March 17, 2022 Improve Your Close Ratio Using Storytelling in Sales Written by Karli Stone Why should you use storytelling in sales? Because to find success in today’s business world, you need to sell more than just your product. You need to sell a dream – a reality where the customers are better versions of themselves and free from their current problems. This is why storytelling is such a powerful selling tool. From sales pitches and websites to video calls and emails, infusing storytelling in sales interactions can increase buyer confidence, shorten the sales cycle, improve customer retention, and, ultimately, boost revenue. The best part is: you don’t have to be Stephen King to tell great stories! In this blog, we’ll go over the reasons why storytelling in sales works and provide you with some storytelling techniques to get you started. [lwptoc] Why does storytelling work? Stories are up to 22x more memorable than your average black-and-white facts and figures. But why do they stick in our memories? Why do stories have such a huge impact on us and the way that we interact with each other? Simply put: our brains are wired that way. Humans have been using stories as a primary communication method for over 40,000 years. We are biologically built to store, index, and retrieve information that we receive through stories. Research shows that when we hear stories, chemicals are released in our brain that make us feel empathy and motivate us to cooperate with people. Yes, sales professionals aren’t neuroscientists. But, the best salespeople understand that the decision to buy is in fact very neurological. Once a story has captured buyer attention for long enough, prospects become emotionally invested. And that emotion is the fast lane to the brain. It can change attitudes and opinions and behaviors at the drop of a hat. “Story selling” plays to this fact. It is an effective way to conduct a sales conversation that balances the need to effectively communicate product value, while also creating an emotional connection. Now, let’s learn more about storytelling in sales. What kinds of stories make powerful sales stories? Now that you know the why behind using storytrelling in sales, it’s time to build up your arsenal of stories. Here are several types of stories that are effective at moving customers through your sales funnel: Customer success stories. Stories about previous customer successes can be a powerful tool. A Gartner study showed that 70% of executive buyers believe that customer stories are the best way to differentiate a company from its competitors. A good customer success story helps the prospect see themselves in the place of the client who had good results with your product. To get the best results from customer success stories, make sure that the “use case” aligns with the persona you are pitching to. You should have a few customer success stories in your storytelling arsenal that will connect with your different buyer personas. Personal anecdotes. A sales person can also use short or even amusing anecdotes to their advantage. If you want to illustrate the importance of always being prepared, maybe you tell your client the story of when your car broke down and you didn’t have a spare tire. Maybe you try to convince them to take some risks by using a story about the thrill of skydiving or diving with sharks. Sometimes silly stories can be powerful ways to develop a connection and make prospective customers feel comfortable and receptive to your call-to-action. Company failures. It feels counterintuitive, but telling failure stories is actually proven to be an effective way to sell. Failure stories can call attention to the instances where your company has grown and improved to better meet buyer needs. They also help to build seller credibility and trust. Nobody likes to fail, and people can have a lot of empathy for sellers who are vulnerable enough to describe a moment of failure and growth. Your story. Everyone wants to feel like they understand the person sitting across from them. Telling your own story can be a great way to introduce yourself and develop an initial connection with clients. When should you use sales stories? For stories to have the most sales success, they need to be used in the appropriate context. Here are a few scenarios that create great storytelling opportunities: When you want to make your sales pitches more conversational Sales pitches that are all facts, statistics, and rote information often aren’t enough to engage prospects. In fact, sales presentations without stories often make prospects feel like you are talking at them – not with them. Author and sales professional, Nancy Duarte, writes, “Business leaders need to place the people in the audience at the center of the action, and make them feel that the presentation is addressing them personally”. By making sales stories “hero’s journeys” with the prospect at its crux, you can personalize the information that you’re offering, make data more understandable, turn facts into gripping plot points, and help make the details stick. This will make sales pitches less of a presentation, and more of a conversation. When you need to handle objections Learning how to overcome objections in sales and using stories to handle customer doubt will bring you closer to closing deals. One popular storytelling technique for objection handling is called “Feel, Felt, Found”. This strategy involves: First, acknowledging how a prospect feels when they have an objectionThen, relaying a story about how a former customer felt the same wayFinish the story with how that customer found their solution by purchasing your product This sales strategy works because it offers up a tangible experience that feels helpful and relevant. Storytelling takes the opposition out of the objections and helps you move to a collaborative discussion with a hesitant prospect. Next time you’re faced with an objection, a good story might be just the thing to help you overcome it. When you want to establish credibility Stories aren’t only for helping