When to Use a Story
“Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale.”
– Hans Christian Andersen, Danish Author
"My biggest concern is that they won't apply what they learn in your class. They won't see how to use it in their every day work." My customer expressed a very real concern and it was holding back the approval of our training program proposal. I could have answered with a casual assurance, "That won't happen." or I could have given some data from other customers like, "Over 70% of learners from another customer were seen using the tools we taught them." I decided I wouldn't use either of those approaches. Read to the bottom to see how I responded.
Rather than responding to hesitation with data, consider using a story. Let's look at four instances in a sales process where you can use a story to create movement.
Picture this... you're at a networking event, meeting new people and somebody asks you, "So, what do you do?” If you answer with your "job title for your company name," you will be less than memorable. If you can engage the listener with an example of what you do, you’ve just become unique and memorable.
"Suppose you're a senior leader in a technical industry and you just sat through 4 hours of quarterly business reviews from 10 different systems engineers. Those presentations can be brutal, spending way too much time wandering around in the weeds. We help prevent that. We give tools and training to technical professionals so their messages are more clear and concise... and that makes everyone happier."
We’ve all been conditioned to question the person who starts off by saying, “Trust me.” We can’t just tell our prospective customer to trust us without giving them the creep factor. So the real question is... How do we develop rapport and trust? You share the right story.
Tell them about the time you recommended a competitor over your own company. Tell them about the time you made a mistake and how you owned it. Tell them how you internally fought your own management to get the customer what they wanted. Tell them how you walked away from a deal because it just wasn't the best fit.
The Sales Presentation
When you present your solution, the customer mentally takes your information and applies it to their own world. What will it look like, feel like, be like to engage with your products and services? The customer wants success but also wants to avoid risk. Consider sharing a story about another customer who had hesitancy at first but then with your delivery success, that customer became one of your biggest fans.
"Most of my customers have two concerns and neither one of them is price. The first is all about what their senior leadership team will think after they see the program. The second is whether or not they will be able to show any ROI on this investment. Both are extremely important and both have a great track record. Just last month we..."
At some point, objections always seem to find their way into the sales process. The customer needs help getting past a mental hurdle. As they begin to see themselves using your product or service, they also see a potential problem.
For decades, sales trainers have taught a simple structure to overcome objections called the Feel – Felt – Found model. Consider using a customer success story structured on this model.
"I understand what you're saying (they feel skeptical). I had another customer (reference, similar customer, big customer, known customer) who felt the same way before we delivered our services. After the first class we delivered, they found they were not only happy with the classroom results, but they loved our billing processes too BECAUSE... (list out the specifics of what they discovered and loved.)"
How did I respond to that customer?
Back to my selling situation. This person was concerned that the students wouldn't apply what they learned. This is what I said...
I was on a customer call yesterday with a former student who is now a senior leader in his organization. We were talking about communication training for his team. Before we ended the video chat call he turned around and pulled his iSpeak workbook off the shelf. He said, "This is my workbook from 12 years ago. I still remember the 3-Step message model. It has become a part of our culture for messaging and we still use it today." Our tools are simple to use and deliver a powerful impact that lasts for... at least 12 years. That's a powerful combination.
If you and your team need help with communication skills, we'd love to give them our powerful tools so they can use them now... and at least 12 years into their own future! 😉
Interested in learning more about using stories in business? Sign up for our free webinar coming in October.
3 Common Business Challenges You Can Overcome with a Story
It can be hard to see the value of story without the situation. We will cover 3 common ones.
Storytelling has been a bit of a buzz word in business over the past few years. While we teach a workshop on Corporate Storytelling, the one question that seems to surface the most at the beginning of our workshop is, “When would I ever use a story in my job?” In this webinar we will share three powerful business story models you can use to solve each of 3 business challenges. Know how to spot the business challenge and know which story tool to apply when you do!
Until next time...
Russ Peterson Jr.
Russ Peterson Jr. is the co-founder and President of iSpeak, Inc. – An award-winning professional development training company. Russ is a speaker, international trainer, and published author on Professional Sales Communication and Business Communication. He delivers workshops, keynotes, and personal communication coaching services to business professionals in the US and around the world. iSpeak helps people build stronger relationships and achieve more through better communication. You can connect with Russ directly through LinkedIn.