Maybe you’ve heard:
- Storytelling is the most powerful tool in your selling toolbox. – Natasha Che, Entrepreneur.com
- Storytelling is a must-have sales skill. – Sean Pinegar, Tenfold
- Top sellers use the power of story to mesmerize. – Mike Schultz, RAIN Group
- Stories trigger emotional responses. – Emma Brudner, HubSpot
- Stories transform beliefs and change minds. – Matt Sharrers, Sales Benchmark Index
- Stories, not facts, have the most powerful impact on how people feel. – Cathy Salit, Quotable
- Storytelling is a simple and powerful way for humans to connect. – Ryan Serhant, Forbes
- Human beings are naturally wired to be drawn to stories. – Cindy Stagg, Tell to Sell
- You can’t close a sale with a spreadsheet. – Colleen Francis, Engage Selling
- Facts tell, but stories sell. – Unknown
There’s little for doubt. Telling stories increases your likelihood of connecting with buyers and inspiring them to purchase from you.
Storytelling is a type of communication, an important soft skill that we certainly can’t overlook in this CONNECT2Sell series about soft skills in selling!
Recap: Essential Soft Skills to Succeed in Selling
So far in this series, we’ve run the gamut on a big variety of essential soft skills for sellers. We took a deep dive into all kinds of communication skills: presenting, listening, body language, voice quality, written, and more. We looked at buyer research for insights about the soft skills that truly make a difference.
We also talked about the things that inadvertently interfere with developing and using soft skills. Sadly, sales tools, technology, and processes often circumvent the use of soft skills. Sellers suppress their soft skills and opt, instead, to rely on hard skills and sales hacks. Without realizing it, many sales organizations are equipping sellers to fail. If soft skills aren’t developed and displayed, all the investment in sales enablement tools and strategies will ultimately not be enough.
Suffice it to say that soft skills aren’t optional. They’re essential.
Where Does Storytelling Fit In?
Soft skills mostly focus on HOW you interact with others. Stories are WHAT you deliver with those soft skills. Storytelling is a compelling way to provide information that your buyer can understand and process easily.
You already know everything you need to know about stories. You learned about them in school, write them, read them, tell them, hear them, and watch them every single day. The only thing missing is the extra little finesse you need to craft stories that will resonate with each buyer.
Read that last sentence again. Notice that it doesn’t say “craft a story.” Many sellers make the mistake of coming up with one story that they tell over and over again. It’s generic, and it will only get you so far. You’ll be much more effective if you can tell a different story to every buyer. Each story should speak directly to your buyer and include them in all the action.
Do you remember story diagrams and the elements of a good story? Let’s review so you’ve got an easy template for crafting stories. This illustration is adapted from Freytag’s Model. Interestingly, it tracks much like a sales process.
Exposition: This is the beginning, the once upon a time. It includes the setting, an introduction to the main character, the backstory, and a mood. The information for the exposition is often what you gather in your pre-call planning or opening conversation with a buyer.
Inciting Incident: Shortly after a story begins, something major happens. The incident sparks emotion and has serious implications for the main character. As you probe pain points and problems with your buyer, you’ll hear about these incitements. In stories, and in selling, incitements are what prompt action and propel the story (or sale!) forward.
Rising Action: This is the edge-of-your-seat part of the story. The tension builds as the characters try to resolve their situation. They’re pushed by additional or continuing incitements and/or by the consequences that come with them. You’ll learn about the implications and issues and severity of them when you conduct effective discovery with your buyers.
Climax: Eventually, a turning point is reached. The main character’s fate is determined at this point in the story. Reaching that turning point often requires main characters to grow or to discover something new about themselves. Usually, there’s someone who undergirds them or shows them the way forward. That’s the hero. You can be the hero when you propose solutions that take your buyers in a better direction and solve their problems.
Falling Action: In stories, getting to the happily ever after requires some tidying up. There are details to work out, plot complexities to unravel, and little twists to round out the story. This is where the main characters figure out how to make things happen so they can get what they’ve always wanted. Overcoming objections, negotiating fine points, coming to terms, and closing the deal are all like falling action in a story. Once you show the buyer the way forward, all of that is just a matter of tidying up.
Caution! Whose Story Are You Telling?
You may have some incredible stories to tell about your past successes and what your product can do for others.
Your buyers don’t want to hear stories about you. They don’t want to hear stories about other buyers. They want to be featured prominently in the stories you’re telling them.
Once you’ve conducted a good discovery call, you have the makings of a great story. You have the “once upon a time” and the story arc. All you need to add is the “happily ever after” where your buyer ends up with a solution that makes them happy.
Your buyer should be the protagonist in your story. If they aren’t the main character, it’s not their story. The antagonist is the adversarial situation that looms large and threatens your buyer. It’s the problem that you’re going to solve because you, riding in on a white stallion, are the hero in this story.
Heroes have a purpose. They display courage and valor in their pursuit of a noble purpose. Your noble purpose is in finding the best possible solution for your buyer, no matter how challenging that may be. You are the missing link between once upon a time and happily ever after. Your buyer can’t get there without you.
Keep in mind that heroes are secondary characters in most stories. Cinderella is the main character. Prince Charming is just a bridge to the place she’d rather be.
When you tell your buyer’s story, it will never be generic or canned. It will always be unique, interesting, and captivating. No one can resist hearing about their own happy ending.
You’ll use a wide variety of soft skills, especially empathetic listening, to gather information you can use in telling your buyer’s story. You’ll sort out the elements and connect the dots using critical thinking. And you’ll eloquently deliver the story using communication skills.
There’s nothing difficult about storytelling. We all do it in everyday exchanges. Just be sure you’re telling the buyer’s story when you’re selling!
How's your storytelling doing? Contact Deb for a coaching critique of your sales proposals today!