If I told you that storytelling would assist you in becoming the sales professional you want to be. The one who others aspire to be, the one who brings in their number every week, month, quarter, and year. You could be the salesperson that you prospects trust and have confidence in, you might wonder why more sales professionals are not making it a standard practice.
You would be surprised to learn that some of the biggest brands, Microsoft, IBM, Boeing, Nike, Coca Cola and more are using storytelling to improve their sales process.
If you can paint a mental picture for someone, they will remember parts of your story. However, memory can be further enhanced when emotions are triggered. If you can trigger the listener’s memory with stories that envoke the feelings of sadness, happiness, anger, or surprise, you will dramatically enhance their ability to recall your message in your presentation.
I would like to introduce you to just some of the ways stories can be used to accomplish various objectives in a business meeting. This is just a sampling of tips, techniques, and patterns that can turn any presentation from boring to impactful.
Avoid saying the following opening: “Let me tell you a story.”
I have tried to teach my kids over and over to not start a joke with…”Daddy, let me tell you a joke.” I have told them it takes away from your punch line when you preface it with: “Let me tell you a joke.” The same thing goes for stories.
In a business setting, people do not want to be pushed into hearing your story. They will resist wanting to hear anything you want them to hear. Instead, they have to be pulled into the story.
Start with a question
“Have you ever…?”, “Do you have…?” or “When was the last time you…?” are good starter questions that can help set up a story you would like to tell. Questions can immediately hook your audience into wondering what you’re going to say next. For example: “Have you ever read your entire homeowner’s insurance policy? If you haven’t I suggest you do. A month ago,…” At this point, your audience will want to know what happened
Mention a set date in time
“Four Scores and Seven years ago…”, “On September 11th, 2001,…” Much like starting with a question, beginning with a time marker intrigues your audience into wondering what happened next.
If you can give your audience a reason to listen to your story, you will get a more favorable response to your story.
Then, Now, and How
The idea behind Then, Now, and How is this formula tells prospects, in a simple fashion how a given problem was solved. Here is how to use it:
First, describe the problem that you or your prospects were faced with. Really emphasize the challenges that were present – the more challenges, the better. Then, cut to the happy ending. Describe all the wonderful things that happened as a result of finally solving the problem. This will create tension as your audience begins to wonder how you did what you did. Set your story up this way and all eyes will be upon you as you explain what you did to turn things around.
Follow this formula and you’re bound to see changes in the way your prospects react to your use case stories.
Too often, sales professionals try to get their prospects laughing by telling canned jokes or delivering overly rehearsed one-liners. Unless you are a trained comedian or gifted with a great sense of humor, the results can be disastrous. If you try to hard to be funny, your prospects will get turned off.
If you are looking for humor, the best place to find it is within the stories you tell. More specifically, it can be usually found within the dialogue of a true personal anecdote. Consider this example: “I started out working for a pretty tough boss. He watched over everything I did and was quick to criticize. One day, he told me that he’d like to stop correcting me. “Go Ahead! You have my full permission, I said”
Will this story kill it at the open mic at the comedy club? No, but it will get a better response than a canned joke.
How I Got Here?
When salespeople introduce themselves to a new audience, they typically like to provide their background credentials. They tell the HIGH story, HIGH is short for How I Got Here. Use the HIGH Story method and you will quickly establish the credibility you want. In addition, you will also build the trust you need.
So don’t tell your story in a chronological summary of your background, rather, present your audience with a story that reveals something important about you as a person.
When I was a financial advisor and went to networking events where you had to introduce your self, I always started out the same way. Hello, my name is Bo Hamrick. I currently have three jobs. First, I am a husband to my wife, Leslie. The pay is horrible but the benefits are great and I love working for my boss. Second, I am Daddy to Emma, Hannah and Carter. The pay is even worse but the benefits are out of this world. So, that I can keep the first two jobs, my third job is Financial Advisor at AXA Advisors…I would then go into what we do at AXA and how I helped others. I found this method to be much better than telling people what we did at AXA.
The 2+2 formula
This is a formula gleaned from a Ted Talk The clues to a great story given by Pixar’s Andrew Stanton, the creator of Finding Nemo and Wall-E. Look it up on YouTube when you get a chance.
The basic concept, as Stanton explains it, is that audiences don’t like to be told the answer to 2+2. Rather, he said, “They like to discover the answer themselves.” In other words, don’t go overboard trying to explain the meaning behind your story. Leave it up to your audience to figure it out.
If you want to see this formula in action, look at one of my most favorite movies of all time: Momento. I will not ruin the story for you but after you watch the movie you will find yourself sitting on your couch rewatching the movie in your head and the story changes.
Give your audience the paint, the brush, and the canvas and let them do the painting.
This is my favorite tool to use. Included in this tactic are metaphors, similes, and analogies. For our purpose, it is not as important to know the difference between these three figures of speech as it is to know that they all make an abstract concept easier to comprehend. I put them together under the heading “Metaphors” but whatever the form, they will draw on what your listeners already know to help them better understand what they don’t. For example, is your role to be a salesperson or I am like a GPS That helps my clients find a better route to gaining market share?
Using these tools will help you tell better stories and reach your prospects in a way that a PowerPoint presentation never will. These do take time and practice to get them perfect but the time is worth the effort.