Despite its increasing irrelevance, the tired, old sales pitch still enjoys a large following. Unfortunately, that washed-up elevator pitch generally focuses solely on the seller -- the company, its capabilities, and its accomplishments -- and rarely highlights the prospect’s needs.
It’s natural for a sales rep to tout their company and its accolades. From their perspective, what their company sells is everything, and their job revolves around trumpeting its value. Ultimately, however, prospective customers aren’t immediately interested in you, your product, or its features. They want to know how you can help them. That’s why you should pitch your … pitch … and tell a story instead.
Why Stories Make the Best Pitch
The power of storytelling stems from our ability to empathize with characters who face familiar challenges, persevere, and overcome. In a salesperson’s case, you’re trying to sell a product or service through that same medium. Storytelling humanizes your pitch and process, and it creates lasting connections with prospective customers.
And there’s proof storytelling is effective. Recent studies show that after a presentation, a mere 5% of attendees remember statistics, while a whopping 63% recall stories.
Still, salespeople remain more comfortable with boilerplate pitches and bulleted PowerPoint presentations loaded with data -- two tools that only activate two regions of the brain. Storytelling, conversely, activates seven; if you can capitalize on a shared connection, you’re much more likely to create a lasting bond.
You’ve likely seen this many times: A prospect hears success stories (either from us or other clients who’ve found success) and they reach out. One story we rely on highlights success our clients have in building and sustaining healthy staff retention.
Having heard this story, one particular prospect with salespeople operating across 100 different territories reached out to see whether they could find similar retention success. This client ended up implementing a solution we presented in a quarter of its sales regions.
In those territories, the client retained 91% of its first-year hires, while the remaining areas experienced a retention rate of 76%. Now, we share this story with other prospects, and it resonates with them far more than stats alone.
If you’re sold on storytelling, you’re on the right track. It has big advantages over the more overt, in-your-face sales pitches most people naturally tune out. But it’s also an art that takes time to perfect.
How to Become a Fantastic Storyteller
1. Focus on them, not you
In a pitch, it feels right to lead with what salespeople view as their most compelling statistics, but prospects are likely not listening. If your company or service is taking precedence over a lead’s needs, you’re doing it wrong.
In fact, almost 60% of people find generic sales pitches irritating. Instead, talk about the prospect’s pain points, and discern how you can help in a non-promotional way.
2. Cover customer pain points in your story
Instead of touting your capabilities, speak to problems you solve that relate to your prospects' pain points. This tactic helps you discover more about your customers and their needs.
At The Center for Sales Strategy, we’ll tell prospects interested in our services we reduce sales department turnover, drive top-line revenue, and boost lead generation. Then, I’ll ask which scenario resonates most. Once I’ve zeroed in on “the one,” I’m able to apply a story about how we’ve successfully helped other clients in that space.
3. Nurture a substantial (and consistent) story bank
Having shareable stories is great, but having a sales team relay them inconsistently is not. A story bank -- an arsenal loaded with stories of your past success -- is only effective if the content within it is consistent.
If Mary tells a story about successful retention tactics to Prospect A and Tom tells the same to Prospect B, both stories should match. Otherwise, your team becomes known for inconsistency from the get-go.
Lastly, continue dropping stories in your bank as you collect client successes, and be sure to go over any new additions as a team in regular training or sales meetings. This, too, will promote streamlined, consistent pitch stories.
Storytelling isn’t a silver bullet. Telling stories is an ideal way to connect with your prospects, but, like everything else, it takes practice. The best salespeople and marketers don’t tell stories off the cuff.
Sure, it might sound that way, but they’ve practiced, rehearsed, and refined it until it got there. Do the same, and you’ll find that storytelling can affect your bottom line in ways that might make you the hero after all.