This is the first of a four post series on The Storytelling Enterprise. This series outlines the power and promise of capturing the organizations’ relevant selling stories for your sales team and – in a timely way – delivering them so they can be easily practiced and mastered.
‘Selling’ Stories Are Key to Good Selling
Companies hire salespeople to have influential conversations that compel prospects to consider — and ultimately buy – their offering.
When a good salesperson is having a conversation with a prospect, they are usually asking thoughtful questions, listening actively, and telling relevant stories. These “selling” stories are typically short (no longer than three minutes—think four to six bullet points) and are usually about the salesperson’s industry, company, customers, competitors, or offering. They are often told in response to a prospect’s question or objection (stated or implied).
Relevant Selling Stories Are Hard to Get
Typically, a rep’s stories come from their own experience or the experience of colleagues or other people in the industry. Unfortunately, it can take years for a salesperson to build a repertoire of stories that add any significant perspective to an executive-level prospect conversation.
In the meantime, the sales manager, sales engineer, product manager, VP Sales or even the CEO ride shotgun, sucking up the slack by pitching stories that may—or may not—be relevant. Sadly but not surprisingly, after surveying enterprise buyers, Forrester estimated that 90% of sales calls are a waste of the prospect’s time because the sales rep hasn’t added value.
Hunting for good stories with concrete details after the fact is hard to do. Most people will naturally synthesize situations, stories, and ideas to come up with generalizations and rules-of-thumb. These are helpful for internal decision-making but are neither interesting nor compelling for prospects.
The Storytelling Enterprise
From a sales person’s perspective, few things would make it easier to sell successfully than being part of a “Storytelling Enterprise”. Imagine if everyone in your company was constantly looking out for great selling stories and then capturing them the minute they were uncovered?
The quickest and easiest way to capture selling stories is with a web cam because it’s already on your computing device and waiting to go. A two-minute story takes two minutes to tell (or maybe ten minutes if you want to practice it five times). Recording yourself is a lot easier, not to mention much faster, than writing, editing, and getting approval for a two-page case study or a competitive positioning document. (In Part IV of this blog series, we’ll discuss a proprietary solution called SharperAx that operationalizes this process).
Selling Stories: What Are They?
Examples of selling stories might include a CEO sharing the company’s point of view when a competitor buys another company, or a product VP explaining why a new feature was added to a software product and the value it is providing to beta customers running it. Another selling story might incorporate information captured by a manager after a sales call detailing specific metrics that represented success for a customer. A field marketing manager recounting a situation where, despite a competitor’s strong selling points, her product’s unique capabilities better addressed the needs of a prospect is another illustration of a story that could help colleagues faced with a similar challenge.
Selling Stories from the Field
The following are actual selling stories uncovered during our own engagements where we’ve witnessed reps using them to gain credibility with prospects and influence their thinking (as told to prospects).
Company story from a CEO: “The $5M Navy contract we won during our early years specified that all the hardware components of the solution had to be ‘COTS’ (commercial-off-the-shelf) so the Navy could snap in the latest technologies at reasonable prices. Having the $5M to design for that COTS specification is the reason why our solution now has the broadest commercial footprint in the market and can track all categories of fixed and mobile assets.”
Customer story from a Customer Manager: “One of our customers uses our product to analyze the speed of their trucks and measure the distance of the round trip to the oil field. Visibility to this critical information gave them the confidence to trim bids by 20% in similar geographies, resulting in a dozen new accounts and $1 million+ in additional revenues in a single year.”
Solution story from a Regional Sales VP: “Our customer’s CFO was wrestling with how to retain his company’s best talent in the midst of a big layoff because costs for contract and permanent employees were tracked in two different systems—procurement and HR. During a meeting with our team, he saw how he could use our product to combine information from performance reviews with the average cost of an employee by geography to create an entirely new framework to make decisions. This view of the talent pool was so valuable that the CFO brought the CEO into the meeting on the spot to show how he had finally found a way to identify their best, most cost-effective talent.”
Customer Story from a Sales Engineer: “A GPS tracking system is helping our customer save three hours per month for each of their 100 service reps because they can more easily locate their mobile equipment needing repair. With service reps billing out at $100+ per hour, this small savings in each rep’s time has led to a significant reduction in costs overall: $30,000+ per month—much more than the cost of the system itself.”
Competitive ROI story from the SVP Sales: ‘”Faux’ preroll – non user-initiated video advertising – may cost half as much as real preroll, but it has less than a 5% view rate. User-initiated ‘preroll’ video content has an 85%+ watch rate and so, when you compare apples to apples, our pre-roll product is actually 8 times less expensive than non user-initiated preroll.”
Solution value story from the Product Sales Engineer: “Search Sitelinks are essential to brand campaigns – they get high click rates and often higher conversion rates because of their one-stop shopping nature. Because search Sitelinks can make up 40-50% of a site’s traffic and can increase click-through-rates up to 60%, getting just one link wrong can cost you 15% of your traffic. Despite these implications, neither Google nor other analytics platforms can track Sitelink-level clicks/costs/conversions. Unlike these platforms, our software breaks out the clicks, conversions, and cost data by each Sitelink — making us the only platform in the market today that doesn’t make you settle for 50% of your brand campaign’s revenue potential.”
A company is a many-headed beast with lots mouths and even more ears. Systematically leveraging all the important conversations taking place inside your organization by immediately packaging and delivering them to your sales team would be a competitive advantage for any company.
Stay tuned to our blog for upcoming posts about how to build a ”story deck” for your sales team, how to use a story deck for effective role-playing, and how to use your webcams and the SharperAx system to operationalize the storytelling enterprise.
Read Part II of the series - the Story Deck.