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Sales Solutions
Tell Me a Story vol 4, issue #11_
November, 2007

Stories

Most of us can recall when, as children, we were captivated by a well-spun story. Sitting on our uncle's lap, or seated before a parent with our siblings or cousins, we were entertained, amused, awed - and maybe even inspired by it. It burned into our minds and our souls images, sounds, and feelings that - in some cases - have stayed with us for a lifetime. And often there was - unbeknownst to us at the time - an important life lesson embedded in that story.


What does this have to do with sales? Everything.


Think about it: If you were in the audience for another sales person's sales presentation, which kind would you rather listen to: one in which the presenter simply recited a list of features and benefits, facts and statistics, or one that included a stimulating, engaging, riveting, or inspiring story about how you helped another customer solve a problem similar to the one with which you've been wrestling, or achieved an outcome you're looking to achieve? Which would move you, and which would bore you? Which would be memorable, and which would be forgettable?


You get the idea.


It all boils down to what it is you're trying to accomplish with your sales presentation. Are you trying to educate and inform. Well, that's certainly part of it. And the facts and figures you present will accomplish that. But that's not enough. Educating and informing may be a necessary part of your presentation, but it's not sufficient for a sales presentation. A sales presentation is not a lecture; its goal is much more ambitious: to move a typically undecided, often skeptical, sometimes confrontational audience in the direction you want - towards a purchase of your product of service. Presentations that include stories are more memorable. They're more inspiring. They're motivational. And if told well, they're also actionable - they get your audience to do something.


And isn't that what you want?


So how can you use stories to make your sales presentation memorable? There are two elements to consider when preparing and delivering a story: What your story is about, and how you tell it. As indicated above, your story should vividly illustrate how you helped another customer solve a problem similar to the one with which your prospect has been wrestling. Have a handful of stories available for different prospect types, or industries, or for each of your solutions.


As for how to tell them, good stories - like all good presentations - have a strong opening that sets up the story, the body - or "meat" - of the story, and a satisfying conclusion. Begin (Open) by naming the customer (be sure to get clearance beforehand from the customer to use their name), and what they do. Then describe the situation - what was their problem or challenge? What were they trying to accomplish? Then get into the heart of the story (Body). Take them through the highlights of the customer's decision process - specifically, who else had they considered in addition to you - and why they chose you. This is your opportunity to create that strong emotional connection with your audience - because most likely that's exactly where they are in their evaluation process. People find it comforting to know that they're not the only ones who's faced a similar decision - and found a satisfactory solution (you). Lastly (Conclusion), what was the solution they bought and that you implemented, and what was the outcome? Here, use figures wherever possible, and weave in a direct customer quote if you can - both make your story more tangible - and more compelling.


Keep in mind that while this looks like a lot, the actual relaying of your story will likely take no more than 2-3 minutes. If, in rehearsing it, it takes any longer, trim it down. People like stories, but at the office - unlike at the theater - time is precious. Make your point, and move on.



Action Item:

Take a customer success and turn it into a 2-3 minute story, using the format described here. Rehearse and practice it on your colleagues (or significant other, or in and empty room with a tape recorder - whichever you're comfortable with). The key is to create and polish a compelling story you can embed in your presentation that will move your prospects towards closure.



Good Selling!


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