Great stories attract attention. A well-constructed narrative builds an emotional connection and the power of storytelling can be very useful in the road to the sale. Character-driven stories with emotional content result in a customer’s better understanding of the key points a salesperson wishes to make. Relevant, useful stories enable better recall by the customer, often weeks, months or years later.
Our brains love good storytelling. In studies over a decade ago, it was discovered that the neurochemical oxytocin is a key ‘it’s safe to approach others’ signal in the brain. Oxytocin is produced when we’re trusted or shown a kindness, and it motivates cooperation with others. Prospects connect with sellers more often when salespeople understand that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
Social is a medium made for storytelling. If we take the facts outlined above and leverage them to create marketing content that tells great stories, imagine the result!
I love Facebook groups. One of the reasons I enjoy them is people can come to vent their frustration and the rest of us can often listen and give advice. It’s a collaborative way of solving problems and supporting each other.
Even though not all of my clients are automotive, many are because I spent my life managing car dealerships. I feel like I can provide value to the automotive industry, who happens to be going through a major transition. Many industries are finding themselves in uncharted territory when it comes to customer perception and expectation; many are suffering disruption and transition issues.
The best way to navigate transitional periods with your business is to never forget why you do what you do. Change will always be a constant. When you’re able to harness the power of storytelling (and telling your own story), whether in your marketing or through your sales process, adaptation becomes less difficult.
I happened upon a post in one of the Facebook groups I belong to that illustrates the power of storytelling in order to close a sale.
In this example, the interaction took place in-person at a car dealership. The method of communication here doesn’t play a huge part in the overall picture. Whether it’s in-person, email, telephone or more commonly now, social media, there’s a specific sales process that needs to take place. When managed correctly, things can conclude rather nicely.
Salespeople often get caught up in solving the sales puzzle – piecing together the necessary components with a disproportionate emphasis on the close of the sale. Those pieces are important, but as your sales career evolves you realize where the fun resides – and where the close becomes a natural conclusion – is in the questions asked and the story told.
Studies show that well-constructed narratives motivate people to engage in cooperative behaviors (ie: buy). As the salesperson, you must be savvy and work your process without going for the close too quickly:
- Ask Questions
- Ask More Questions
- Tell a Story: Utilize an event or situation that you’ve personally witnessed to illustrate how valuable your product/service is.
- Facilitate the Buy
Two Simple Tactics to Utilize Storytelling in Sales More Effectively
- Write down your own success stories. I use my phone to keep track of stories and ideas that inspire me. Creativity doesn’t always happen when you want it to; it happens when it happens. Document the ideas and stories as they come to you, because you never know when you’ll need them.
- Gather stories. In the beginning, you may not feel like you have any stories to tell. Go find them. Read blogs. Subscribe to RSS feeds. Follow industry news. Do some homework. Get plugged in.
An Example of the Power of Storytelling to Close the Sale
In this particular Facebook group, the members are dealership employees who share their experiences with their customers in order to obtain advice or sometimes they just vent frustration.
A member of the group posted this story:
“Young lady is in with her mom/coach purchasing a 2004 Nissan. I offer them GAP (GAP Insurance covers the difference between market value and the loan payoff should something catastrophic happen to the vehicle) and the mom tells the daughter no way, don’t take it. I move on. At the end, they thank me and tell me that it was a great experience and that I have no idea what they’ve been through. Naturally, I ask them what they’ve been through. Well, yesterday her car caught fire and is totaled. No GAP.”
I believe this story might win the prize for irony. The obvious irony is that if the customer had GAP insurance on the car that was totaled, they wouldn’t have to pay the few thousand dollars between market value and their payoff.
The not-so-obvious irony is that had the salesperson been asking questions, listening and telling a story illustrating the value of GAP, he might have sold it. Instead he asked the questions after his “pitch.”
Another member commented on this post with tips to solve his problem next time:
“Tell a Story of how it helped someone. I leverage GAP as a gesture to show I care. I explain exactly what it is, state my wife has used it (true story) and if I think they need it, I urge them to get it. This establishes rapport and trust making it easier to transition to offering other products.”
Action Steps in the Power of Storytelling
- Tell a true story to create a connection and illustrate the value.
- Your compelling story signals the buyer that ‘it’s safe to approach.’
- Develop rapport and trust so the buyer will remember it for weeks, months, years to come.
- Look and listen for signs of voluntary cooperation.
- Close the sale.
People want to be happy. They’ll buy from you if they can visualize being happy with their decisions. When you weave a tale that allows your customers to insert themselves within the story, they’ll identify and start to create their own similar and powerful visualization. There will be no other option but to move forward.
It’s not always easy to leverage the power of storytelling and it takes a lot of practice. But I guarantee it will make your job more fun and improve your rate of success.