How to use storytelling to improve your sales technique and close more deals

Successful salespeople know that building an emotional connection with their audience is key to persuasion.

Regardless of what you’re selling, you need to build rapport with your leads and keep them engaged. You should also come across as relatable. All of this links back to feeling emotionally connected to the salesperson. People buy from people.

So, how do you build an emotional connection with your potential customers? One of the secrets is compelling storytelling. Storytelling can capture your audience’s imagination. It draws them in and encourages them to listen to your sales pitch.

Let’s explore how stories could make your sales more impactful.

What is storytelling in sales?

Storytelling in sales is the practice of connecting with, engaging, persuading and motivating potential customers.

Stories can help make your products or services feel more relevant and help you explain the value of your solutions in practical ways. Research shows that 92% of people prefer advertisements with a story, while 55% are more likely to buy from a brand after hearing a compelling story.

You don’t want to simply list problems, solutions, benefits and features to sell a product or service. Telling a compelling narrative helps you connect with your audience on a deeper level to show you understand them and relate to their challenges.

Sharing anecdotes, real-life events and experiences as part of conversations can increase the number of inquiries you get. Done well, it can seem seamless.

Types of stories to use in sales

You can tell various types of stories to connect with your audience. Here are some of the most powerful and common types of stories salespeople use:

  • Customer success stories: show how other customers have benefited from your products. This type of storytelling helps prove practical relevance. It also encourages your audience to consider how your product could benefit them, too. This is useful for selling coaching services. People want to understand the transformation previous customers have gone through before buying.
  • Personal stories: telling personal anecdotes can make you more relatable to your audience. It also offers a chance to be vulnerable, which can increase feelings of trust.
  • Case studies: explaining how your product or service has transformed previous customers’ lives helps draw people in. It enables them to understand why your product or service is important and valuable. Relevant case studies can be helpful when you don’t have specific customer success stories.
  • Origin stories: explain how your organization came to be to provide a compelling “why” for customers, especially if that story is an inspiring one. If the founder’s or business’s backstory is powerful, people may be more inclined to support your brand. Companies with more experience also have more leverage, and origin stories exemplify this.
  • The vision story: explaining the business mission or vision can help you connect with your audience. Enable your potential customers to understand the overall business and consider whether they can align with your vision. This may motivate them to purchase.

Each of these styles will resonate differently with consumers. Knowing who the audience is will determine which type of story you share.

What storytelling in sales isn’t

Some things are more likely to deter customers than persuade them to buy your product or service.

Storytelling in sales isn’t about the following things:

  • Manipulating facts: exaggeration or manipulation is an inauthentic and ineffective way to use storytelling in sales. People can usually tell when you’re being untruthful. Using this tactic is more likely to ruin your company’s reputation in the long run.
  • Telling long-winded stories: storytelling isn’t overloading your audience with long or irrelevant stories. Pithy narratives that relate specifically to the product are more likely to be interesting and motivating.
  • Trying to be entertaining for the sake of it: the entertaining narrative you want to tell your audience may not be relevant to the product or opportunity you want to sell. So, it’s important to consider relevance alongside entertainment.
  • Being over the top: when someone is sharing their own story, refrain from trying to “top” it. This can seem petty and distracting. Be gracious and listen. Your time will come.
  • Telling the same story over and over: storytelling isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Different stories will resonate with different people. Try not to get stuck in the loop of telling the same story over and over. Keep your stories fresh and relatable.

Why is storytelling important in sales?

Storytelling helps you convert more leads by offering the following essential benefits:

  • Differentiating yourself: stories can make your brand message stand out in a crowded market. Tell potential customers how you are unique.
  • Boost memorability: research on students found that 63% could recall stories from speeches, but only 5% could remember individual statistics. By telling stories, you’re increasing the chances of people remembering you, your brand and your message.
  • Trust: telling stories can help build an emotional connection and rapport between you and your audience. It can also create a sense of vulnerability, encouraging trust between you and your potential customers. Social media platforms suggest using trust stories to build an audience. Sharing your stories can lead to virtual connections and, eventually, conversion. Stories can also reduce the “salesy” feel of communications, which many customers find transactional and off-putting.
  • Application: stories can demonstrate the practical relevance of your products or services. Shopping channels are good examples of this, where potential customers can see the product in use.
  • Humor: storytelling gives you the chance to use humor and lightness. This can break down walls and make sales pitches feel more engaging and interesting. This is a very specific skill. If being funny doesn’t come naturally to you, be cautious. You don’t want your attempt at humor to fall flat.

7 ways to use and measure storytelling in sales

Consider the following seven aspects of storytelling to get started:

1. Understand your audience

Before you get started with storytelling, consider your audience. The right story to tell depends on who you’re speaking to, the stage of the funnel they’re at and other key factors.

In a small group setting, observe and listen to what people are talking about. This will help you gauge what story to share to create a connection.

Think about how a story relates to your specific audience and their wants, needs and preferences.

