We have often heard that you have to know your numbers to be effective as a salesperson. You should do your research on the prospect and have all the figures and stats at your fingertips. However, this alone might not be enough to close the deal because there is something more important than just data. And that is the power of a narrative. As salespeople, you can increase your effectiveness by packaging available data into a familiar story narrative for selling.
One reason that storytelling is an important skill for salespeople has to do with our childhood. Remember how we loved sitting with adults, and wait for them to tell us stories? For centuries, storytelling has been an important ritual of growing up for generations. It is where most of us learned about life, morals, having fun, etc. Whether it was an impossible fairy-tale that held us wondrous or stories of courage and bravery that inspired us, storytelling first introduced us to the imagination.
Storytelling is one of the best ways to establish an emotional connection with listeners. Stories inherently appeal to our younger selves and evoke positive feelings in those who listen. Sales training in India usually overlooks this important skill in sales. You might ask, what is the relevance of storytelling to the serious business of sales and selling?
We all understand the importance of presenting facts logically to the prospect. Each prospect has his own decision-making process which he will use to evaluate your offering and come to a decision on whether to buy or not. This decision-making process is driven by rational thoughts, but not entirely. People, in general, are more receptive to anecdotes and stories rather than with rational data.
This is because right from our childhood we learn the language and thought through listening, and replicate from the conversations that happen around us. This is why for centuries knowledge was passed on from generation to generation orally. We mentally think in terms of concepts (not logically), and we are more amenable to information we receive through stories. This narrative network subconsciously triggers attention from the listeners.
When listening to a story, it triggers our emotional response centers, engaging us by making us link our own lives or business to the story being shared.
This does not mean that salespeople should randomly start sharing stories. If we really want to connect with our customers, we must share stories that can resonate with them or their business. Another important factor is that we are naturally drawn to stories that are relevant not only to us but to members of our social group. You must have noticed how we tend to remember something better if it is relevant to our team members. When someone genuinely thinks that a story is worth retelling, they respond with increased interest and with greater memory.
This is a crucial aspect of sales training that is not given enough importance. Especially in India, there can be too much emphasis on other skills. But we firmly believe in leveraging storytelling in sales training. Here are three main reasons why you must develop your storytelling skills if you want to up your sales game:
1. Stories help build genuine relationships
Storytelling is a great way to build and maintain trust. We tend to intrinsically trust people we know (unless they have given us a reason not to). We are more likely to not trust people we do not know. So how do you make a prospect decide that they know you personally?
When you tell a story, it reveals a highly personal view of your life. When you hear someone share their story, it establishes a connection between you. This is because you think you know some of their stories, so you know something personal about them. This is actually the difference between a resume and an interview. With a resume, they have access to all your facts, but until they personally speak to you and you share your experience, there cannot be an emotional connect.