The Storyteller

If you are like me, you love to hear a great story. I am sure you would also agree that the telling of a good story is a real talent. Some accounts are so compelling that they are later turned into books or movies. I was curious as to who some of the top storytellers of all times might be, and one source mentioned this list:  William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Rabindranath Tagore, Anton Chekov, Steven King, Oprah Winfrey, Virginia Woolf, and Richard Branson. You probably can add to this list, but there is no doubt you are familiar with these individuals’ works.

Sometimes stories are brought to us in a fascinating documentary on subjects based on a social, environmental, economic, or biographical basis. Most of the time, documentaries present facts that have been organized by their creators to convince the viewer to see things a certain way.  Would you believe you could achieve a similar result during your sales presentations by presenting well-constructed “documentary” stories? If you want to become incredibly successful in sales, you will become adept at being a good storyteller, influencing your prospects to see things a certain way.

Here are the reasons why you should consider doing it. According to the American Management Association, individuals learn far better when storytelling is employed in presentations. Here are some reasons why. First and foremost, the listener pays closer attention to what is being said when listening to a story. Being mentally distracted is a problem with prospects, so anything you can do to hold someone’s attention the better. That would be reason alone, but there are even more reasons why. For example, it helps the listener creates mental pictures of what is being discussed. Stories also teach and prepare us and aid in understanding how we are going to benefit. Additionally, they create a bond with the person who relates them, and they also can motivate the hearer to action. With all those reasons in mind, it is clear how beneficial storytelling is during a sales presentation.

When though would a salesperson want to try to implement some storytelling into their presentations? Usually, this can start at the beginning, during the relating phase, when the opportunity arises to tell the prospect something about themselves. One definition of relating is sharing a person’s adventures, so it makes sense to share personal stories about events in one’s life to establish a relationship. The best time to incorporate storytelling is during the reasoning or evidentiary phase of your sales presentation. The reasoning phase is where you explain why the prospect should purchase your product or service. It is also when you describe the outcomes to the prospect as to why they will have a good experience if they move forward and make the purchase. During this phase, you should be employing some social proof to strengthen your reasoning points. What is social proof? It is statistical evidence or other proof that you share with the prospect. Social proof is one of the most powerful ways that a salesperson can influence a prospect. That is why salespeople need to have an arsenal of various evidence in their repertoire.

How then should the salesperson present these facts to the prospect? Should they rattle off some statistics or third-party information? They certainly could do that, and I am sure that happens in many cases, and there is nothing wrong with sharing facts with a prospect. As mentioned earlier, just reciting facts does not have near the impact on the thinking and motivations as a well thought out story. Not only a well-presented story but one where the statistics or third-party information is embedded. Then the story adds flavor and context to the social proof – bringing it to life. If you can analyze your statistical data and other third-party information and then create mini-stories and present the evidence within the story, it is a very effective combination. Creating these types of presentations is one of the most effective methods for persuading prospects to buy.

Now that you understand the concept let us talk about what steps you can take to put this idea into practice.

The first step is to identify the information you want to use as social proof – the relevant statistics and third-party data. Second, construct an interesting story that surrounds the facts that you can share compellingly. Then practice your story until you are telling it very naturally. That is when the story will gain real power.

Here is a basic example of a salesperson using this method. Let us say that a salesperson is selling an expensive smartwatch, and one of its features is a pedometer. So, the conversation might go something like this. “You know I have a customer, Mr. Jones, who bought this watch from me about a year ago. A few weeks back, I was at the State Fair with my family, and I bumped into him. I almost didn’t recognize him. He came up and introduced himself to me and said that he had bought a watch from me some time back.  Do you know why I did not immediately recognize him? Because he lost 50 pounds! He said, what do you think, look at me. I said you look ten years younger. He told me that he was doing so well that his doctor took him off his high blood pressure medication. I asked how he did it, and he told me it was the watch that he bought from me.  That the built-in pedometer motivated him because it tracks his steps and encourages him to walk. He said that he read a report published by the Mayo Clinic that stated that an average person walks only about two to three thousand steps a day. He then realized that was all he was doing. So, he set a goal to reach ten thousand steps every day, and with the help of the watch, he did it. What do you think about that?”

Now ask yourself if you were considering buying this product. Would you feel like you are being sold the watch or just hearing a story about Mr. Jones? If you answered, “hearing a story,” you can see how such stories can be highly influential to a potential buyer. What if the prospect is looking for a new watch and wants to be healthier? You can also see the influence of mixing social proof and outcomes into your storytelling. Did you notice how the salesperson mixed in two pieces of evidence? One was the testimonial from a satisfied customer, and the second was the statistical report from a well-regarded source.

Your stories need to be reliable and accurate so that if someone were to fact check your story, it would bear out. That is a significant reason why it has so much power. It is accurate, and you can, therefore, tell it with complete conviction.  Once you master delivering social proof presentations in story form, you will see prospects respond positively. So now, the question is, what story do you have for your prospects?

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