Storytelling in sales is a skill—that when used correctly—can be an incredibly powerful way to convince your prospects of the value of your solution.
As humans, it’s in our nature to be drawn to stories. A good story grabs our attention, helps us visualize and understand information, and connects us to both the storyteller and the characters within the story.
In a selling situation, a well-timed and well-delivered story can help the prospect visualize how your product or service will solve their challenge or make their life easier. A great story can make a presentation compelling enough for people to act.
But in order for storytelling to be truly effective in business, your salespeople have to nail both the timing and the delivery.
Here are 7 tips for using storytelling in sales presentations.
1. Give your story structure
A basic story has 3 main parts: a beginning, where the listener is introduced to the hero; a middle, where the hero encounters a challenge or roadblock; and an end, where the hero overcomes the challenge and emerges transformed. For a selling application, the hero of your sales reps’ story will likely be a client, and your product or service will solve the challenge the hero faces. Any story your salespeople use in their presentations should have a solid beginning, middle, and end to ensure it's engaging and effective.
2. Appeal to emotion, not only logic
One of the reasons stories are so effective in sales presentations is because they trigger an emotional response. This is powerful because emotions (not logic) drive most consumer decisions. Encourage your salespeople to think about a decision maker’s pain points and personal goals when developing a story to be used in a sales presentation. A visceral response to a story is what will inspire people to take action.
3. Keep the story brief and engaging
It can be easy to get carried away with a good story, but keeping it to two minutes or less will have the most impact. Remind your salespeople that stories should be used to enhance a sales presentation, not to replace it.
4. Practice, but don’t memorize
A compelling story feels spontaneous and genuine instead of rehearsed. Coach your salespeople to develop a handful of stories that can be used in their sales presentations, and then have them practice delivering them to you. It’s not about memorizing the lines word for word. Once they feel confident with the fundamentals of the story they’ll be able to weave them in naturally when the timing is right.
5. Tailor the story to the audience
Your salespeople should have several stories they can pull from during sales presentations, but they should tweak them based on the individual client and audience. The value that the story conveys should link to what your sales rep has learned about the organization and/or the specific decision makers’ wants and needs.
6. Use humor (but don’t overdo it)
A little bit of humor goes a long way in adding life to a powerpoint presentation, and a story is a great opportunity to elicit a few laughs. Your salespeople should be able to identify the behavior style of your prospects which will help them determine the right amount of humor to use (and how to best communicate with them in general).
7. Choose the final words carefully
Again, an overly rehearsed story can come off as stiff and inauthentic. That being said, its a good idea for salespeople to know exactly how they want to end the story to have the most impact on the prospect. Coach your reps to keep the beginning and middle of the story somewhat spontaneous, but really nail down the closing words.
Incorporating storytelling into sales presentations allows salespeople to connect with prospects on a human level and vividly illustrate a point. Stories are memorable and relatable, and adding them to the sales process is an effective way to address difficult or challenging issues.
Mastering the art of storytelling is just one of the skills your salespeople will learn in our advanced sales training program IMPACT Selling® for the Complex Marketplace. The program teaches salespeople how to navigate the complex sale with multiple layers of decision makers—ensuring they have a place at the table when buying decisions are made or RFPs are written. Learn More.