Imagine you see two advertisements for tropical vacations.
The first reels off numerous statistics about the depth of the swimming pool, the temperature of the water, and the average number of daylight hours.
The second describes what it’s like for you, personally, to feel the sand beneath your feet and unwind with a mojito while the waves gently lap the shore.
Chances are, option two sounds more compelling. Why? Because we love to hear a story that places us at the center of the narrative. Sales storytelling is the difference between a narrative that misses the mark and a narrative that closes the deal.
Sales storytelling is all about humanizing your product, discussing it in terms that relate to the specific challenges and goals of your prospects.
As the above example demonstrates, sales storytelling is the difference between listing the generic features and benefits of your solution, and crafting an engaging narrative that helps people understand exactly why they need your product.
Clearly, to do that, you need a deep understanding of your prospects. It’s impossible to craft a compelling story geared toward the requirements of your potential customers if all you know about them is their name, email address, and job title.
Chances are, you hate being sold to, and your prospects are no different. It feels awkward and pushy, and leaves us feeling desperate to close our inbox or hang up the phone.
On the other hand, everyone loves a good story. They’re emotive and attention-grabbing; once we hear the start, we’re desperate to know how it all plays out.
That’s why some of the most successful salespeople don’t really “sell” in a traditional sense. They make the sales experience all about the customer and their needs, only referencing the product in the context of helping the buyer overcome a specific challenge.
Again, let’s throw back to the earlier example of booking a vacation.
Most people would struggle to retain a big list of numbers focusing on the “nuts and bolts” of the holiday – things like the average temperature and the size of the pool. Far more would be able to instantly recall the central theme of a narrative crafted around their personal experience of relaxing in an idyllic, tropical resort.
Or, to give a different example, try to remember the last car advert you saw. Did it talk up the vehicle’s engine size, top speed, and fuel consumption? Or did it focus on how great it feels to drive? Probably the second one.
Why? Because sales storytelling forges a meaningful connection between people and ideas in a way that cold, hard numbers simply can’t.
The average product demo feels like a one-way street. “We help our X million customers save $Y million and Z million hours of productivity.”
Alongside all the numbers, there’s typically a big focus on functionality. You might expect to hear endless information about integrations, features, and use cases.
What those demos often lack is an engaging narrative. They don’t tell a story, which means they’re simply not as effective as they could be.
Your demo presentation should be no longer than about 30 minutes. Use your time wisely by focusing on a story that centers on your prospect and allows you to reference your solution’s unique selling points.
We’ve established that sales storytelling is important. But how does it actually work in practice? Follow these six tips to help you tell an engaging story each and every time.
Plenty of writers recommend nailing the ending before anything else. Use their advice to inform your sales pitches and demos by honing in on the one key takeaway you want your prospect to remember when the meeting is over. It could be how your product:
In other words, your takeaway is the reason people should care about your story. Once you’ve defined it, the rest of the sales storytelling process becomes much simpler.
Too many companies cast themselves as the main character in their own narrative.
But in the world of sales, your organization isn’t the hero. At best, it’s a supporting character. The focus absolutely needs to be on your prospect.
Tell their story, describing the specific challenges they face, how those challenges make them feel, and the consequences of not finding a solution. Only at that point should you introduce your product, discussing the specific ways it helps the prospect in question.
If a feature or benefit isn’t relevant to an individual prospect, it shouldn’t be part of the narrative.
Numbers on their own aren’t an effective way to sell a product – they’re too hard to retain and don’t make enough impact.
However, that’s not to say data, statistics, and factual statements can’t play a key role in your product demos and pitches. You just need to find a way to integrate them into the story you’re telling.
That’s why a deep understanding of your product is essential to telling an engaging story. It enables you to match features and benefits with the real-world challenges facing your prospect.
Stories are designed to hook in the audience and make them desperate to find out what happens next. To do that, they use a range of tactics – but two of the most effective are conflict and suspense.
Conflict creates an emotional buy-in to the narrative, while suspense compels people to keep listening. If a problem is too easy to solve, or if the payoff isn’t impactful enough, you won’t generate feelings of conflict or suspense, and your story won’t hit home.
Importantly, the conflict and suspense within your narrative should be focused on your prospect. Describe a personal battle they need to overcome, and make it clear that you’re the only one who can offer a solution.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of personalization in sales, but statistics do it some justice. For instance, did you know that 80% of customers say they’re more likely to buy from brands that provide personalized experiences?
Again, this speaks to the value of placing your prospect at the center of the story. Use information about the challenges they’re facing, plus experiences from existing clients with similar business goals, to make your narrative feel like it was created specifically for them.
Writing an engaging story positioned around your prospect and how your product can help them is only one part of the battle. Once you’ve done that, you still need to nail the delivery, otherwise all the impact will be lost.
Your goal here isn’t simply to memorize and recite it like a script. Rather, you should know your story inside and out so you can confidently and seamlessly integrate it into a broader sales pitch or demo meeting.
Sales storytelling isn’t easy. It’s far simpler to stick with the same old boring approach of discussing identical features and functionality in every product demo.
But that’s precisely why it can give you the edge. If you craft a memorable, impactful story that truly engages your prospect, you’ll stand out a mile above all the other generic pitches they hear.