Written by Sean McPheat |
‘Let me tell you a story…”
I remember my mum using those words many times, and it used to grab my attention as I was whisked away into far-off lands, awed by mythical creatures and fairy-tale events. I was hooked on those stories, as they helped to generate ideas for play and increased my creative thinking skills.
Stories are the essence of many cultures, and most of us never grow out of the wonderment that stories provoke.
Why is this? Why do stories evoke such a feeling of creativity within us, even as adults?
I think it’s because they show a different side to life, expanding our experiences and enabling us to see things from different perspectives. They open up new opportunities and allow us to identify different directions, as we absorb new ideas and rationale into our expanded font of knowledge.
Expanding this into our role in sales, is it possible that stories, metaphors and analogies could have the same effect on prospects?
Well, just think about it. When someone you know expands on a point by detailing examples of what they mean, doesn’t it clarify ideas? Doesn’t it bring theory to life, taking them on a journey through possibilities that hadn’t manifested themselves before?
It can be the same when you’re with your prospect.
Of course, I’m not talking about fairy stories or silly stories that have no relevance. No, the stories I’m referring to are with reference to the prospect’s business, creating ideas on how your products and services can be utilised by their company.
You do this by finding what the connections are between your prospect’s situation and how you helped other similar companies in similar situations. Then you describe how that company changed their operations and their results by the use of your services.
You do this by describing how the changes took place and what they specifically did to gain the better results. This isn’t done in a matter-of-fact way, going through simple facts and figures; that would be sterile and boring.
You discuss how they faced similar problems, the problems escalating as time went by. The situation seemed difficult to get over, as they contemplated the end results if changes didn’t materialise. As they were wondering what to do, their research determined three or four choices. They needed help in decided which of these choices would be best for them.
Your presentation helped them to see how your products would not only help them now but also over the next few years. You described how their results would improve, slowly at first, then gather pace. Now, having used your products for some time, they have seen results turn round, meaning they can invest in future products and services that hadn’t been on their agenda before.
This opens your current prospect’s eyes to different possibilities, creating opportunities for them that hadn’t been seen before. Rather than the story being a simple testimonial to how you helped other companies, you add colour and vision to it, bringing a sense of extra value to your offerings that a basic statement of facts could never do.
Stories can bring alive results that would be staid and wooden on paper. They can add context and cultural awareness to ordinary references, and allow your prospects to use their imagination and see how their businesses could go on the same journeys that companies similar to their have enjoyed.
Think how you could turn your successful interventions into stories that would make new prospects’ mouths water, as you expand on the direction their businesses could take in the future. Not only does this make you a good salesperson to do business with; it also turns you into an interesting and informative person that your customers will turn to for guidance and advice.
Tell me your stories. Enthral me. I’m still a kid at heart, and would love to be whisked away again!
Originally published: 19 February, 2013