If you have any experience in sales, you’ve probably heard stories are the best way to persuade prospects.
And it’s true: People enjoy listening to stories far more than they enjoy being sold to.
According to a study from two Yale University psychologists, our brains process metaphorical and literal information the same way. The researchers told participants the experiment was starting shortly. But it had already begun as soon as one of them started to struggle carrying an arm full of folders. He asked a volunteer to hold his coffee for a second.
Some volunteers were asked to hold iced coffee, while others were asked to hold hot coffee. Then, volunteers read the description of an individual.
Those who were holding the warmer cup said the individual had a “warmer” personality.
This is why stories are so powerful. They help us “connect the dots,” uncover patterns, and even understand how buying a product can help us get a desired result.
Let’s discuss how you can leverage stories to close more sales deals.
The Anatomy of a Persuasive Sales Story
Using stories in sales can be much more persuasive than just relying solely on data, logic, and facts to communicate how you can help your customers get a specific result.
Here are a few key components of a great story:
- A hero: Someone your audience can relate to.
- Stasis: The situation the hero is in when the story starts.
- A trigger: An event that triggers a “transformation.”
- Tension: Obstacles or challenges the hero must overcome.
- The crossroads: Where the hero makes a decision that leads to the transformation.
- The resolution: The hero (and other characters) should have been changed for the better.
Here’s an example of what a story outline might look like if you’re, say, selling sales software to automate email outreach:
Bob is a sales manager at a software startup with a growing sales team.
His sales reps were spending hours and hours every day sending emails, connecting on social media, and making phone calls to ideal prospects -- like any effective sales team should be doing.
Bob noticed in the weekly and monthly pipeline reviews the team’s conversions from qualified leads to demos and demos to won deals were slowly declining. Looking back over the past three months, sales were down by 30%. Something had to be done -- and fast.
Bob started analyzing the team’s data to understand what was going wrong -- and it looked like his salespeople weren’t properly qualifying leads, identifying their clients’ key pain and goals, or sending well-written, personalized emails.
So he began researching different tools and solutions that could help improve his sales team’s performance. Eventually, after searching several companies, he found fourletter.io.
(See how I inserted my company into the story we’re telling?)
Bob was evaluating other, cheaper options. But he found sales teams that worked with fourLetter in the past had an average of 62% increase in selling skills, leading to a 20% increase in total conversions.
He decides to try the program for a month.
Bob’s sales team now enjoys a higher quantity and quality of leads. Their emails, calls, meetings, and follow up strategy improve as well. Not only are they more productive, average conversation rates increase by 28%.
At the end of the quarter, Bob gets a promotion.
Your customers should face similar challenges and desire a similar transformation so they’ll see themselves as the hero of your story and relate to the experience.
Create a “Story Toolbox”
While the outline of a story is relatively constant no matter what type you’re telling, there are a few different types of stories you should have in your toolbox to effectively communicate what your company does, your product features, how you’re better than the competition, etc.
The “Who we are” story
People tend to assume that customers don’t really cares about their life story, details of their personal life, or how they built their company from nothing.
This isn’t true.
If you frame it in the right way, your “origin” story can help bring your customers closer to you and make you seem more human.
Customer success stories
These stories are perfect for written case studies or testimonial videos.
Sharing stories of your successful customers from different industries, backgrounds, and challenges shows customers how your product will work for their specific company.
Everyone believes that their company is different or that their specific challenge is somehow unique … until they hear stories of other customers in more or less the exact same position.
Your product story
The story of your product has to do with how your product changed and improved over time. Why did you create certain features? Why did you decide to build your product in the first place? Did you have some personal experience with the problem you’re trying to solve?
Communicating these details makes you more relatable to your customers. For example, check out how Push for Pizza communicated their story through this ad.
Fusing a storyline into your messaging and putting different stories in your toolbox lets you craft more persuasive sales messages and ultimately, close more deals.