Do you have a sales story? If you don’t, you should. Telling your story gives you an opportunity to create an emotional connection with your buyer, which is important because buying decisions are often based on emotions. When your buyer chooses whether to buy from you, they may not remember what you said, but they will definitely remember how you made them feel, which is where your story comes in. To be an effective salesperson, you need a strong story, and I’m going to walk you through exactly how to create one.
Why You Need a Story
Your sales story accomplishes a lot of things in a conversation with your buyer. A good story builds trust, but a poorly constructed story will hinder the sales process. Some sales trainers will tell you to do as little talking, and to avoid talking about yourself, as much as possible. In theory, your buyer should talk more than you. But to build trust and credibility, you have to talk to show your knowledge and build credibility. People want to work with the best salespeople, not mediocre ones, and they won’t know which type of salesperson you are if you don’t show them.
Think about the last time you bought something from a salesperson. How did they make you feel? They probably made you feel confident in their credibility, which made you feel comfortable buying from them. Stories evoke emotion, and one of the biggest barriers to winning a deal is failing to create an emotional connection. Your buyer has to trust you, and build trust, you have to demonstrate your credibility and business intelligence, while also lowering your perceived self-interest. You can do this by mastering the way you talk about yourself in a short, concise way that helps you, rather than hurts you.
Use the Story Layout
I used to sell payroll and HR services, and I was the number-one rep at my company. I sold millions, and I ended up leaving, then coming back after a three-year break. When I came back from my break in 2014, this is the story I told:
“I’m returning to this company after a three-year break. I used to be the number one rep. I sold millions and converted over 100 customers to our platform. I had a five-year career that I loved, but I left because I noticed the technology was falling behind and I couldn’t stand behind it anymore. During that time, I started my own entrepreneurial venture and I got to help over 30 companies rebuild their businesses, which was an amazing experience. I ended up coming back to work here because a friend convinced me to take a look at the massive improvements the company had made to its technology and service, and it was so impressive that I wanted to come back.”
Let’s break down each piece of this story:1. Start with your background to prove credibility and acumen.
Notice that I lead with, “I’m returning to this company after a three-year break. I used to be the number one rep. I sold millions and converted over 100 customers to our platform. I had a five-year career that I loved…”
Then, I follow up with even more tangible evidence with the statement, “I started my own entrepreneurial venture and I got to help over 30 companies rebuild their businesses, which was an amazing experience.”
It’s important for me to share that I’ve sold millions, that I went through 100-plus conversions, and that I worked for the company for five years. These things add to my credibility and show my acumen. By sharing just a few things about me, I’ve established that I know what I’m doing when it comes to selling payroll and HR.
When you talk about your background, think about the qualities that will impress people. Is it your ability to multitask? Your handling of high-pressure situations? Are you the highest-performing member of your team? You can also use examples of your knowledge of the industry, competitive marketplace, and trends to show your acumen. No matter your history, there are parts of your background that will lend credibility. It’s your job to identify and pull those things out. When sharing your background, be concise by pulling out the key facts, and use this as an opportunity to show your buyer that you know a thing or two.
2. Move onto how and why you came to work here.
I do this in my story by saying, “I ended up coming back to work here because a friend convinced me to take a look at the massive improvements the company had made to its technology and service, and it was so impressive that I wanted to come back.”
Here, I’m demonstrating that I took one look at the new technology, and decided it was a game-changer. I’ve already demonstrated that I know the industry by sharing my background, which establishes my credibility. When I share that I know how much of a difference the company’s new technology makes, my opinion now has weight and meaning. Now, I might add another line or two about how much of a game-changer the company’s investment in R&D has been, to make it crystal clear that I fully believe in the solution.
When you talk about your company, and why you came to work there, you need to blow your buyer away with your passion and enthusiasm. You have to speak highly of your company and begin to get them excited by first sharing your own excitement. This gets your buyer intrigued. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a buyer say, “if you’re this excited about payroll, it must be good!”
3. Share the successes you’ve seen.
Buyers want to hear testimonials. Third-party validation and social proof help to prove your company’s offering. To prepare for that, you need to have a proof statement that provides some of that validation.
My proof statement goes something like this: “I’ve only been back since October, but the successes I’ve seen have been mind-blowing. As you know, we’ve historically worked with small businesses, but since I’ve been back, the company has asked me to work with mid-market and upmarket companies with several hundred to several thousand employees. It’s kind of unheard of for our company to work with businesses of these sizes, but since I’ve been back, I’ve already witnessed half a dozen mid-market and upmarket companies implement our solution successfully. I didn’t know if our company was capable of it, but I’ve seen it proven.”
4. Pivot to telling your buyer why you want to talk to them.
As we know, salespeople can have a tendency to talk too much, so it’s important to keep steps one through three short and sweet. Aim for under two minutes, at which point you should pivot to talking about the customer, their problem, and how you’re going to solve it and make their life better. This is your chance to answer the prospect’s biggest question, which is, “what’s in it for me?” We like to call this WIIFM, because it’s the radio station that’s constantly playing in your prospect’s head.
You can say something like, “This is exactly why I wanted to talk to you. You’re using company X, and historically, in my experience, companies of your size working with company X experience issue Y. Based on our initial call, it sounds like you might be experiencing some of that. The point of today’s call is to go over A, B, and C.”
From here, share your agenda and start asking your discovery questions. This allows you to share your story and build trust while staying in control of the conversation and not talking too much about yourself.
Write Your Story
Now that you know how to write your story, stop here! Follow the steps below before reading on.
- Watch our 16-minute course on how to Create Your Story.
- Use this course worksheet to write your story, following the layout above.
- Read back through your story and edit it.
- Type up the edited version of your story.
- Record yourself telling your story at least a dozen times. Practice as many times as it takes to memorize it, and don’t stop until telling your story starts to feel natural. This part is crucial to executing your story flawlessly.
Where and How to Use Your Story
Excellent! Now that you’ve written your story, be strategic about where you use it. Some great ways to use your story are:
- In your LinkedIn bio.
- When you’re networking (because there are still plenty of virtual networking events)! The default in a networking situation is to ask what you do or where you’re from. If you have your story memorized, you can make those introductory conversations much more interesting and captivate new people that you meet in a powerful way.
- In prospecting, you have to tell your story. When you speak to your prospect on a cold call and they ask who you are, having a strategic story memorized is the best way to kick off that conversation.
- My favorite place to use my story is in agenda-setting. When you set the agenda for your first sales call, pause to tell your story before you start rapid-firing them with discovery questions. This establishes rapport and a relationship, which will ultimately make your prospect more comfortable with you and your questions. After you tell them your story, ask them to tell you more about themselves, which will create a natural segue into asking discovery questions. You can use this again in follow up calls as your buyer brings more stakeholders into the conversation—each time someone new joins one of your calls, tell them your story to establish trust.
Remember, people won’t remember exactly what you say to them, but they will remember how you made them feel. Telling your story can make all the difference in building the trust that will make your buyer feel confident in you. Practice until telling your story feels effortless, and you’ll see the difference in your relationships with prospects and in the number of deals you close.
Want to learn more about strategically influencing and building trust with your buyer? Reach out to me here to start a conversation!
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MEET MARY GROTHE, THE CEO OF SALES BQ
Mary Grothe is a former #1 MidMarket B2B Sales Rep who after selling millions in revenue and breaking multiple records, formed Sales BQ®, a Denver-based firm of fractional Revenue Leaders who serve companies nationwide by profitably rebuilding their marketing, sales, and customer success departments by getting to the root of their revenue problems, rebuilding infrastructure, developing talent, and holistically growing their growing revenue at sometimes rapid paces.