Do prospects prefer to hear stats or stories from their sales reps?
Trick question! They like to hear both.
But throwing a bunch of stats at a prospect with no context isn’t going to help your reps move the buying process along. For that, they need to tell a compelling story.
Storytelling in sales can seem vague and undefined. But in reality, it’s just following these simple steps:
- Understanding what the prospect (both individual and organization) wants to achieve
- Finding the obstacles that keep them from getting there
- Positioning your product as the solution to help them bridge the gap
Stats help provide the supporting information in each of these steps. Without the framework, however, the most well-researched stats in the world won’t make contextual sense.
In this article, we’re going to walk through how to improve your rep’s ability to deploy storytelling techniques in their sales calls.
What Do Sales Stories Look Like?
When you think about the stories that we all know and love, they all follow the same pattern:
- The hero has an objective they want to achieve.
- There’s an obstacle preventing them from achieving that obstacle.
- They overcome the obstacle and achieve the objective.
Let’s look at some famous examples that we all know and love:
- In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker wants to destroy the Death Star, but he has to learn how to use the Force in order to do it
- In Ocean’s Eleven, George Clooney and Brad Pitt have a heist to complete, but high security stands in the wayIn Saving Private Ryan, the unit has to go behind enemy lines to (spoiler alert!) save Private Ryan, but the enemy is keeping them from completing the rescue
- In Saving Private Ryan, the unit has to go behind enemy lines to (spoiler alert!) save Private Ryan, but the enemy is keeping them from completing the rescue
Although all of these stories are in completely different genres and have different plot archetypes, they still follow the objective-obstacle-overcome pattern.
So how exactly does that play into storytelling in sales?
When your reps understand that pattern, they can illuminate different aspects of that pattern in their sales calls:
- Identify the prospect’s main business objective and get them to agree that it’s their top priority
- Help to illustrate what happens if they don’t meet that objective—make that pain top of mind
- Describe the obstacles to achieving that objective
- Walk through the alternative solutions to overcoming those obstacles and why they don’t work
- Position your product as the best of all possible solutions
- Help the prospect visualize themselves their “victory moment” — when they’ve overcome the obstacle and are the hero of their organization
The role of stats in sales stories.
So where do stats come in? They come in at every stage of the storytelling process.
Here are a few examples of how reps can use stats to support their stories:
- X% of companies recognize that ABC is an important objective to achieve
- Y% of companies who don’t overcome this obstacle end up failing
- Z% of companies struggle to overcome the obstacle using DEF solutions
Instead of throwing a bunch of stats at the prospect without context, your reps should use them to support the story, making it more tangible and concrete.
The biggest sales storytelling mistake.
A word of warning here: Many sales organizations make the mistake of making themselves the hero of the story. If you do that, you’ll come across as self-centered and arrogant, and turn off prospects.
Instead, make the prospect the hero of the story, and your solution as the tool that enables them to overcome their obstacle. This will be sure to engage and excite them, which will make you more likely to close a deal.
4 Tips For Better Storytelling in Sales
Now that we’ve spent some time going back and forth between stats and story, let’s run down four actionable tips that your reps can implement in their storytelling.
You can incorporate these stories into every aspect of your sales process:
- Cold calls
- Discovery calls
- Sales presentations
- Follow-up emails
- Email templates & phone scripts
- Marketing materials
- Case studies
1. Identify the prospect’s top objective & obstacle.
If you get the objective and obstacle wrong, you won’t tell the story in a way that compels the prospect.
There are a number of ways to gather this key piece of information:
- Do your homework—check out their website and company social media to get a grasp on what the company does
- Talk to other trusted people in the sector and see if they have any insights
- Structure your discovery calls to get the prospect to tell you what those objectives and obstacles are
Keep in mind that most B2B prospects have two objectives:
- The overall objective of the company
- Their personal objectives as a member of the team
The best sales reps find a way to weave both of them into the narrative.
2. Put the good stuff at the beginning.
Every great story has a twist at the end—where the most important information is revealed and the entire thing makes sense.
Unfortunately, you can’t do this in sales.
People are busy, overwhelmed, and a little bit cynical. You don’t have two hours to convince them of your value prop. In fact, you’re lucky if you have two minutes.
So make sure that you put the most interesting bits as early as possible in every call. That way, you’ll get their buy-in and permission to continue on.
3. Personalize the story to the prospect.
Although your prospects will probably be very similar in a lot of ways, they’re not all the same. There will be different nuances depending on the size of their business, their specific product and the customers they serve, and their industry or sector.
So reps shouldn’t go into the conversation with a canned story. They should take the time to learn about the prospect through research and discovery, and use those insights to guide the conversation in an organic, personal, and human way.
One great way to personalize the story is to look up any recent news on the company. If they’ve hired a new executive or announced a merger, this can help the rep position the story to the specific situation.
4. Include real-world customer examples.
One of the great things about any story is that the main character rarely goes on the journey alone. Whether they have a sidekick, love interest, or wise mentor, someone is always there to help and guide them along the way.
In your reps’ sales stories, they can use other customers and their stories to help the prospect realize: they’re not alone in their struggles.
This can help them realize that investing in your product is a good business decision. And if you have some big name customers with a good reputation in the industry, the peer pressure could even drive them to buy.
Storytelling in sales is one of the hardest things to teach a rep how to do. And it’s even harder to measure—that is, if you don’t have the right tools.
One of the great things about ExecVision’s coaching intelligence platform is that you can input the key questions and statements that indicate whether a rep is grasping the customer story. Then, we can alert you, the coach, to those insights so you can see which reps need to improve.
To learn more about how ExecVision can help you tailor your coaching approach, click here to schedule a one-on-one demo.