We all should know by now the power of storytelling in business. After all, stories guide and enrich our personal lives every day in many ways: the learning we pass along to our children, the laughs we have with friends, the binge watching, or the novels we get lost in during a lazy weekend. Story is woven into the fabric of our lives, and we’re richer because of it.
Given that point, why should the same principles not apply when we’re all at work? Of course they do, and then some. In reading everything I can find about business storytelling – my two favorites being “Tell To Win” by Peter Guber and “Measures of Story” by K. Sean Buvala – some points rooted in psychology are worth mentioning.
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People make decisions based on emotion first and only then back it up with logic and reason. Humans also spend four hours per day (17% of life) inside imaginary landscapes like daydreams. That story is essentially emotional transportation…the part you take with you from a situation, and the part that allows you to connect with it in a meaningful way.
In account-based marketing and sales (hereafter “ABE” for account-based everything), I believe these “universal truths” are made all the more important and deserve special consideration by the teams employing an ABE strategy. Let’s start with the following definition of ABE:
Coordinated and personalized approach across multiple functions (specifically Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success), to land and expand a set number of targeted, named accounts.
Story is Power in Account-Based Marketing for Three Reasons:
1. Shared vision unites to account for multiple stakeholders.
ABE strategy, by definition, aims to include multiple roles and personas in a targeted, ideal account. Given the average B2B decision-making group includes six-plus buyers (according to CEB), ABE strategy needs to account for this, and all those personalized messages need to hang together inside a vision that binds all those stakeholders — and their individual agendas, we should emphasize. Vision’s vehicle is story. Fail to cast a common vision, and you risk being commoditized or missing out altogether on the opportunity.
2. Great stories get re-told when you’re not around and when much of the decision-making is happening without you.
Speaking of all those stakeholders, sellers especially know how hard it is to develop momentum within a sales (or renewal or upsell) cycle and to catch up with busy people (a problem made all the worse if you are living with bad account and contact data). The truth is, most of the game happens without you anyway. It’s the conversations that occur behind the scenes, inside the walls of XYZ Inc., the ones you most often have no idea are happening, the ones nobody sends you the meeting minutes from. In this reality, story can often save the day by being re-told countless times across the target account.
I remember a few months back when something similar happened within DiscoverOrg. A number of us from different departments bumped into a great example of marketing on LinkedIn. The narrative that went along with it became the story each of us couldn’t wait to run and tell somebody else. “Hey Patrick, you need to see this, and here’s why!” It went viral within DiscoverOrg and caused a pivot in our go-to-market strategy because of the way the powerful story was re-told across functions. Nice up, Zuora.
3. Story empowers internal teams to coordinate effort leading up to engagement with target accounts.
Lastly, sound ABE execution requires multiple internal teams to stay organized around both the content and cadence of the approach, once the target list of ideal accounts has been identified and expanded upon. Here again, story serves as a backbone for this requirement.
Something as simple as a message map, where a well thought out headline is supported by various sub-points — think eighth grade term paper — can do wonders to ensure that the perception of your company and its offer impresses, as opposed to confuses, your would-be partner. And it does this by anchoring your internal teams to a core message amidst many derivative messages prepared for this or that target persona.
I hope that your ABE meetings have storytelling on the agenda and that you and your team(s) find much success leveraging the power of narrative in account-based sales and marketing.
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