In previous blog posts we have discussed the challenge of selling in a digitally transforming world and the limitations of the question-based approach to selling.
Here are 10 reasons why salespeople must start using stories to win the hearts and minds of buyers:
1. Natural Language
It matches the minds natural processing style. The dominant approach in selling is using facts and rational arguments to sell. Unfortunately facts and rational arguments are not our brains natural language. Our brains have evolved over generations to receive information via storytelling. Neuroscience imaging shows that facts and figures activate just two areas of the brain: those responsible for language comprehension and processing. But stories activate up to eight areas of the brain: those having to do with touch, movement, scent, sound, color, and shape in addition to language comprehension and processing.
If you’re skeptical, think about why you became emotional when Nemo’s mother is eaten at the start of Finding Nemo or when all the toys holds hand when they say goodbye to Andy for the last time in Toy Story 3. Even though logic tells you that the story and characters are fictional and animated.
2. Fostering Trust
Today’s buyer is experiencing information overload. By the time they weed through the endless online information, they are likely confused and a bit overwhelmed by all of their options. Sharing personal stories at the initial stages of a sales process helps you connect with the buyer emotionally. Sharing stories also allows the buyer to open up and share their stories with the salesperson. The process of swapping genuine personal stories builds the trust necessary to be successful through the rest of the sales process.
3. Building Credibility
A salesperson establishes their credibility by demonstrating their character and competence. This can take a long time to do. However when a salesperson shares genuine stories effectively about his or her personal experiences with similar clients, it accelerates the credibility building process. Personal stories can also reflect a salesperson’s values in a gentle way without bragging. And after all one of the buyer’s primary, but often unstated needs are “who are you and what can I expect from you?”
When we use stories, the brain requires low energy and low effort to take it in. Stories match the brains natural style. We have all experienced how a two minute story can move us emotionally. Can you recall the last time a 30 minute presentation persuaded you as much as a well told and relevant story? Stories persuade buyers.
5. Dropping the Defense Mechanism Buyers Put Up
Nobody likes being sold to. When we hear a salesperson expressing a perspective or opinion, our natural tendency is to be suspicious of their assertions and put our defenses up and to passively (and sometimes not so passively) resist. We most likely keep their resistance to ourselves by politely smiling and nodding while not really accepting what they are asserting. However our natural tendency when we hear a story is the opposite. We relax and open up our listening channels.
6. Stories Command Attention
Have you ever noticed what happens when someone tells a story? The listener relaxes, eager to hear what happens next. Salespeople want a buyer’s complete attention, but reality is that they seldom get it. A buyer’s mind may jump in and out of attention quite regularly during a 30 minute meeting. The human brain has a strong tendency to lose focus. In fact, it is estimated to engage in up to 2,000 daydreams a day and spend up to half its waking time wandering. However, a compelling story causes the brain to snap to attention and focus on the message.
7. Gives the Salesperson Permission to turn up their Expressiveness
When you tell a story you get tacit permission from the other person to take on roles, speak in the voices of characters, laugh and whisper. So not only do stories lift up the listener, it also lifts up the speaker. We now also know from the ground breaking work of Albert Meharabian that when we speak only seven percent of what is conveyed is the words. The rest – ninety three percent – comes for the way we use our voice and our body. When salespeople turn up their expressiveness by using stories, the buyer is receiving information on all channels at potentially 100 percent rather than through once channel – the words at seven percent.
8. Makes it Difficult to Forget
Most people have heard the ‘urban myth’ about a man waking up in a bathtub full of ice with a phone and a note to call the emergency number because his kidneys were stolen. It is a chilling story and completely untrue. However as you read this, that very story is being told somewhere in the world. That story does not have a PR agency working for it nor a distribution strategy. It is repeated because it creates impact. Salespeople who can create impact with stories will make themselves memorable and although it’s unlikely their story will travel the world, it is highly probable the story will be taken out of the room and shared with others. Whereas a PowerPoint driven pitch will stay in the room. Stories create a meaningful scene in your mind that a simple list of facts doesn’t. The scene is easier of your mind to remember than the list of facts. Stories create scenes, facts don’t.
9. Creates Deep Connections to Products and Increases their Perceived Value
In a classic experiment in 2009, experimenters Rob Walker & Josh Glenn purchased 100 junk instruments in a garage sales at an average cost of $128.74, or $1.29 each item. Items like piggy banks, bottle openers, wooden hammer etc. They then got people to write a fictional story about each item. These items were then auctioned on EBay without any enhancement other than their fictional story attached. Buyers were told the stories were fictional. The resale price on EBay for the 100 items which all sold in five months for a total of $3,612.51 or $361.25 per item – an increase of 2,800% and the only difference was that there was a story attached. Experimenters showed stories transforms insignificant objects into significant ones.
10. Buyers want to hear relevant stories from salespeople
Michael Bosworth and Ben Zoldan in their book “What Great Salespeople Do” assert that most buyers want to learn about three things.
A) Who you are and what they can expect from you;
B) Who you have helped;
C) Who you represent – your company. We have added a
D) How your product or service came into existence – how and why it was invented.
The Ariel Group Australia offers two courses to help you use stories to sell: