Storytelling in sales is our ability to express ourselves in a way that is engaging and persuasive. We capture the attention of the buyer because we have taken the client to an unexpected world. This might be because the real essence of their problem has just now been revealed to them. The salesperson who can direct the discussion to elucidate hidden insights for the client is the storyteller par excellence.
The content of the story can also be a description of a place better than where the client finds themselves today. This discussion shows the path forward for the client to realise their goals.
To understand that better place, the salesperson needs to set up a dialogue—one where the questions asked unveil a story from the client of what success would look like. Examples, cases and proof where this solution has worked before must be employed and brought to life if the storytelling is to have an impact. The ability to describe this better place in vivid imagery is what separates average salespeople from the masters.
The delivery of this storytelling is not just a constant babbling by the salesperson, but is punctuated by periods of silence. The client is given the chance to talk without having their sentences finished for them or interrupted by a segue, observation, joke or distraction. Often sales people are loquacious, ill-disciplined speakers, who are in love with the beauty of what they are saying. Counter-intuitively, being a skilled storyteller requires the salesperson to have the patience to encourage the client to tell their own story.
The words chosen by the salesperson are important. The majority of the conversation with the client should consist of the client talking. The quota of words allowed for the master salesperson is, therefore, very limited. They only use clear, concise language because they know they need to give up the floor to the client as much as possible. Short sentences of enquiry that draw out rich information are the golden path to sales success. It sounds a snap, but to do this takes a lot of practice.
When the client hesitates, pauses for more insight or information, or outright rejects what they are being told, then the salesperson’s level of communication skill really becomes apparent. The balance between speaking to add light and employing silence to gauge reaction is a critical competency.
When salespeople hit resistance, there is a natural tendency to want to overwhelm the client and their objection with a thunderstorm of data, facts and statistics. They want to dominate the discussion through sheer force of personality. This is never going to fly. “A person convinced against their will, is of the same opinion still” is an old saw, and we salespeople forget it at our peril.
Our way of telling the story makes a huge difference. We need to match the personality style of the person we are talking to—their energy level, pacing and the degree of detail they require. All of this must go into the mix of telling the story for the client. If they are a very detail-orientated person, then we need to get with the programme. If they are action orientated, we must become the same. We like to do business with people we like and we like people who are on our wavelength.
In sales we need to foster the ability to be on as many wavelengths as possible. Our clients will be of various personality types, so we need to move graciously between each, and without losing our core beliefs in what we are doing. The telling of stories draws out the facts of the situation, which are needed to understand the correct and best solution for the client. It also gives us the capacity to package our solution in such a way that it is highly appealing to our buyer.
This storytelling skill separates the professional from the amateur. Nobody wants to buy from the latter, so let’s become more professional and tell our story well for the client.