In a parent/teacher conference for my second-grade daughter, I learned that an important skill for a developing reader is the power to visualize, or the ability to have a running picture in your mind as you read along.
A short while later, on a plane ride, I thought about how that acquired skill by a reader has more to say about the ability of the writer to fulfill her duty. It’s pretty much the nature of the bargain – write a book that holds my interest, and I’ll keep reading it. I give you my time, and you ensure I remain motivated to move forward. Quid pro quo.
It’s the exact same bargain in sales. People are busy. So when they agree to show up for your demo, or stay on the phone longer when you call, a duty is owed to hold their interest, to engage their emotions, to make it worth it. If you want to keep the sales cycle moving forward, you must earn that motivation, and storytelling is a powerful vehicle for doing so.
I don’t mean fictionalizing or spinning a yarn the way guys do when they’re drinking or returning home from a fishing trip. Instead, I mean portraying your offering in a real-world use case that, ideally, features your prospect – or someone just like him – as the protagonist of the action.
I used to represent a company that sold software support. Generations of sales reps there learned to not merely talk about technical capabilities and coverage, but to also paint the picture of the stressed-out executive who’s running late on a deadline to get a spreadsheet over to her CFO. And isn’t it just her luck that Excel is acting up at that very moment? Cue our service as the hero’s magic wand.
I now work for DiscoverOrg, the sales intelligence leader that enables marketing and sales professionals to drive pipeline growth by avoiding the time trap of prospecting and focusing their efforts on actually selling. Same idea though – it’s not about org charts, direct dial phone numbers, verified email addresses, and real-time scoops. It’s about how those things play out in the real world of the people that need them. It’s about making club for the first time because of that efficiency gain. Or it’s about that sale, which came off the rails because a rep didn’t know about the executive in the middle – who it turns out is the REAL decision-maker in the transaction – and how, just then, the org chart saved the day, and the sale closed.
You merely need to think about all good stories, and what elements are always there. Conflict, struggle, and resolution. Surprise, insight, and a happy ending. Get the hero stuck up in a tree. And then find a way down for him. You owe it to your prospect to care about these things.
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