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Storytelling and Selling

Storytelling is as old as the human experience. We pass stories on from one generation to the next. Stories express our social values, warn us against danger, celebrate our heroes, transfer knowledge, and help us form our identity. Stories bind us to one another and allow us to share the human experience. So what on earth does storytelling have to do with selling and wealth? EVERYTHING!

I sell business development training. I have competitors in the market place just like every other service provider, but what expresses my credibility and inspires prospects to purchase from me is not merely the quality of my content, but their connection to my story and those of my clients. My clients choose me because they identify with me.

I tell my prospects that everyday I have to create a dollar out of thin air. The skills I teach them are the very skills that have built my own company. The fact that I launched my company in the worst economic climate of my life is also an important part of my story because when I tell them that these skills are their power tool in every economic climate, I have the story to back up my claim. I also tell them that I don’t work for a hobby. I have a mother and two children to support. I provide these details when I’m telling my story in a class or speaking engagement so that they understand how critical these skills are to my survival and success.

My story establishes my credentials, creates a relationship with my prospects, and builds the necessary trust to establish me as a valued advisor and consultant. In order to be an advocate, ally, and advisor a prospect must identify with you and your story.

I am frequently asked how trust is built; my answer is that trust is purchased on the resonance and relevance of your story. The story you tell about your company, your clients and your service is what your clients will remember. They may forget about the bells and whistles of your product and the details of your presentation, but they will never forget the story you tell them about how one of your clients saved tens of thousands of dollars from using your system. That’s what will be etched in their minds when you leave them.

While sales programs focus on process, it’s also important to remember that the human connection to share stories speaks to the core of our being and can create more traction than a well-executed presentation, flashy marketing material, or even a superior product.

I am frequently quoted as saying, “selling is not a talent, but rather a measurable, teachable, transferable skill.” This is best conveyed through a story of a young woman I trained in Hot Springs, Arkansas who was quiet, sweet and lovely – nothing one would equate with selling. I tell the story of how she learned to push past objections and after the first training made 4 appointments in one hour – more than she had made in her entire career. The story is not intended to elevate me or my skills, but rather to impress upon my listeners that if she could do it then so too can they. I weave the story carefully and what I can assure you is that every student remembers that young woman from Hot Springs, Arkansas and feels empowered and inspired by her success. She is their hero and example.

The story is true by the way, and that’s important, because stories must be authentic, honest, and revealing in order to be relevant. Tall tales are not the stories that wealth and success are built upon. Like all sales tactics, storytelling can be elegant and valuable or indulgent and manipulative. Storytelling should be used to illuminate, advise, elevate and motivate. Storytelling is the vehicle of connectivity. Think of when we want to teach our children an important lesson. We use stories to stress important life lessons because we know that it is the story that will move them – not the information.

I would venture to guess that we have been telling stories even longer than we’ve been transacting. If indeed relationships build business then it is language that builds relationships. How often have you heard that people buy from people? But what separates us in the marketplace from one another? I would argue that it is not only our unique sales proposition, but equally, it is our capacity to tell the story of that proposition that is the most compelling tool to branding and building interest, trust and loyalty.

As you build your sales strategy and shape the tactics that will execute your strategy, I recommend that you think about the stories that inform your success and connect you to your clients. Sharing meaningful stories is more than a sales gimmick; it’s a unique expression of you and your value.

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