Tell a story versus pitch a product

Power of Storytelling in Sales

Power of Storytelling in Sales

One of the most common traps in selling is talking too soon and talking much about your product.

Now, if you travel back in time there was good reason why many sales reps fall into the “product pitch” trap.  They were constantly being taught the “101 tips for doing a perfect feature pitch.” They were just doing what they were taught.

Fortunately times have changed. Companies have completed the shift from a product-centric to a customer centric approach to selling.  Lessons about great scripted product pitches are best viewed as historical tales to be told around the campfire.

So, if it is all about customer value, what is the substitute for the product pitch script?  One answer to that question is – tell a story.

It is one thing to talk about a list of reasons why a customer should do business with you; it is another to be able to relate past success stories that bring that list to life. The latter is memorable and repeatable – the former is just another list of features.

So what are some tips for the art of storytelling in Sales?

  • Make it personal. If you want someone to care about making sustained behavior change, you have to individualize the story. The more personal you can make the link between the story and the desired behavior change, the greater your chances of success.
  • Keep it positive. A positive story narrative moves a customer along a path towards change. Interjecting negative outcomes that might result if the status quo is maintained are unlikely to be helpful.
  • Probe why a customer would make a change. Learn early on why a customer would change from one product to another and why they won’t. Weave this information into the story.
  • Stay on message. What is the primary goal that the customer wants to sustain over time? How can you craft the 
story so that it illustrates how working with you and your 
company can help them move closer to achieving 
their goal?

Storytelling allows you to translate your sales message from a feature pitch to a positive customer experience with business outcomes.  It is worth noting that great stories are not usually created on the spot.  Like most things that have high impact, they take time to develop and they require practice and feedback.

Here it is important to note that individual reps should not be the ones that have sole responsibility for creating the stories.  Marketing needs to help for a whole bunch of reasons.  This help is particularly important in companies where a lot of new reps are being hired.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum, LLC

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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