2. Consider where the conflict is

All compelling stories have one thing in common: conflict. It’s what keeps us wanting to hear more.

Anyone who has binged a TV show knows exactly how this feels. Did they end up together in the end? Did the main character save the world? Did the person receive the lifesaving treatment?

When a story is told well, you want to know what happens next. The same applies when telling stories in sales. It’s important to present the audience with a conflict or challenge to overcome. This is how a compelling story can come together.

3. Keep your audience hooked

Don’t rush to your conclusion once you’ve set your conflict. Ensure there’s some space between the problem and the resolution. Drawing out the conflict a little can help build tension and keep people interested and wanting to know more.

Go into (some) detail to keep the story going. Show, don’t tell.

4. Connect emotionally

You want your storytelling to make your audience feel a particular way, whether that’s empathetic, inspired or driven to do something.

Consider how you can pull out these emotions. For instance, you might use emotive language, tell emotional stories or use facts and figures that drive emotional feelings.

Imagine you’re looking to raise funds for lifesaving health care in a war torn region. General statistics might feel too abstract and unrelatable. However, sharing the story of a specific person – let’s say Sonja, a mother of three, who is desperate to get medicine to save her children’s lives – is much more specific and emotive. This story would help people understand why their support is so necessary.

5. Highlight the benefits

Like with all sales pitches, you’ll need to highlight the core benefits of your product, solution or idea. You can also embed the benefits into your story to show how the characters overcame a challenge by using your solution.

Specific examples can help prove why your brand is worth supporting and how customers will benefit from it.

6. Measure performance

Measure performance before and after to ensure your storytelling helps you convert leads. This will help you accurately track impact and improve your storytelling over time.

Here are some ways to measure performance:

  • Sales metrics: discover whether your storytelling is boosting traditional sales metrics by assessing conversion rates and sales figures.
  • Customer loyalty: use benchmarks like net promoter score (NPS) to see whether storytelling is increasing customer loyalty.
  • Customer feedback: explore whether customers feel storytelling has influenced their purchases. Do this by gathering feedback through surveys, social media and sentiment analysis.
  • Content performance: compare content that involves storytelling with content that doesn’t to see whether narratives boost content performance.
  • A/B testing: use A/B testing to compare the results of storytelling in content pieces.
    A/B testing involves providing different versions of content to different segments of your audience.

7. Iterate and keep improving

Storytelling is a skill you can develop. Learning what works for certain audiences and what doesn’t will take time.

Keep iterating and improving your storytelling techniques. This will help you improve your sales pitches and convert more leads in the long run.

Tips for making storytelling part of your sales strategy

You won’t necessarily get it right overnight or wake up one day and be a great storyteller. However, storytelling may become an integral part of your sales strategy over time.

Here are some useful tips for including stories in your pitches:

  • Keep it natural: a story should be relevant to the product you’re selling. It shouldn’t feel forced. If a story doesn’t naturally fit into your sales pitch, leave it out. Otherwise, you might end up confusing potential customers. As for yourself, practice storytelling so you sound natural.
  • Consider key touchpoints: storytelling should be a part of your sales pitches, but it shouldn’t replace them. Consider the key touchpoints where storytelling will be helpful and enhance your sales approach.
  • Be authentic: using stories as a way to win over customers without considering accuracy, relevance and authenticity will likely fall flat and tarnish brand trust over time. Ensure anything you say is true. If you don’t know, say you don’t know and find the answer. This will improve your credibility.
  • Measure impact: quantify and measure your storytelling approach to sales so that you can iterate and improve over time.
  • Train your organization: train your sales teams to ensure they know how to craft compelling stories and weave them naturally into sales pitches. This can empower your team to make better connections with customers and ultimately close more deals.

Become a better storyteller

Building strong connections with customers all comes back to having trust, an emotional connection and a powerful rapport. Storytelling is an avenue to creating those emotional bonds that go beyond superficial transactions.

Are you ready to tell great stories? At Pip Decks, we help leaders across the globe boost their skills, inspire others and lead their teams to success.

The Pip Decks Storyteller Tactics Card Deck can help you and your employees tell the right story at the right time and convert more leads.

FAQs

How can storytelling help me move a customer to the next stage of the sales process?

Telling compelling stories can help you connect with your audience. It keeps them engaged and interested in what you have to say.

Storytelling can also showcase the relevance of your product or story in the real world, making it easier to secure audience buy-in. Meanwhile, communicating your brand or personal backstory makes you seem more relatable.

Emotional and compelling narratives can break down walls between you and your leads, ultimately enabling you to build strong bonds and increase your chances of closing deals.

What are the best types of stories to use in sales?

Some helpful story types to use in sales include case studies, customer stories, personal anecdotes, origin stories and vision stories.

The best types of stories are relevant to your products or services and relatable to your customers.

Keep in mind that any stories you tell should be authentic, accurate, relevant, impactful, emotive and representative of your brand.


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