We are all story tellers at heart. In a myriad of ways for different reasons, storytelling is an important part of American culture. Our ancestors used storytelling to pass down knowledge and wisdom to the next generation, and it holds its roots still in our DNA today. It is inherent in human nature, and it is imperative in sales.
Stories give the buyer an emotional connection to not only the product, but to you as well. By telling a story that transitions from the product to the companies principles, you enrich and transform the sale from you obviously selling something to the consumer, to a genuine person imposing a product that will make the customers life better, easier, and or nicer- which will add value in the consumers eyes. People will pay any price when Value Exceeds Price
There are 3 ways to tell a story
The Personal Story- This is the type of story that you can tell from a first person prospective. You simply walk the customer through a problem that you had that was similar to theirs and how your method/product helped you solve it. This puts them in your shoes and also establishes empathy for them and their situation, garnering more credibility to your statements within your pitch. This is the most simple use of storytelling and probably the most effective. By being specific and using the customers actual goals in mind and having faith in the product that following your guidelines, this will better their lives- they will see themselves within the story and in turn buy, not on price, but value.
The Historical Story- Pulling historical data established a sense of credibility within your field, but it also allows for the consumer to take a vantage view of things happening in the past and how it worked out for others. It is important that you establish that history is important to human narrative and experience and we can learn so much from history. By integrating historical facts into your story, you can pull on another heart string of the consumer.
Primary Source Story- This can be about a phone conversation that you had with someone who is top of their field and how they showed you the way (never lie, selling is not a license to lie). This gives you credibility within the sale and also allows the customer to learn something from someone so well versed and successful in their field, that taking _____ or doing____ helped solve their problem.
“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” – Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling
The reason storytelling is so effective is because the buying process is not just a rational decision backed by data points for your customers; it’s also an emotional one.
In Chip and Dan Heath’s Book, Made to Stick they describe why some ideas stick and others don’t. Overwhelmingly the stats show that people remember a powerful story over cited statistics. Stats like the often regurgitated: “We grew revenue by 200 percent.”
In fact, in one example, students at Stanford were asked to share facts with their classmates: 63% remembered the stories and only 5% remembered the actual statistics that were cited.
Subaru, as you know, is in the car business and like everyone else they could have talked about safety, gas mileage, etc. Instead they connected with their potential buyers and customers with a powerful story, Making Memories
But is it driving results?
Subaru is outpacing their competitors in growth and recent sales have been up as much as 28% as a result of their focus on leveraging storytelling to connect in a more human way. That’s huge.
You’re probably thinking, "I don’t have a Subaru-sized budget." So how do you craft your own compelling story that captivates the attention of your small business audience?
The 6 Elements of a great story:
Understand Your Purpose: Whether you sell a product or a service, don’t make the story about what you do, make it about “WHY” you do it. It is often said if you are in the shovel business you don’t sell shovels, you “Give them a better hole”. People gravitate towards the “why” not the “how” or “what.”
Create the Conflict: If everything is running smoothly for your ideal buyer, what do they need you for? It’s human nature to be slow to embrace change, but a pain-point or point of conflict for your ideal buyer can be the catalyst they need to make a buying decision. Show your readers what problem your product/solution solves and what tension it relieves.
Create the Character: Develop a character that your reader or audience can relate to and cheer for. Someone that experiences the same challenges and struggles your ideal customer goes through every day.
Focus on WIFT: Your prospects and customers want to know what’s in it for them. The fact is, no one cares about your business’s sales and marketing goals. Believe it or not, your audience doesn’t wake up every day waiting to be a lead in your sales pipeline. They do, however love hearing and sharing a remarkable story about themselves!
Keep it simple: We all suffer from overstimulation produced by too much content. Attention spans are short, and everyone reads in 140 character, bit-sized chunks. So, keep your story short, easy to digest and impactful. A great example of simplicity is Apple.
Deliver a great ending-With a great story, you’ve got readers in the palm of your hand. While you have them engaged, don’t forget to include a clear call to action to help them take the next steps to happily ever after. Describe how doing business with you will improve their lives and emphasize why it’s worth the tradeoff of changing their behavior.