Sales Through Storytelling: Story Tell, Story Sell!

An old French proverb tells us “Nothing succeeds like success!” And in sales, nothing succeeds quite like success stories. The secret is in how you share your successes; Learn to tell thirty-second “success stories.”

An old French proverb tells us “Nothing succeeds like success!” And in sales, nothing succeeds quite like success stories. Are you sharing yours? Why not?  The secret is in how you share your successes.

 Learn to tell thirty-second “success stories.”  During sales calls, a quick-hitting story can make or reinforce a point in a memorable fashion. Success stories may be told in response to a question, to serve as a testimonial, or even as an aside.

Did you know you had a storied past? Stories work for several reasons: they’re more memorable than numbers, names and dates; and listeners enjoy the drama: a problem followed by a solution, a mystery solved with a twist, or a creative workaround to a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Also, your listener can find him or herself in the story.

A good story will resonate with prospects.  

“We’re wired for stories, individually and collectively. Since the time of Odysseus, we’ve been told stories. Since we were little kids we’ve been reading and told stories. This is how we’ve been conditioned to learn; our morals and our values are taught through stories.” So says Gay Ducey, past president of the National Storytelling Association.  

Look at your sales history and pick out an accomplishment. Now tell the story behind the accomplishment. It states that you helped a past client increase sales by 60%. But tell how you did it; Cite a “before vs. after” description. What was the secret? Stories that reveal secrets captivate.

The Three S’s of Success Stories Success stories offer a setting, a situation, and a solution. Remember, you’re the hero of your stories. Your decisions, actions, and insights made the difference.

 Here is an example:  “We recently received a call from a merchant unhappy with their current vendor. They were paying high fees, receiving poor service, and experiencing frequent security breaches. In short order, we were able to launch a wireless processing system that was more secure, more reliable, and even less expensive.

Through customization, we were able to address their foreign and domestic needs, the strength of ours.” Not only does this success story demonstrate an independent sales organization’s ability to solve problems, but it also showcases an understanding of business, markets, and methods.

Stories can demonstrate your professionalism, customer service, researching ability, creativity, problem-solving inclination, or other strengths.  Consider this story for a job-seeker:

 Here is an example of how one candidate summarized his most recent employment for a competitor “In my last job I was hired to manage a production department at war with the editorial department. I walked into an environment full of distrust and resentment, built up over years of animosities and recriminations.

Through my implementation of cross-training between departments, initiation of mutual social outings such as picnics, and scheduling of project post-mortems we were able, after 6 months, to convert resentment into understanding and competition into cooperation.

As each department began to understand how the other one worked we were jointly able to improve the workflow and consequently shorten the time to market with publications. Even quality improved as we better understood how best to work together.

That showed me the importance of internal communication and how hard it can be, though not impossible, to change an existing culture.” Not only does this success story demonstrate the candidate’s ability to solve problems, but it shows interviewers the candidate’s understanding of interoffice politics and the human side of operations.

 Stories can demonstrate your detail orientation, dedication, leadership, independence, researching ability, creativity, service, or problem-solving inclination. Remember that employers want well-rounded hires so make sure they see evidence of your varied skill set. Here are a few examples:

 • Your conversion of old equipment into new uses shows you can think outside the box and are resourceful.

 • The non-monetary ways you recognized your staff show your creativity, and abilities as a leader as you demonstrate your understanding of how to motivate others.

 • The weekly internal E-letter you created for employees not only boosted morale but also gave evidence of your strong communication skills.  

• The canned food drive you initiated at your last job not only showed your commitment to your community but also raised visibility for the company and improved its public relations.

 • By forming a lunchtime jogging club you helped bring employees from different departments together while improving the health, and mental health, of employees who participated. Your leadership and team-building skills were further evidenced when your runners’ club formed a Centipede in the recent Bay to Breakers race.  

• Your multilingual skills helped aright a project suffering from miscommunication between subsidiaries from overseas. Not only could you translate phrases and idioms of speech, but your insight into cultural differences also bridged a gap and corrected a wayward project. More than showcasing your knowledge of languages, you demonstrated the ability to liaison between different groups, negotiate and turn an important project around.  Here are a few examples:

 • Your analysis of existing processing statements and identification of cost savings 

• Your experience with a variety of systems and payment methods: credit, debit, phone and gift cards, etc.

 • Your skill in designing billing systems that cross borders and time zones and convert currencies” Best yet, this Story Tell, Story Sell method works for sales, management, consultants, meeting planners, solopreneurs, and even politicians. I know, I’ve coached them! Review your past work history and identify the stories within each accomplishment. Now tell them to others. Don’t forget the moral to your story: the point the story tells about you (and your firm), your skills, and your credits. And remember, yours is a never-ending story!

As a self-employed speaker, trainer, and consultant on communication and customer service topics, Craig Harrison is simultaneously a decision-maker, gatekeeper, and caller on a daily basis.

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