– Part 1 of The Sales Storyteller Series
I am a storyteller from way back. As a kid, I would make up invisible friends and far-off magical kingdoms (which I ruled, of course) and then tell all these crazy stories about them to anyone who would listen. I would put on shows for my parents, direct my unfortunate siblings in holiday plays, and write nonsense narratives down on pages stapled together to look like books. In short, storytelling is part of who I am.
But do you want to know a secret?
Storytelling is part of who you are too. Every day we tell stories to engage with others, using this vital skill to reach out and ask the people around us to like and accept us. It is how we communicate, build relationships, and yes, sell, in our everyday lives.
In this new digitized age, stories are more important than ever before. Connecting, as we all know, is a click away, but storytelling is what makes connecting worthwhile. The value we derive from those connections and what making those connections says about who we are as individuals is how we define ourselves. This is how we tell our story to the world.
In her book, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, marketing expert Shama Kabani argues that the main reason we throngs of people flock to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook is to show the world who we are as individuals. Like a bumper sticker on our car or the t-shirt showcasing our favorite cause, we fundamentally crave the ability to share our identity, who we are and what we believe in, with the world. If you look at anyone’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, or Pintrest board, you can quickly see how right she is.
The challenge we now face is in telling our stories consciously and purposefully so that our voices are heard. I don’t mean standing out in a crowd of millions, though that is certainly a goal you can have; I mean adequately conveying your message even to the person standing right in front of you or on the other end of an email or tweet. After all, we are selling with every story we tell. In essence, I am talking about engaging with an audience, any audience, through sales storytelling.
In sales, the best professionals don’t simply tell customers about a product or service, touting its wonderful features, explaining why it is so great. The truly knowledgeable sales person will tell the customer a story about themselves that resonates with a real problem they are experiencing and demonstrates how the problem could be solved with their product or service. Telling the customer their own story, making that connection with them on a deeper, personal level, and using that connection to make the customer’s life easier, is the very heart of sales storytelling. And, whether you are in sales or not, we do it every day.
Let’s say you’re a teenager who gets caught trying to sneak the car out past curfew. What do you tell your angry parent? Maybe you confess. You really wanted to go to that party tonight, even though it’s a school night, because your crush will be there. Maybe you lie. Maybe you tell a story about needing to put gas in the car so that you aren’t late for school the next morning. Either way, you’re using storytelling to make your case.
Now, I’m not advocating for teenaged joy riding, but I think many of us have found ourselves in a situation like that from time to time. It is an extreme example of how storytelling elevates our exchanges. Without it, every conversation would be flat, two-dimensional, and boring.
How important would this same interaction be if it were not with your parents but a key client? In this scenario you weren’t being sneaky, of course, but there has been a miscommunication and the customer feels cheated in some way. Or, you are in the middle of navigating a tricky close and you are challenged by the customer on some detail they don’t understand.
We will do a deep dive into using sales storytelling for objection handling later on in this series, but you can see the benefit of being able to use this skill to communicate more effectively and strengthen the bond you have with your customers more and more with every interaction, whether it starts out good or bad.
So, now that we’ve defined sales storytelling and why it matters, are you ready to dig in and discover what it takes to be a great storyteller? Join me on February 18th for part two of the sales storyteller series on the basic elements of a good story.
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