your buyers see the benefits of your product. They are for helping you establish yourself as a knowledgeable and trustworthy expert. After all, why should they trust you with their business? Use storytelling to prove to customers that you’ve dealt with people like them before and that you’ve had success helping people navigate similar situations. When you’re looking to establish credibility, infuse evidence in your story. What was the issue? How did you solve the problem? How did the situation end? Where are these happy customers now and how did their lives improve because of you? How to prepare a powerful story for your next sales meeting Step #1: Start with buyer personas Like any good sales technique, successful storytelling in sales starts and ends with understanding your buyer personas. Stories resonate differently with different people. You can’t guide your prospect towards a sale with a narrative if you don’t know who they are and what motivates them. If you have existing buyer personas, familiarize yourself with: The buyer’s pain pointsThe language they use to communicate these challenges and their needsHow they see themselvesTheir role in the organizationTheir role in the decision-making process If you don’t have buyer personas in place, now is the perfect time to build some. Apollo.io has plenty of solutions to get you started. Create a persona using our dozens of advanced filters, add them into your sales pipeline directly in Apollo, and start booking those meetings! Step #2: Use the elements of a great story Now that you’ve uncovered exactly who you are speaking to, you can dive into the structure of your stories. Great storytelling convinces people to act (or, in this case, buy) using trust, emotion, or logic. Actionable sales stories need to play to each of these: Trust (or Ethos) As a storyteller, you need to earn and maintain credibility. Every piece of information from the sales professional is either supported or diminished by the customer’s perception of the storyteller. To build trust: Use language that’s easy to understandBe open and honestUse accurate and truthful informationConfirm that all characters in your story are ok with being discussed Emotion (or Pathos) We’ve established that emotion is a very powerful thing. Your sales stories should stir some level of emotion in your prospect, because how you’ve made them feel – not exactly what you’ve said – is what they are going to remember when they walk away. To create emotion: Use emotional language and visuals – talk about or show how your characters felt, their anticipations and reactionsUse analogies and metaphors to connect unfamiliar ideas or to add some humorUtilize pauses in your delivery and don’t be afraid to show your own emotions Logic (Logos) This is an area that most salespeople thrive in – appealing to a prospect’s reason. When you tell a story to a prospect make sure it highlights an issue and presents a logical way to solve it. To build logic into your story: Use statistics, percentages, and graphs brieflyReference logic or scientific research in easy-to-understand languagePoint to reliable resources Step #3: Turn positive case studies into intriguing stories At this stage, go back to the pain points you identified when working with your buyer personas. Try to match them with success stories from past customers who solved similar problems using your product or service. For example, maybe the prospect you’re talking to is struggling with aligning their sales and marketing teams. This would be a perfect opportunity to tell the story of X customer who experienced a 10x sales lift and cut down bounce rates by 60% when they decided to use your tool for internal alignment. Everyone likes to feel understood. Shape your organization’s positive case studies into stories that prospects can relate to. They’ll see the potential your product has to work for them, too. Step #4: Incorporate your stories into your sales pitch You’ve spent all this time creating a perfectly tailored story – you can’t mindlessly throw it into a sales pitch. You have to infuse your stories into your sales presentations in ways that support the overall narrative you’re trying to create. Stories at the beginning of a sales presentation can help capture a prospect’s attentionStories told in the middle of a sales presentation can refocus your prospects and re-energize conversationsStories sprinkled throughout your presentation can strategically support the key features or benefits that you’re describingStories told in a closing sales conversation leave lasting impressions and urge prospects to put themselves into the shoes of the character Where you decide to place your story in your sales conversation should be in line with your goals. What are you hoping the listener gets from the story? What do you hope it accomplishes? How do you want your prospect to feel? Step #5: Evaluate and Optimize Just like any sales technique, your storytelling strategy needs consistent re-visiting. Are the stories working as well as they used to? Can they be replaced with better stories? Keep an eye on the use of stories to make sure they achieve what they should. Storytelling in Sales: Key Takeaways If you’re trying to pull on heartstrings, inspire urgency, or simply lighten the mood, there is nothing better than telling a good old-fashioned story. Regardless of what you are selling, incorporating the art of storytelling into your sales discussions allows you to appeal to both logic and emotion, ensuring your prospects walk away with a lasting impression (and maybe even a closed deal!). For more sales tips, follow Apollo.io across your socials! Find us on LinkedIn and Twitter, or, for immediate results, sign-up for a free (yes, completely free) Apollo account. Happy selling! Karli Stone Karli Stone is a copy writer and content creator living in Los Angeles, CA and a proud University of Washington grad. When she’s not wordsmith-ing, you can find her biking along Santa Monica Beach, following the Seattle Seahawks, or catching a flick at her local cinema.