Office Avengers: Using Storytelling in Sales Training
June 7, 2018
“Avengers: Infinity War,” the culmination of the last decade of Marvel superhero movies, came out last month and broke multiple box office records. Yes, people came for the special effects and the action, but the reason the “Avengers” movies have been so popular arguably comes down to one low-tech, ancient factor: storytelling. The films have done a great job of engaging audiences by telling multiple stories, tied together by a long arc.
The movies are engaging and memorable because they connect with the viewer visually, audibly and emotionally. That level of engagement and retention is a goal of all training leaders. So what can we learn from Marvel? When we engage with a story, whether it’s in a movie, a book or other format, our brains respond as if they were actually experiencing what’s happening in the story. That’s why storytelling is such a powerful learning tool – it’s an easier form of “learning by doing.”
SalesHood, a sales enablement and productivity platform, recently introduced a story-sharing component to the platform that sources and curates video stories from employees, partners and customers. Kelly Frey, vice president of marketing and customer success, says SalesHood developed SalesHood Stories partly as a result of customer feedback and partly because, “At SalesHood, we’ve always believed in the power of sharing stories.” Especially since many of SalesHood’s customers have high-growth, high-turnover sales teams, usually at large enterprises in regulated industries like health care and finance, the ability to easily share content with each other or with customers is important.
One way Frey recommends using storytelling is by having reps share a short “win story” video every time they close a deal. Prompt them with three to five questions they can answer quickly on their cell phone or laptop, sharing who the customer was, what the customer bought and how they “won” the customer’s business. Even new employees can teach others, perhaps by creating a video where they share something they’re excited about after orientation. Crowdsourcing stories in this way, Frey says, “democratizes content development and story-sharing throughout the organization, so you see this much more rapid response and feedback mechanism.”
For training and sales leaders, the first step in integrating video storytelling into sales training is, like with any other program, to establish objectives. Learning objectives, wrote Heide Abelli, senior vice president of content product management at Skillsoft in a recent white paper, “should be limited to avoid over-taxing both the storyline and the learner. Simple, well-crafted objectives let the learner absorb the key content the learning is intended to impart without becoming overwhelmed, and they allow the narrative to remain focused and to unfold naturally.”
After all, Marvel didn’t introduce the entire Avengers team in its first film. We wouldn’t have remembered any of the characters, because we wouldn’t have been able to connect to any of them. Keep it simple to make it effective.
Once videos are created, then, it’s the role of the training and sales managers to curate the video content, along with other enablement and training content. Frey says artificial intelligence can help by tagging content with keywords to help sales reps search for information.
Frey says the effectiveness of stories can be seen in improved metrics like pipeline achievement, deal velocity, deal size and deal margin. The more videos employees watch, Frey says, the more likely they are to meet their goals. Time to productivity is also a key metric; new hires “can start to be successful faster in the organization the earlier they can start to share stories” with prospects. They also learn the culture faster because they’re getting messages that share best practices on pitching the company and its products or services, watch videos from different employees so they get to know the other people on their team, and they learn who they can go to for different questions. In short, video results in “much more rapid cultural assimilation within the organization.”
While it’s not, perhaps, a quantifiable metric, when employees can create and share stories through video, the organization starts to develop a learning culture. “Everybody in the organization can start to participate and share in stories that matter to them,” says Frey. When managers especially embrace the opportunity to both teach and learn through stories, “it just creates a self-perpetuating culture of learning and, really, a culture of success and winning as well.” In an infinite war for customers and employees, that culture will be key to a sales team of superheroes.