They all excelled in their fields of endeavour. And the reason why they stand out is that they were great communicators. But even more exciting is they were grand story tellers.
So what lessons can we learn from them? And, how can we apply these learnings to spice up our sales performance?
Story telling is a fabulous - if not dying art. It’s been used throughout history to motivate, inspire and build commitment. And, it’s a fantastic sales tool.
Let me explain.
In our ‘digital’ world, many products and services are highly technical. So, companies tend to hire sales people who are technical experts.
On the other hand, buying decisions are made by committees made up of technical and non-technical people. Final buying choice often ultimately rest with an inner circle of non technical buyers.
So your sales pitch needs to be carefully crafted to excite and delight the ultimate buyer (or buying panel). That’s where great story telling can be your best sales weapon!
How story telling turned failure into incredible success
Here’s my personal experience on how story telling helped me close some large lucrative deals.
I was hired by a very innovative security company looking for change. I was given a challenge to create and market an ‘electronic’ safe.
I produced a safe that could read paper currency bills, store them securely in a tamper proof canister inside the safe and provide printed read-outs showing cash deposited by operator. It was also programmable, and could print specialised reports. It even dialled the security company when the cash canister was full and ready for collection.
By today’s standards it was basic technology. No cloud based integration. No mobile connectivity. No high level data encryption. But for its day, it was the ‘ants pants’ in cash security.
The selling proposition was that the electronic safe provided more protection to retail workers. Instead of placing cash in a till, the operator placed cash directly into the safe. This provided much more protection against robbery and thus helped protect the employee from harm.
When the unit was ready for market launch, I prepared the sales strategy, the marketing program and communications support materials.
We were ready to set the market on fire with our new baby!
But after the first week, my sales team and I hadn’t closed a single sale. After 2 weeks….it was a similar story.
Our collective hearts sank.
Why wasn’t the market responding to our sales pitch? Had we got the research wrong? Had we made a huge mistake?
Then it hit me! We were concentrating on its specifications and functionality. But the final decision makers were not so interested in the specifications. They thought in terms of payback periods and how the product could help their business.
So I had to rethink the selling strategy. I focused on telling a compelling real story. It went something like this.
Two bandits burst into a Texas convenience store with unlawful intent. One of the three store attendants was Nikki Dement. The bandits were wearing masks and forced the three attendants to clear all the cash from the registers.
They forced Nikki Dement and the other store workers into a vehicle and drove to a remote location. The bandits sexually assaulted Nikki. In a final act of terror they made the three victims lie on the ground and shot them all with a shotgun. Believing their victims were dead, the robbers fled the scene.
Nikki survived and bravely testified against the criminals. She faced them in court helping to ensure they were convicted.
The story hit a nerve with our decision making clients. They could relate to this real life story. And ……they could visualise the horrific episode and associate it with something that could happen to their daughter, wife, sister or valued employee.
The conclusion drawn by our prospective customers’ was that - had an electronic safe been installed in the store, the bandits would not have been able to access any cash. Most likely they have would have departed the premises without inflicting violence on the store personnel.
By changing our sales strategy to telling a story, we achieved unbelievable success.
Suddenly, sales started to flow. Soon the flow became a river of orders. The product became so successful that we created a $10 million revenue stream.
You can achieve similar success by crafting a real story around your product or service.
Here’s the ‘How To’ for creating a fantastic story
I’m going to share the secrets of story telling with you. …… Why?
Because I want you to experience success in your selling career, particularly if you’re selling technical products.
Story telling is a discipline. If you follow the formula, you can create a great story. Perhaps a fantastic story - that will sell your product beyond your wildest dreams.
Here’s a bonus tip for you. I find it useful to use mind-mapping as I step through the following process. If you use it, I bet it will help you achieve an improved result.
So, here’s the story telling method that Disney, Jobs, Shakespeare and Dahl all used to motivate, inspire, entertain or build commitment.
This is the initial part of the story where you set the stage for the main action. Its here that you place the ‘where’ and ‘when’ to set up your story. You also identify the characters involved. An important part of the exposition is to introduce a point of view from which the story is being told.
This is where you build the excitement or tension to focus on the point of greatest interest. In Rising Action you introduce the most important parts of the story. You will also set up the climax.
Climax or Crisis
This is the turning point, which changes the fate of the characters. If the story is a comedy, things will have gone badly for the ‘hero’ up to this point. You now start unfolding the plot in his or her favour. This is where you might find the character drawing on hidden inner strengths.
Of course, if the story is a tragedy, the opposite will be the case. Things will go from good to bad. In a tragedy, your character will have hidden weaknesses that cause a catastrophe.
In this section you start to unravel the mystery. Your hero will win against the odds or, on the other hand, your villain will get his just punishment. This section will probably have a moment of final suspense, where your audience can only guess the outcome.
This is the final resolution, revelation or disaster that brings your story to conclusion.
It consists of events from the end of the Falling Action to the actual ending of the drama or storyline. Think of it as a final scene where conflict is resolved, or tensions and anxieties are released for your audience.
The comedy ends with your hero being better off. The tragedy ends with devastation, where the villain is worse off.
What are you waiting for?
It took me many years to discover the power of story telling to improve sales.
Now that you know the secrets, begin today. Don’t delay!
Start planning, constructing and delivering your sales stories now. And see the results for yourself!