In my previous post we looked at why stories always trump slides in sales presentations. Now what? How do you actually go about creating compelling stories for your sales messaging? Here are a few principles to help make the stories you tell – whether in person or in writing – more memorable and more effective.
1. Create tension – Tension is one of the most basic elements of great storytelling. It’s what keeps us on the edge of our seats in movies like The Pursuit of Happyness. And it works just the same in sales conversations. If you want to make an impact on your audience, start with tension. Let them actually feel the pain and frustration as you describe the “before”. Then when you get to the “after” it will be that much more meaningful.
2. Sweat the details – Take time to paint the picture for your prospect. Don’t just say, “The client had an important deadline and asked us to rush the order of promotional items.” Explain how your client was getting ready to launch their new product at the largest tradeshow in their industry – which was only two weeks away. And how this product had been three years in the making. And how these particular promotional items were to play such an important role in marketing the product. Help your listener feel like she’s part of the story, and she’ll be more likely to remember it.
3. Be full of surprises – The presenter I referred to in my previous post included some very surprising twists and turns in the stories he told. It was a big part of what made his stories so interesting. Look for those “who knew!” moments as you craft your own stories. The more unexpected twists, little known facts, or counterintuitive findings, the better.
4. Do the numbers – Whether you’re telling the company history, recounting a customer success story, or offering a helpful analogy around your process, always look for ways to bring in numbers. The more you can quantify your stories, the more real and tangible they become (just like the example above about the rush order). Already swimming in a sea of data? Then find the single most surprising figure, and build the story around that. One of my friends launched a whole new business on a single story based around a single number.
Whether you’re keynoting a conference or just trying to convey your value prop in a 10-minute phone conversation, remember that a well-crafted story trumps any slide presentation.