7 Tips for Using Stories in Sales to Win Business


Forrest Gump and sales

Like a great movie, using stories in sales can make a strong impact on your business audience, differentiate you and your solution and inspire action in a way that delivering information alone simply can not.  On the flip side, a poorly crafted or executed story can cost you credibility, attention and ultimately the sale.  With so much at stake, it pays to learn a proven strategy and powerful tactics for using stories in sales from a $1.8 trillion dollar industry that has been engaging and influencing audience’s for centuries: the movies!

A successful movie requires the combined efforts of thousands of people, but at it’s core it comes down to the screenwriter, the director, and the actors.   By applying a few tricks of the trade from these storytelling masters, you can bring your sales story to life for your business audiences in a memorable and compelling way that inspires action.

7 Tips for Using Stories in Sales:

1.  Add drama

Stories are based on drama, yet most stories in sales presentations have little or no drama at all!  Drama is what draws people in and it requires conflict and tension before ultimately coming to a resolution.  Test your story for drama by giving it the “So what?” test.  If it doesn’t pass, you may need to escalate the dramatic tension.  At every point in your story ask yourself, “and then what would happen?”  When using stories in sales the tension should be at a peak before you show the solution.  (For tips on how to use the movie technique of “Raising the Stakes”read here.)

2.  Be descriptive

Think in terms of word pictures.  Allow your listener to experience the story in a three-dimensional way by using words that engage them through multiple senses.  Be careful not to go adjective crazy.  Pick and choose only those descriptions that help color or advance your story.

3.  Be specific

Focus on a few key details and don’t try and cover too much.  When using stories in sales providing too many details or vague details will quickly overwhelm your listener and create tune out.  Highlight a few key elements of your story.  Quantify when you can.  For example, “ninety-percent” rather than “most” or “five” instead of “several.”

4.  Cut to the chase

Movies don’t start with the director telling the audience what they’re going to be seeing, why they made the movie or what the theme is.  They start with the car chase.  Why?  Because increasingly short attention spans demand it.  Audiences and prospects have little patience for a lot of introductory fluff.  You have a precious few seconds to grab your listener’s attention and draw them in.  For more tips on how to Cut to the Chase in your story, click here.

5.  Keep it short

In a world of increasing demands and expedited communication, your story needs to be short and to the point.  If you’ve followed the previous suggestions, focused on fleshing out a few key details and started in the middle of the action, your story should be fairly concise.  (1 to 2 minutes max) If it’s not, consider whether you are trying to get too much across and take the time to edit down to the essence of what you’re trying to say.

6.  Stick the landing.

Remember the summer Olympics?  What did the announcer say after almost every great vault? “He/she really stuck the landing!”  Pity the gymnast who executed a perfectly beautiful vault but faltered on the landing only to lose critical points in a competition separated by tenths of a point.  In the same way, a brilliantly told story with an unclear, over-explained or simply blown ending loses critical points with your prospect.  Know what your ending is and when you’re finished, resist the urge to start explaining what your story meant and its relevance to your prospect.

7.  Rehearse

It takes practice to tell a story with impact – even if you know it well. Actors don’t wait until they get a part to start rehearsing so don’t wait until you have a meeting to start practicing your story.  Consistently practice your stories before you need them.  Having a good story ready to go at a moment’s notice will give you greater confidence and free you up to really focus on your prospect.

Find out the 5 Reasons When you Should Tell a Story in Your Sales Presentation here!

Happy story selling!

Photo courtesy of:  Loren Javier

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