Authentic Sales: Storytelling

Part of being a partner in your customer’s buying journey is making sure that you are providing impact and value across the sales process. We have spoken a bit about building value in previous posts, and I wanted to dig into the value of ‘storytelling’ in sales.

A Quick Callout: Story telling is not making up ‘stories’ to fit the narrative of how the client wants their future state to be. As a counselor sales person – you don’t every want to ‘make up a story’ to convince a client to purchase – especially when that story doesn’t represent how the product will truly impact their business.

Storytelling IS relating to your clients needs with real experiences/examples that connect their problem and pain with the path to a solution (how your product can help)

I lean heavily into story telling in my sales career because I think it is important to tell customers about real life examples of how similar businesses navigated their problems and found (or failed to find) a solution.

Storytelling can come from personal and professional experience depending on the situation you are discussing.

In my previous role I worked with hundreds of clients to assist with secure file sharing and remote work solutions. I knew first hand from authentic experience what worked, what didn’t and the cost of doing nothing. Clients shared their personal stories and experiences about using our tool (the good, bad and ugly) and also situations where they didn’t move forward and a breach happened.

Stories are also a form of social proof – taking a real life use case (albeit anonymous) and how that business/individual succeeded/failed by their actions.

When you have been in your role (or in sales period) for a while you begin to be able to speak to these stories from a place of expertise – you are no longer trying to sell as much as advise because you understand from real life examples the cost of doing nothing and the benefits of moving forward. You want your customer to succeed and can take this expertise – told as a client story to help earn trust and ensure your client goals are met.

Ex: I understand that security isn’t top of mind for XYZ Construction – you really are just sharing files and you want to save cost. I understand, and my client who was in a similar situation felt the same way. They did not move forward with encryption and unfortunately were hit with a ransomware attack. They data security wasn’t critical, but the cost of the ransomware left them $100,000 in the whole because they were forced to shut down for a week while it got sorted out. How would you handle a situation like that?

Granted this is more of a ‘doomsday’ story – but it is a true account that I heard many times from customers who didn’t want to pay the extra $4 per user per month to add in the security layer.

With this story – I never used fear in my tone, but was empathetic showing that I genuinely cared about their company and wanted to advise them of all the risks. This empathy was authentic because I had seen what my other customers had gone through and wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

So, I pause here to say – Ask your customers for their stories – how is the product working, how has it impacted them – don’t be afraid to check in an ask because that empowers you to understand the value of how your solution is actually helping and any gaps that need to be resolved.

Stories go beyond ‘doom and gloom’ – it can be something as simple as your own experience. Working at Qualtrics, I saw the benefits of our survey tool when I stayed at a hotel that was using Qualtrics to improve customer experience. We had some issues with our stay at first, but they used the software to check in and to ensure things were made right promptly. I enjoyed my job before, but that showed me in a real world way the value the product had on people.

These stories don’t need to be forced and even if you are a creative writer – it’s okay. Speak from experience.

Also it is okay to write down a list of stories that are tied to different outcomes (objections, value drivers) and practice telling them – so when you hear a trigger that makes that story relevant you can tell that story effectively and authentically to your customer.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes – what would you be thinking about? In selling customer experience software I try to think about where organizations I frequent (Starbucks to my local Cup of Joe) have succeeded in quality service; where have they failed. What would the impact of this software have been in those situations? Suddenly you can start thinking as a creative and authentic seller – able to tell effective (and truthful) stories that resonant with the client because they come from the heart and meet their objectives.

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