If you want to sell more, tell more tales. A good sales story stimulates the mind and engages people to conversation. If you are selling and people are not tuned to what you are saying, it's almost impossible to move them to action. Executives and world-class sellers tell stories to get people involved.
Stories are not more important than features and benefits; they help emphasize points and create feelings. Combining data and left-brain logic with emotional right-brain stories is a powerful and professional way to make dramatic sales points. Executives, politicians and professionals tell stories to start people thinking and make important points.
What sells people is how they see benefits working for them. Storytelling engages people in their own minds, emotions and imagery. Although decisions are largely formed with logic, data and information, decisions are mostly made with right-brain subjective emotions. Storytelling is a strategic sophisticated sales tool. We know that people are going to forget data and information but are unlikely to forget a good story.
President Ronald Reagan exploited his age and was nearly 70 when he became president. He left office at 78, the oldest man ever to serve in the office. He joked about himself and repositioned a problem to an advantage with wit and humor:
One of my favorite quotations about age comes from Thomas Jefferson. He said that we should never judge a president by his age, only by his work. And ever since he told me that, I've stopped worrying, and just to show you how youthful I am, I intend to campaign in all 13 states.
Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series has sold over 26,000,000 books since 1997 and has earned tens of millions of dollars. You may have read his books or seen him on TV. Three of his books, Rich Dad Poor Dad, Rich Dad's CASHFLOW Quadrant and Rich Dad's Guide to Investing, have been on the top 10 best-seller lists simultaneously in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the New York Times.
Much of the success of Rich Dad is not simply because Robert wrote a book. The message of becoming a better money manager, understanding taxes, dealing with expenses and using the power of leverage to create wealth created a story that challenged conventional thought: only high income leads to wealth.
Robert crafted a story of logic and emotion so he could repeat it virtually word for word in seminars and in radio, TV and newspaper interviews. He took a simple boring subject about money and made it visually and emotionally unique by telling a story.
The story of two fathers is an unusual message. Without that story, Rich Dad would likely have been like so many other books telling of money and investing. Robert is a gifted storyteller and his messages are motivating, entertaining and lead to his record-breaking success as an author. Robert is a master of sales.
What Are Stories?
Stories are images and eye candy for the brain. Words are ways of communicating the images in the mind. When we tell stories well we are actually imagining what happens in the story and using words to describe what we see.
Storytelling has a common problem. More salespeople would use stories if they could just remember how to tell the story.
It's the same problem in public speaking. Remembering words can stump people. People try to memorize things that are far too difficult to remember. Unless you have a photographic memory, remembering word for word is out of the question. That is why we invented computers, to keep track of lists and words.
To tell stories naturally, imagine what happens in the story. You can use the same words every time if that comes easily to you or you can use different words every time to tell a story. As long as you connect the words to the images in your mind, you can deliver a good story.
Three Keys to Storytelling
1. Learn The Story. Focus on the story and get the image in your mind. It is far easier to remember scenes or sequences of several images of things like sounds and pictures than the literal sequence of many hundreds of words. Remember, it's never the story, it's always the emotion that communicates the real meaning. Tell the story from your memory of how it made you feel.
2. Telling The Story. Relax, have fun and enjoy the story; it will be easier to tell. Imagine what is happening in the story. Use your natural style and expression.
3. Remembering The Story. You will not easily forget a good story. Images stay with you. However, words escape you. As long are you are confident that you do not have to remember word for word, the story will be easy to remember.
The Secrets Of Story Strategy
We tell stories in sales situations because it helps compel people to action. It is hard to make a computer chip exciting, a stack of lumber enthralling. That's why selling features and benefits are rarely enough to bring people to action. People make decisions in their minds, not from your mind. Draw pictures for people and reach them emotionally.
Use Stories As Sales Tools
1. Use stories to keep ideas in order and show ideas sequentially: First this happened and then that happened
2. Use stories to point out how this happened or that happened
3. Use stories to help others understand why things happen
4. Use stories to share information and to illustrate
5. Use stories to help illustrate principles that can be used in other situations
Stories Stimulate Even More Stories
Have you noticed people clamoring to tell you their story before you finish your story? When people listen to your story, they are actually visualizing their story.
Stories stimulate more stories and start conversation. You learn a lot from talking to people and when people tell you their stories, you learn even more about them.
If people don't talk back to you, you will have a problem selling them anything. Passive listeners may be thinking about dinner or picking up the dog from the veterinarian. Even worse, they may be thinking, "when is this presentation ever going to end?"
A client telling you a story is very likely the one to be telling you to write down orders. A storytelling client is an order waiting to happen! Remember that features and benefits are boring but people engaged in a story are emotionally connecting to you.
People see things through their paradigms. Be sure your story develops not simply from your point of view but a story that will stimulate a positive associate idea in others.
What sells people on your story is not your story, it's how they interpret the story for their own benefit or viewpoint. A story should not simply jump out of your mouth. It should be constructed to achieve your objective.
The key to crafting a story is the logical flow. It must have a beginning, middle and end. However, it needs a trigger to set off an emotion. The trigger can be something that will literally force the prospect to ask a question. A trigger can set off ideas of what to buy, when to buy and how to buy because your story is compelling.
How To Craft A Story
What will make you a great storyteller will be how well you craft stories to fit situations?
Ad-libbing stories without following an outline and strategic thinking may be hit-and-miss. Without a roadmap in your mind, a story told differently every time might have a different meaning every time.
You may be adding things that will get you off track, forgetting important ideas and getting yourself into twists that may alter the outcome. Critically, you may miss using an emotional trigger in the right place. You cannot expect the best results if you wing stories.
Develop a bank of sales stories that you can use to illustrate important points, scenarios, answer objections and show benefits though real-life situations or people and how others can meet their needs from your stories.
About the Author:
Brian J. Bieler is the author of The Sales Operator-Insider's Guide to Successful Selling, part of the Powerful Steps business book series. He is a 35 year sales, marketing, and management veteran of Mademoiselle Magazine, Women's Wear Daily, VP/General Manager of: WILF Baltimore, WORJ Orlando, KPOI Honolulu, WMZQ Washington DC, KOOL Phoenix, KTXQ Dallas, KFBK Radio Group Sacramento and President Viacom Radio Group New York.