How Does Storytelling and Sales Mix?

Does anyone deny that you need salespeople to actually sell in order to be successful in our business? Salespeople today are also tasked with multiple other duties such as Managerial responsibilities, inventory obligations or they could also be doing double duty as both Inside and Outside Sales. In the distributor world, Branch Managers are routinely tasked with account responsibility; a duty
that just a few years ago was deemed improbable and even laughable. Managers ‘back then’ were way too busy with paperwork, being the branch psychologist and figuring out ways to save money on the light bill. Except for a few exceptions, such as larger operations, those days are long gone. The simple fact is: Nothing happens without sales.

Brian Bieler, author of The Sales Operator, states that if you want to sell more, tell more tales. He says that a good sales story stimulates the mind and engages people to conversation. If you are selling and people are not tuned to what you are saying, it’s almost impossible to move them to action. The best salespeople tell stories to get people involved.

Think back to when we were just starting out. The stories and tales of the ‘olden days’ were riveting, exciting and sometimes downright unbelievable. We all have stories not only from our own experiences over the years but also great stories from the top salespeople that we have admired. Bieler adds that stories are not more important than features and benefits; they help emphasize points and create feelings. Professionals, politicians and motivational speakers tell stories to start people thinking and make important points. Dynamic speakers such as Tony Robbins or Zig Ziglar can inspire even the most skeptical salespeople to consider making a change in their approach.

Successful salespeople have learned how to connect with their audience: their customer. In returning back to Salesmanship 101, for the customer, it’s “WIIFM” (What’s in it For Me). It’s all about selling benefits-the pricing issue comes later. Engaging people in their own minds, emotions and imagery through storytelling is something that even the greenest rookie out there can learn. Storytelling really is a strategic sophisticated sales tool. How many times have we been on the other end of a routine sales presentation and forgotten all or most of the data after we walk out, but remember the interesting anecdote that was told? People are going to forget the most trivial of data but are unlikely to forget a good story.

Next time, think about your presentation for whatever it is that you are trying to sell. This could be a tangible product to your customer or even something non-tangible such as a process that you are trying to sell to fellow employees. Instead of a boring, statistic-filled speech, perhaps think of a time how that item was used and incorporate that into the pitch. The virtual guarantee is that it will be refreshing and hopefully something that will be remembered by everyone. Spinning stories does not come naturally; just like not everyone can tell a joke properly. A good salesperson should be knowledgeable about their product but they also need to be engaging and foremost, trustworthy.

Strong leaders have always shared yarns to further engage people. The best storytellers can even poke fun at themselves at their own expense. Even President Ronald Reagan knew the power of laughter. He exploited his age and was nearly 70 when he became president. He left office at 78, the oldest man ever to serve in the office. Once, he joked about himself and repositioned a problem to an advantage with wit and humor: he said, “One of my favorite quotations about age comes from Thomas Jefferson. He said that we should never judge a president by his age, only by his work. And ever since he told me that, I’ve stopped worrying, and just to show you how youthful I am, I intend to campaign in all 13 states.”

Finding the right salesperson for your organization is not easy. There are no slam-dunks. Every distributor wants the top 5% person who can bring $50k GP with them. Every manufacturer and rep wants ~$3M in sales. Well, how about when those people aren’t available, like right now? Perhaps the personality and the ability to be engaging might be a great fit, especially if the competition is not using all of their resources. Remember the key word: connect. With all of the social networking going on right now, that is exactly what everyone is trying to do: connect to others. Your salespeople need to find their own way of doing just that.

Finding the right fit is tough and sometimes downright difficult. In utilizing an outside source to locate the winners, remember that price is only a small part of the entire staffing process, but the results are what matter most!

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