits your product brings to customers. Let stories drive your pitch and serve as context to bring the facts and figures around your product to life. There are powerful emotions tied to the story of your product that will make for a more memorable and engaging conversation. Move the focus of your presentation away from you and put it on your customer instead. It’s a human-centered approach to selling: instead of rattling off research data, tell a story about those numbers through a customer success story, from the initial challenge to their happy ending.
Tell Stories that Stick
When you walk into the room to meet a prospective customer, your goal is to make a lasting impression. Ask yourself what’s more memorable: research data or a great story? We’ve got the science to back up the importance of storytelling, but it’s really just common sense. There’s no statistic in the world that will be more influential than the emotional ties and communal bonds of a good story—and behind every great product, there’s an even better story.
Effective storytelling in sales comes down to the basics: you’ll want to introduce a main character (a customer), a relevant challenge, and how your product resolved it. But this isn’t just an oral case study: storytelling is all about relatable details that transport others into the shoes of your customer. Craft a visual, sensory experience that demonstrates exactly how your product and services impacted the life of this customer. Your story should have a clear beginning, middle, and end so that your listeners experience a full story arc and the range of emotions that come with it. What feelings did that customer share when they first came to you with their problem? When did the tide start to change and how did you know? What were some of the outcomes they shared after they switched to your product? And here’s the clincher: how did all of that make you feel?
Crafting the Right Story for Your Pitch
Now that we’ve mentioned the science of storytelling, here’s a crash course on what that really means. A lot of strategy goes into your sales enablement, but how much of it is backed up by proven science? The human brain reacts to storytelling with all kinds of powerful emotions that inform our behaviors and actions. That’s why crafting a powerful story about your company and product is so important. In short, successful storytelling produces the neurochemicals cortisol, oxytocin, and dopamine in our brains: three powerful chemicals that capture our attention, tap into our empathy, and leave us desiring a similar outcome to the characters in the story.
Who wouldn’t want to invoke powerful emotions like that in their sales pitch? If you haven’t mastered the art of storytelling just yet, here are a few tips to get started:
Ask the right questions
You’re your own best audience. What story would you want to hear? Put yourself in the shoes of your prospect and tell the stories that speak to their situation. Focus on stories that illustrate why now’s the right time to act and how your product will change their circumstances for the better.
Tell the truth
Keep the fiction on the bookshelves, because storytelling in sales is rooted in truth. Every customer is a success story, it’s up to you to craft their journey into a persuasive narrative. Remember: the formula is as simple as identifying the obstacle and resolution, and retaining the colorful details and emotions that humanize their story along the way.
Practice, Perfect, Repeat
The secret to a perfect pitch isn’t much of a secret at all—successful pitches take practice. Storytelling is no exception, especially if you’re new to this approach to selling. The more you practice, the more genuine and authentic your story will be every time you tell it. Know your presentation inside and out, and you’ll be able to give more attention to building a genuine connection with the customer. Before you know it, you’ll have another success story to share with the next prospect.