Improve your sales with storytelling
In order to communicate, you have to engage your clients or prospects. Hearing the words coming from your mouth isn’t enough anymore. There’s noise all around them, all day long.
So how do you really engage your clients or prospects today? It’s harder than ever when every product is a commodity. It’s all about differentiating yourself.
So how do you differentiate yourself and your business?
Differentiate your business by communicating with stories infused with emotion.
Our brains are hardwired to respond to the patterns of storytelling. It’s simply how we evolved. Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.
The emotions we feel listening to a story automatically connect us to the story, making it a powerful way to take in information.
So, if you want to engage a client in conversation, a well-placed story can really help drive through the message.
It doesn’t need to be a story about a plan your selling. It could be a personal, feel good story that sparks a positive emotion. It’s important to help get someone in a positive mind set, if you want to have a positive conversation.
It’s more than just the story. It’s the emotion that you can convey with the story that you’re after. That creates an emotional connection that people can identify with.
Why you should use storytelling in your conversations
We know how distracted people are these days. There is noise competing for our attention 24 hours a day, reducing our attention span more and more each year.
As of 2015, the average attention span was about 8 seconds. That was in 2015! If you want to make a connection with prospects, you need to do more than just get information in front of them.
Stories can affect the release of oxytocin into the blood stream. Oxytocin is the “empathy” hormone that helps us bond with other people.
Research shows that this type of brain activation can last for several days, explaining why good stories tend to stay with us.
Additionally, stories improve our ability to recall information embedded within them.
That's why you are much more likely to remember the story of the 3 little pigs you last heard 12 years ago, than the data relating to a Med Supp plan an agent told you about yesterday.
So, what are some ways you can use this info to your advantage as a salesperson?
Well, let’s say you have a Facebook page and you want to build an emotional connection with prospects and clients with social media. Well, you’ll need to share more than just Medicare Supplement related material to do that.
If you have a family, share a few select touching moments. Share photos of birthday parties, in addition to “business” information. Share pieces of your story.
When people see not only what you do for a living but some select moments in your life that match the values and integrity of someone they would like to do business with, you’ve made an important connection with them.
Select certain moments that tell people the story of who you are. Don’t forget about the conflict and friction you’ve had to navigate in your business. That’s what a story is all about.
Without Conflict or challenges to overcome, it’s not really a story, it’s just a bunch of facts. Facts are important but the challenges we overcome are the most fundamental part of our story.
Find stories other people can relate to. When you share something others can relate to, people feel like they’re part of a larger group.
If you want to be known for being a trusted advisor, with integrity and always willing to go the extra mile, then whatever you share on your social platforms about your company should echo that.
Let’s look at how GoPro uses storytelling to set their brand apart.
In this video they show a fireman saving a kitten. Now, what does GoPro have to do with saving animals? Nothing. The GoPro is just a camera. But in this case, they're telling the story of how it’s used by this individual fireman.
They could have made a commercial talking about resolution or durability of the camera, but instead they show the results of the product in use. No matter what product you sell, you can do the same.
As you can imagine people related to that emotional video in a powerful way, so much more than a more traditional video talking about the product.
That emotional reaction is now tied to GoPro in those peoples eyes.
Or how about this commercial from Travelers Insurance?
The commercial shows a family hardware store with a young girl helping her father in the store, when a fire destroys their shop.
They rebuild (with the help of Travelers, of course) and we fast forward to the young girl as a grown woman, and her son helping her in the shop.
They're able to create an emotional connection, showing how challenges a client may face can be overcome by the service or product you provide.
Adults can identify with the emotion that comes from having a child helping their parents. Or the challenges a fire may bring.
It brings out an emotion of empathy, and of course has a cute factor. In this case the cute factor is with a child, rather than a kitten in the GoPro video.
After watching the story, the emotion they felt is now connected to Travelers Insurance.
I know, you don’t have the budget either of these companies have. But you don’t have to have a big budget to understand what they’re doing and steal their thunder.
You don’t have to make a complicated commercial. Keep it simple.
Post a picture with a story that resonates in a similar way. How have some of your clients been helped by the services you’ve provided for them?
Maybe post a photo of you and one of your clients? Explain the challenges they faced and how the product you connected them with helped them overcome those challenges.
Talk about the benefits, the value your products will bring to those who eventually may use them.
Too many people lead with statistics. Numbers are cold and easily forgotten.
