Stories are connection makers. They grab attention and are more easily remembered than any rational fact. But this is not news, many people know that stories are fantastic conduits.
You know people who tell good stories, you’ve spent the evening listening to good stories, and you remember that commercial that told a good story; and you will definitely remember a story that led you to purchase something.
Yet, knowing about storytelling is not the same as knowing how to tell a story,and this is why nearly all companies embrace learning programs that include storytelling skills.
If you share the need to improve your connections with your customer through storytelling, we’d like to offer you a storytelling playbook to help you hone your storytelling technique, starting today.
Salespeople are so focused on closing a deal that they often forget the most fundamental rule of good storytelling: know your audience. No story is universal, they all must get tailored to the listener. Start crafting the perfect story by asking good questions.
Some key information to gather:
Always ask for more information on vague answers, and think about what information you’re not hearing.
Ask questions that dig underneath the surface. It’s important to learn about your client’s emotions and how they relate to the world. Don’t focus only on the facts. This will help guide the entire sales process and storyline (and give you tools for managing possible objections down the line!)
Here’s a great example of how to formulate better questions:
Instead of asking:
"What are you looking for?"
"What made you think to come into Moncler today?”
Notice how the second question gives space for the customer to elaborate, and will be able to extract more emotional information? The first one has a straightforward information-approach.
The goal is to find out how to tell the right story to trigger an emotional response, the action that drives most consumers’ decisions.
Extracting the right information and knowing which points you want to hit on are the base to a great story. But, without the fundamentals of how to effectively use this information, a story will fall flat.
There are many different storytelling frameworks, but here are 3 principles that remain universal:
A main character gives a story focus and personality. The way the character changes during the story is what provides the narrative with a progressive development. The character that one can choose may be someone who was inspired by the brand, a former customer, or the current client.
Character definition is important to creating a compelling hero for the story. In order to gain buy-in, the listener has to relate to the main character. The client must see elements of him or herself within the protagonist. Here, think of the clients’ pain points, cultural attitudes, and personal goals.
Context is the frame of reference for the story, and can be expressed both internally and externally.
Internal context refers to the setting in which the main character in the story lives. What is the background, mood, and feel of the place where this story takes place? Are we on vacation? In a city? At work? What are the flaws and merits of the main character’s reality?
External context deals with the actual place where this story is being told. Where are the storyteller and the audience? What is the relationship like between these two? How one tailors a story to fit the environment can make a big difference. Remember, the brain processes visuals much faster than words. If you have a physical object ready that relates to the story, you’ll capture even more attention.
The reason stories make an impact is because of conflict. It’s the touch of excitement that charges emotion, makes a listener invest in a story, and then latch on to hear how it finishes. If stories are vehicles, conflict is the fuel.
Sweet stories without conflict often end up as tinsel: singular strands without any inherent power. In order to have a story be remembered, it’s always important to include a point of conflict. If the story seems to lack one, the storyteller should ask him or herself, what moved the protagonist to be in this particular situation? Conflict just like context must be realistic and the listeners must be able to relate to the emotional appeal.
Many stories fall flat because they’re too long or divergent. The most important way to keep a good rhythm is to stay focused on why the story is being told. It’s important to remember that the story is for the listener, not the storyteller.
Narrow the scope of your story. Choose a central message, and make sure that the story focuses around that. Characters, context and conflict all need to get wound into one to create a singular, comprehensive narrative. You must have a definite idea of what you’re building toward.
Rhythm is fundamental. Make sure to not harp on minor details longer than needed, and to accentuate the most important emotional curves. It’s easy to get carried away. It’s important to remember that the story is for the listener, not the storyteller.
Trust that your audience will be able to follow your story, and don’t overwhelm them with unnecessary backstory or tangential plot points. Make sure to engage the listener in order to feed off body language. A good story should never be told the same way, twice.
Choose the final words carefully. Always remember that the story has a purpose, and the final words need to play into that.
Stories are fantastic, but they are tools used to enhance a sales presentation, not to become one. The way you craft your story must have sense in the overall sales narrative that is being created.
Don’t just dump your stories and run. Infuse them into your conversation in ways that lead toward a sale.
Even the best stand-up comedians spend months testing new material to see how it lands. Some stories are able to create powerful connections, many can fall flat. The good news is that success lives in the details, which we can always work on.
When trying out new stories, make sure to observe the clients. If engaged, there will be eye contact, their bodies will be shifted toward you, and there will be verbal cues of encouragement. Disinterest is often shown by limited responses, shifting attention and wandering eyeballs.
Telling a story that falls flat isn’t a great feeling, but smart failing is inherent in growth. To improve the stories, go back to the 3 fundamentals of storytelling and start to tweak. Perhaps the character needs to be better defined, or the conflict was too unrealistic? Maybe there should have been more focus on intrinsic context.
Practice to get better, but not to memorize. Compelling stories thrive when they feel spontaneous. In order to become more flexible with tailoring details to different situations, make sure you have the base story down pat.
Adding storytelling into sales presentations can feel intimidating at first. Afterall, it means to put your own personality on the line, and see how well you can engage people. Yet, that’s exactly why it’s so effective.
Many salespeople hide behind straightforward approaches filled with information. That’s a bad confort zone to live in. Selling with facts is less effective, but it also inherently puts up an emotional relationship barrier.
Storytelling in sales allows associates to connect with prospects on a human level, and vividly illustrate a point. Stories are memorable and relatable, and adding them to the sales process is an effective way to address difficult or challenging issues.
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