One of the most important tools in any salesperson’s tool kit consist of success stories that demonstrate capabilities, build credibility, and move the prospect closer to signing on the bottom line.
Here’s a template used to describe the three parts of the commonly told success story:
- State The Problem: i.e. "Life Charities was having a difficult time generating donations"
- State The Solution: i.e. "We showed them how to increase their donations through our car donation program."
- Show Measureable Results. i.e Life Charities increased their donations 3-fold in one year. "
Keeping in mind that a story is something that arouses emotion, while engaging, inspiring and motivating its audience, many success “stories” are more like success reports. They often consist of lifeless facts that every salesperson in the organization is told to present to every prospect. As such, they are usually presented on boiler-plated slides, with bullet-pointed facts that have marginal relevance to the prospect.
For the most part, when you begin your story, your audience already knows that the home team won. Certainly your audience will be interested in knowing the final score. But they are going to be more interested in particulars having to do with how the game was played. How you present your success story will say more about you and your company than the story itself.
The 3-R’s of a powerful sales success story.
Using the 3-R’s approach to success stories will turn a lifeless, factual success report into an engaging success story. The three R’s stand for
Relate, Rescue, and Resolve.
Success stories are effective to the extent your audience can relate to them. If they can’t, you will be providing them with an invitation to mentally leave the room. It is critical that you be able to draw parallels between the problem you are describing and a problem or problems that your prospect is experiencing. It is better to have no success story at all than to have one that has nothing to do with your prospect’s situation.
Don’t leave it up to your prospect to find the relevance. Use words like “just like you,” or “similar to what you’ve experienced...”
The “You” word is one of the most important, if not the most important word in your presentation.
Just make sure you’ve done your homework. You’ll gain points by having equipped yourself with facts about your prospect’s current problem, but you could blow-up your entire presentation with a set of wrong facts.
However you can, don’t talk so much about the company you worked with. People relate to people more than they relate to companies. ABC Lugnuts Inc. may have had a problem, but talk more about Mr. Lugnuts, what he was experiencing and how he felt being faced with his problem. Perhaps he was frustrated with what had been tried in the past? Perhaps he was perplexed, confused, or convinced that there was just no workable solution to his problem. Again, RELATE: Try to describe whatever feelings your client was experiencing in ways your audience can identify with.
Don’t gloss over the problem you were faced with. The reason stories are more interesting than reports is that stories present identifiable conflicts. Do what you can to help your prospect feel the pain that your client or customer was experiencing. Beware however. Don’t go overboard. There’s no need for big drama - in fact, avoid it. Your audience does not have the time nor the patience for a sideshow. A question like “Have you ever experienced a 20% drop in sales over the course of a month,?” can suffice. If your prospect answers yes, they know the pain. If they answer no, help them imagine what the pain f eels like.
Don’t think that simplifying your solution is always the best route to take. A statement like “All it took was our product to turn things around,” will lose your audience entirely. You want your prospect to hear angles singing in the background when you tell them how you solved the problem. Talk about some of what you had to go through to arrive at the best solution. This is an opportunity to show your prospect how you work as much as it is a way to show them that you can solve problems.
Use dialogue. Nothing makes a story more interesting than dialogue. One of the reasons for this is that dialogue allows your audience to experience the situation as opposed to being told about it. “And then he said Jim, that just won’t work,” is much more interesting that telling your audience that at first, your client resisted your solution.
If you can, talk about the specific insight or realization you helped your client come to. Bring your audience to the doorstep of your “aha” moment. Help them see how you got there. However, maintain a sense of humility. It’s better to say something like, “after struggling with this a bit, it suddenly dawned on me,” than “the solution was obvious.” If you can, use “We” instead of “I,” by all means, do so.
If possible, show how you made your client a partner in coming up with the solution. Demonstrate that you are collaborative and work with, not for your clients.
Above all else, show how your solution is similar to a solution that your audience would be interested in. Help your audience see themselves sharing the same insight.
Again, your audience knows that this story is going to have a happy ending. Otherwise you wouldn’t be talking about it. Measurable results are important. But even more important are the changed feelings that were experienced. Go beyond the numbers to explain the long-term effect your solution had on sentiments that were felt, like new optimism or an improved sense of purpose.
If you’re interested in learning more ways to use storytelling as a sales tool, visit Storytelling For Sales Workshops.
Originally published on March 19, 2016 by SpeakerMatch Speakers Bureau