Stories are inherently more interesting than facts, and imbue the information with emotion that makes it stick better in your memory.
So, why do stories work so well?
1. Stories are memorable
2. Stories can reveal human emotion
3. Storytelling demonstrates empathy
4. Stories feature the customer(s)
5. Stories express your brands personality
6. Stories encourage action
So, how do you craft an effective story for sales?
Start with this question.
How do the products you sell effect people at an emotional level?
Gather that information and turn it into a story to tell.
Firstly, don’t overcomplicate it, it can be a simple process, following a couple of tried and true simple story structures.
1. The Three-Act Structure
Setup — Set the scene and introduce the character(s).
Confrontation or “Rising action” — Present a problem and build up the tension.
Resolution — Resolve the problem
The three-act structure is one of the oldest and most straightforward storytelling formulas. You might recognize this structure in many of the stories you come across.
In the first act, set the stage and introduce the character(a client) of the story. In the second act, present a problem faced by the character and build up the tension. In the third act, deliver the climax of the story by resolving the problem (with your product or service of course).
2. Before – After – Bridge
Before — Describe a person’s life with Problem X.
After — Imagine what it’d be like having Problem X solved.
Bridge — Here’s how to get there.(Your Product or Service)
This is an even easier formula to apply to sales. You’ll find it being used a lot in articles, stories, and marketing campaigns all over the internet.
Set the stage of a problem that your target audience is likely to experience — a problem that your company solves. Describe life where that problem didn’t exist. Explain how to get there or present the solution. (i.e. your product or service).
Show you care about your clients
There is no way to fake this. It’s a big part of your story that your clients need to feel.
If you want to make an emotional connection with your clients, You need to actually care about your clients.
Ask questions out of sincere caring about other people and they will feel that. Don’t let it be all about business.
Asking about their pain points shows that you not only care but you’re trying to find a solution for their pain or problem.
Let them tell you their story, whatever that might be, and respond kindly to it. Don’t get caught up thinking about what you’re going to say next, like most salespeople. Actively listen to your clients, and respond appropriately.
When a client gives personal information, take notes. The next time you talk to them, ask how their grandchild’s band competition went. Ask how their daughter is feeling after her recent surgery. Remind them next time you see them that you were really listening.
Personalization is everything. Let them know you aren’t just paying lip service.
People will forget the facts you tell them before you even end your meeting. But they’ll most likely remember the stories you told, and how you made them feel.
Remember, your clients don’t want to buy from you or hire you for anything. They just want someone they trust to give them a solution to their problem.
Everything you present to them should be structured in a way that reflects that.
Transform positive customer experiences into a story.
Customer wins are the fuel for your stories. They don’t have to be complicated. Use the simple story telling structures we discussed above.
You want to think of a time you had a similar experience helping someone through that situation. Tell an authentic story with a little buffer in front of it, like:
I understand how you feel. I had a client last month who… (describe their problem, how you solved it, and how it made them feel.)
Think of it as a bridge that assures your prospect you hear their concerns and you also know how to help them with their situation.
Don’t just tell them how you helped your client, describe how they felt. Were they relieved after you found them a less expensive plan with greater coverage? Were they grateful for your help?
You’re setting the stage on what your client can expect when working with you.
A client that has a story of how they used the coverage that you helped provide for them can be a powerful story that you can share.
Ask to use their story as an example of a positive experience they had after working with you. That story is one of the most powerful examples of social proof you could hope to have.
That story will help other prospects understand how you could help them and it proves the quality of service you can provide.
Nothing works better than telling a good old-fashioned story to stir the emotions, get buy-in, or just lighten the mood.
Highlight the journey your company has been on and share with your audience the common challenges, successes and failures. This will make your audience engage with your experience on an emotional basis.
Share customer experiences on social media, and share stories of your employees that reflect your company culture.
focus on being authentic, relevant, open, and honest. You don’t want your business to be just a product or service provider, but a vision that your audience believes in and subscribes to.
Share relatable stories your audience can connect with, focusing on their pain point and what you can do differently to solve it.
The strongest stories tap into people’s emotions, genuinely connect with them, and help them believe in a business and what it stands for.
It’s in our nature to love stories. Make it your mission to share your stories and connect to your audience.
You’ll be sure to get more traction than if you just had random conversations where you tried to fit each prospect for a new product.
We hope this helps, and can't wait to see how you craft your story.
Good luck and happy selling.