A few weeks ago I was working with one of my top reps. We had a couple hard meetings with some tough prospects, but over the course of our meetings I watched these prospects go from “I don’t want to hear anything you have to say” to “well, maybe we should try this”.
In less than 30 minutes.
Having been in sales for the better part of two decades, I’ve seen enough meetings like these go in all different directions. But these were different.
These customers were loyal to our biggest competitor, and they were ready for war. And yet, when we left, their walls were down, and they were ready to try our product.
So what was the difference in these meetings? One lesson I learned back in my days selling CUTCO kitchen knives:
Facts tell and stories sell
The features and benefits of a product are certainly important. They tell the customer about the bells and whistles and the products capabilities and limitations. But telling a customer relevant stories to reinforce the importance, and also to answer common concerns, especially the logistical ones, lowers the prospect’s wall. It makes it real for them.
No one wants to be the first one to jump in. Your prospects are no different. So telling relevant stories around your product or service could be the missing link that’s causing you to miss out on sales.
Disclaimer: this is a delicate tool that has the potential to be overused. The tactic should be used with the same analogy of watering flowers. If you don’t tell enough stories, you won’t build a strong enough connection with a prospect or customer. Use them too much and you’ll look like a name-dropper whose appointments make prospects late for their next meeting.
However, the proper mix can engage your customers, bring your sales presentation to life, and result in a larger amount of deals closed.
With that in mind, here are five places to use stories to better engage your customers and prospects:
1. Securing the appointment
Often times, getting someone to agree to meet is 90% of the battle. People are busier and are pulled in more directions than ever before. When working to secure an appointment, great stories to tell are how you came across them, and why you think they should consider your offering.
If they’ve been personally referred, telling a story of how long you’ve known their friend who referred you to them is a great way to break the ice. As I’ve written in previous articles, birds of a feather fly together. If they know a friend they respect endorses you and sent you their way, they will be more likely to meet with you.
2. Introducing the company
Most companies, especially those who’ve been in business for a long period of time, have remarkable stories. If you dig deep enough, I guarantee your company has a great story to tell.
Make sure you can tell your company’s story well. To everyone.
Some of the topics that are great to emphasize are how the company was formed, how they acquired or created the core products, key challenges the company had to overcome, important charitable initiatives, and also what it’s like working there.
Believe it or not, people like buying products from companies they want to get behind. And vice-versa.
3. Detailing product design
One of the coolest aspects of a unique, quality product is the story behind its invention.
How did the designer or creator come up with the idea? What was his or her experience where he identified the need for something new?
What steps did he take in getting the product to market? What were the challenges he encountered?
Most sales people couldn’t tell you any of these details about the product they sell. If you can, you’ll stand out to your customers.
And make more sales. If you need help uncovering this information, ask the people that run the marketing and R&D departments. They’ll know and will be happy to share.
4. Handling objections and concerns
The best time to handle a concern is before the customer can bring it up. You’re always in much better shape handling issues proactively versus reactively.
Make a list of the top 5-7 objections or concerns prospects have when considering your product. Then work in stories throughout your presentation that illustrate, before your prospect can bring them up, how existing customers had those concerns, and how they overcame them in the buying process.
Also, don’t forget to emphasize how happy the customers are with their purchase. If you can show some testimonials from those customers (especially video) that will seal the deal for you.
5. Planning for implementation
With most quality products, selling the decision makers on the value of the product can be pretty easy. The greater challenge, and the bigger barrier, is how to implement the product with minimal disruption to their business and employees.
This is especially true in the technology and medical sales industries.
Show your prospects case studies of similar companies who have adopted your product, service, or platform. How did they overcome the implementation challenges, what have the results looked like, and how could that work in this scenario?
Stories sell when prospects relate to them. They shift the interaction from plans and hypotheticals to actual proof that what you’re selling is valuable.
It drives them to act. As a salesperson, that’s what you’re trying to do.
Telling great stories shows that you’re the expert. Be the expert. Steer the conversation the way you know it needs to go. And watch your sales grow along the way.
How effectively are you using stories in your sales appointments?
Bret Barrie was a Hall-of-Fame and Presidents’ Club-winning sales rep and is a top-producing sales leader in the medical device industry. He is also the author of The Selling Edge: How to Reach the Top in any Sales Industry. A baseball enthusiast and fitness junkie, he is happily married with three children and lives in the greater Sacramento area. For more information, visit bretbarrie.com.