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Are Your Sales People Great Storytellers?

  • by Elay Cohen
  • February 2, 2013

Are Your Sales People Great Storytellers?

Story telling is a great way to establish credibility with
customers and prospects.  The best sales
people are the best storytellers.  A
great storyteller can capture the imagination of a customer and take them to a
place that will solve all of their problems.

To be a great storyteller means being able to know a story,
understand it, internalize it and then be able to retell it in his or her own
words.  That’s the magic of storytelling.

Great stories are emotional and memorable.  Great storytellers avoid pitching the
features of their products and services. Stories that drive action focus on real business problems
and business value.  Stories help sales
people overcome objections, build confidence and close business.  Compelling stories can also uncover and drive compelling
events.

Consider watching Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce 2012 keynote address to experience waves of customer storytelling layered with actual customer testimonials.

On a personal note, I use storytelling in every personal and business conversation. One day I was meeting with a president of a high technology company.  The goal of the meeting was to share some
best practices and examples of how other high technology companies were using Salesforce.com.  When we met with the customer, the president asked the very direct question of me:
“Tell me a story of how a company like mine is using Salesforce.com and
realizing value.”

What followed was a fifteen story without using any slides
or demonstrations.  You can imagine that my
answer started like this:  “Let me tell you a
story of a very similar company to yours….” At the end of the “story” the president uttered these words to his team: “I want that now.”  A new compelling event was born.

Here are the simple steps I would recommend following when
you prepare to tell a compelling customer reference story to your customer or prospect:

  • Step 1:  Pick a real company
    and select a main character to anchor your story. Your character can be an
    executive or it can be a metaphor for a type of person in a job function.
  • Step 2:  Give a glimpse into
    what their world looks like today after they have gone through their
    transformation.  How is their business
    operating today?  Tease your audience
    with a taste of what their world could look like.
  • Step 3:  Go back in time and
    tell the story of pain.  What challenges
    existed for this company and this executive?
    What would have happened if action was not taken?
  • Step 4: Get very specific about the benefits and results.  Share quantifiable results but also look for
    the emotional benefits.
  • Step 5:  Tell the story
    without any visual aids.  Tell the story
    from the heart.

Is storytelling part of your sales process and your sales values?  Start first by documenting the best stories and then training your teams on storytelling.  The more hands on your training can be the greater the likelihood it will be integrated with your sales people’s DNA.  Creating a competition where your sales teams tell stories to each other and then vote a winner is a great way to exercise the storytelling muscle.

 

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About the Author
Elay Cohen

Elay Cohen

Elay Cohen is the author of SalesHood: How Winning Sales Managers Inspire Sales Teams to Succeed and the co-founder of SalesHood, a SaaS sales enablement platform and community for sales professionals. Elay is the former Senior Vice President of Sales Productivity at Salesforce. Recognized as the company's "2011 Top Executive", and credited for creating and executing all of Salesforce's sales productivity programs that accelerated its growth from $300M to $3B+ in revenue. The sales training and sales support innovations delivered over these years by Elay and his team to thousands of sales reps resulted in unprecedented hypergrowth. He also created the Partner Relationship Management (PRM) category.

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