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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  August 12, 2015

3 Sales Messages Only Strategic Stories Can Communicate

Originally published by RainToday.com

Unless you’ve just splashed down from another planet, you know about the power of stories. They provide the proof and emotional context that can help buyers understand what you offer.

Unfortunately, this great tool is underused. It’s time to change that. Here are three strategic (and critical) messages that can be communicated only through stories and examples of the kinds of tales you can tell.

1. I Know My Stuff

To demonstrate credibility, most sales professionals take two approaches. They will either highlight the features of their solution or, if selling services, they will highlight their background with a few “I am great” stories. The problem with that is everyone talks about their methodology and impact. After a few conversations, all providers sound alike. Everyone is talented, is effective, and has great ideas. No one stands out.

The right story needs to showcase your credibility. And the best ones are conversations in disguise. The key: put yourself in “the one with the inside scoop” role with anecdotes about the issue or environment. The insights you give in the story will show that this is not your first rodeo. These stories will also demonstrate how your background or product can impact the client’s specific situation — all without talking about yourself. I call these “perspective” stories.

Example: A potential client and I were talking about new developments in the training industry. After telling a few stories about what I saw happening (complete with color commentary), he said, “This makes perfect sense. No one has explained these dynamics like you have.” This is the moment I knew I had the inside track.

2. I Understand You

Have you noticed that most conversations include both personal and business information? Buyers want to know who they are dealing with, especially if you are the one they will work with.

The biggest fear for many buyers is choosing the wrong person for the job. Stories that show how you approach your work lessen this concern. Many people drop the ball, though, when they expect their personality alone to show what it is like to work with them. Stories from the field can make that connection come alive.

Example: A potential client and I were talking about what makes her stand out in the marketplace. She said, “I tell the truth even when it gets me in trouble. And it usually does.” I laughed, and we traded stories about the lies people tell to get ahead. We then shared anecdotes about the trouble we get into when we tell it like it is. She and I quickly became kindred spirits. So when I told her my “perspective” stories (see above point), she believed my credibility.

3. I Can Deliver

A lot of people use success stories to show their solution gets results. Again, because a lot of people tell these types of stories, it’s difficult to stand out.

The worst thing you can do here is go too far with narratives that brag. It’s tempting to focus on the successful project or client and tout your heroic effort. Do that more than once in any conversation, and you’ll look arrogant at best or, at worst, you won’t be believed at all.

It can be difficult to choose the best stories. Instead of focusing on the outcome, focus on the point you want to make. Before telling that story to your prospect, ask yourself: “What do I want the buyer to know that I can’t tell them? Does this story say anything about how my solution will impact them?” Run every story you use through this benchmark.

Example: I work with a client who takes pride in the customization of work. Instead of telling stories about how they customized, I suggested the sales team focus on the crazy things clients ask for. The humor was already there, so it didn’t look like the team was pontificating or bragging. The message to their prospective customers: you cannot surprise us. If we can fulfill those companies’ needs and meet those requests, your challenge will be easy.

The Strategic Story

The common denominator in the above stories: none features you as the star. They educate and connect. They go beyond touting your value and actually create value. And all of those stories address what buyers really want to know about you but don’t ask.

According to Experian Marketing Services, storytelling is so important that 46% of senior marketers surveyed cited it as their top priority for 2015. Translation: be prepared for a tidal wave of stories across all channels. The more spaghetti that gets thrown at the wall, the less that sticks. It’s time to get strategic.

Filed Under: Experts


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.