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Sales Professionals Can Use Storytelling as a Powerful Prospecting and Sales Tool

By: Mary Sprow, Top Golf | Jun 10, 2019

storytelling2I have an addiction. No, it’s not what you’re thinking, I’m addicted to telling stories. Not “telling stories” as in stretching the truth, but stories that allow me to connect with people and prospects wherever I go. But where do you go to meet new contacts and prospects? Chamber of commerce events? Trade shows? Industry gatherings? The answer is yes. Those types of events are always a great place to start, but you are able tell your story to just about anyone you meet in person, on the phone and even on social media or via email.

Storytelling techniques help us create memorable experiences with our customers and clients by bringing our goods and services to life. You are able to create that emotional bond and relate to someone in ways that data and statistics cannot. Maya Angelou said it best, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said and did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

But why is that? Why do people remember how we make them feel? When we connect with someone, the story actually evokes a strong brain response while statistics, graphs and bullet points do not. According to neuroeconomist Paul Zak, research indicates that our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during tense moments in a story, which allows us to focus, while during the warm and fuzzy parts of the story, the brain releases oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes empathy and relationships. Other research tells us that during stories with happy endings, our brains release dopamine – the hopeful and optimistic hormone. The most successful storytellers are able to focus listener’s minds on a single important idea and forge an emotional connection in 30 seconds.

The history of storytelling is quite ancient, dating back thousands of years. Many scholars have analyzed the dramatic structure, beginning with Aristotle in 350 BC. Shakespeare had mastered this structure, known as Freytag’s Pyramid, arranging his plays in five acts.

Your story - your product - in five acts, can go where data and graphs cannot. A good story can seem like a gift to your customer or client.

Start out with the Introduction – you are simply introducing the basics or characters of your product or “story.” It establishes the mood for your story. This is the part of the story when you get your listener, or buyer’s attention.

The second act, or Rising Action, is building your story to the greatest point of interest. Your client is taking a journey in purchasing your product, but he’s looking at your competitors, too, and he may feel some rising conflict or objections. Here is your chance to listen to his needs and craft your story around what’s important to him.  Make your customer feel heard and understood.

The Climax is the turning point in your story and will effect change with your client. This is often the most exciting event in the story.  Show – don’t tell. Show your product – don’t bore your clients with more statistics. By showing them your product, you have the opportunity to connect emotionally.

The Falling Action is when the conflicts are beginning to resolve. This is where we see the fruits of the hero’s labor (you), but the story isn’t over yet.

The Resolution is the last act in your story … we hope that your story will end with you closing the piece of business, the protagonist (you) wins. If the story ends in catastrophe, and the competitor wins, you have the opportunity of re-telling your story for future opportunities.

Next time you have a story to tell, don’t worry about being an expert storyteller – make your story personal and connect with your client on a human level. In Harvard Business Review, Harrison Monarth writes: “Life happens in the narratives we tell one another. A story can go where quantitative analysis is denied admission: our hearts. Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.”

About the author: Mary Sprow has been an event specialist in the Chicagoland area for the past 20 years. She currently leads the Midwest sales effort for Topgolf based in Naperville. Prior to Naperville, she was the Director of Sales at Entourage at American Lane Restaurant and Creative Concepts, the founders of Boogie Nights, Trio and The Bamboo Room, also in the Midwest. Ms. Sprow brings both networking, sales and sales coaching to this column.

 

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Mary Sprow, Top Golf
Topgolf Naperville

 
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