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Tennessean Column- Sunday, April 19th

Posted on: April 23

Author: Tom Black
Tennessean Column- Sunday, April 19th

Tell a story, make a sale

As a child, some of my favorite words were “Once upon a time.” Yes, I loved a story, whether it was at bed time, a Walt Disney movie or a book I was reading myself.

I think no matter what we do or who we are, we love an engaging, interesting story. The TV networks and movie production companies have proven that. So how does that apply to us in sales? Well, a great sales person is usually a great storyteller.

Over the past two years, I have noticed more and more sales trainers talking about storytelling in sales, so I thought I would weigh in. In selling, a story is really a third-party testimonial.

Zig Ziglar said, “The most powerful influence in selling is the third-party testimonial.”

In every sales person’s career that I coach or manage, I teach them about stories.

Here is what I teach:

Have a story for every situation. The prospect can argue with YOU. He may distrust YOU, but that does not happen with a story. If it is a story about someone else’s experiences, you can’t argue with it. You should have a story ready for every possible sales situation.

When the customer says, over the phone, they are not interested, you should acknowledge the objection and then tell a story. “Bill, I can certainly understand that. That is exactly what Mike at ABC Construction said before we met. He has been a customer now for two years. As I mentioned, I will be in your area next Tuesday. Would you have some time in the morning or afternoon to let me introduce myself and my company?”

Your prospect cannot argue with a story. He cannot say, “Mike at ABC Construction is an idiot.”

With a story to answer the objection, your odds of getting the appointment go way up. They go up even more if Bill (your prospect) knows or knows about Mike at ABC Construction. Your story of someone else the prospect knows overcomes his objection and raises his curiosity.

I ask sales people I coach to have a story to illustrate every benefit they claim for the product. For example, “Mike at ABC Construction said, ‘This product has saved me thousands of dollars over the last two years.’ ” If you sell a product or service that has a benefit to the prospect (duh), then get a story with the specific name of the hero in it to illustrate each benefit.

Sometimes, when I ask the sales people to role-play their stories, they will say something like this, “We had a company that saved thousands of dollars using our product.” It is not the same story and it has way less impact without the person’s name in it and the name of their company.

In addition, when we are in a competitive situation, we have stories of customers who switched to us from the competition and why. We also have stories of prospects who chose us over the competition and why. These are basic tools you should have in your sales person’s tool kit. In a competitive situation a story is much more powerful than “he said” or “she said.”

If you are a sales manager and reading this, help your people get their stories together and you will see their sales rise. If you are a sales person, take some time and write down your stories for each situation. Practice saying them out loud. Get your delivery of the stories down perfectly.

If you do this, someday, someone will say, “Once upon a time there was a great sales person. He told beautiful, interesting stories that illustrated benefits, answered objections and differentiated his product from the competition.” 

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