Storytelling and your sales presentation
People love to be told a story, especially if it’s relevant to their experiences and problems.
Statistics, facts and figures can help when you’re trying to persuade a prospect to become a customer, but they’re more impactful if you can frame those statistics in a relatable way. For example, if you tell a story about an existing customer who faced the same challenges as your prospect, and supplement that with powerful data, they are more likely to listen and want to know more.
Human beings have a deep relationship with storytelling. Stories move us, teach us and, in a sales context, persuade us. We remember stories more than we remember anything else.
Chip Heath, a Stanford professor and the co-author of Made to Stick, demonstrates the importance of storytelling by doing an exercise with his students. He divides them into groups and asks them to deliver a one-minute persuasive pitch based on data he’s just shown them.
After the pitches have been delivered and there’s been a break, he’ll ask the class to jot down everything they remember about them. Although most students use stats rather than stories, 63% remember the stories, while only 5% remember an individual data point.
The stickiness of stories makes them a useful tool for developing a sales presentation outline, as they help prospects understand and remember the key points of the presentation and your product.
“Analogies or relatable stories are an extremely powerful technique to avoid using internal ‘jargon’ and allows the customer to understand the product/service in the real world,” explains Thomas Dredge, sales manager at Particular Audience.
“For example, explaining a display ad across the internet can be likened to a billboard on the side of a building. Sellers often confuse clients by using complicated language. They may believe this makes them come across as more knowledgeable, but it’s not a good way to sell. People buy things they understand. Help them understand.”
Start with a problem (and a deadline)
Your presentation is about the solution you’re offering your prospects, but it shouldn’t start with that solution.
Instead, you should begin with the problem your solution was designed to solve, and the challenges you’re solving for your customers.
“Value Selling is key,” says Bradley Davies, business development at Cognism. “It is important to understand your buyer and tailor their journey to what you can do for them.
“First you need to understand what is motivating them to have a discussion, which allows you to identify their pains and present how your offering solves their pains. Everything presented to a prospect should be based on the value for them specifically.”
The problem, their pains associated with it and your solution should be delivered with a story; a tale that highlights the specific challenges faced by your customers.
You might also choose to tell a story that positions your product as the hero, helping the customer vanquish a villain: their pain point.
Your story, which should be tailored to the prospects in the room, should focus on change rather than their pain point. For example, on a change to their business, industry, or to the technology they use — something that impacts and improves the way they do business.
“If an element of your offering is not relevant, then don't distract them from the important features. It will keep them engaged and help to build their user story,” adds Bradley
Create a sense of urgency around your product: It’s a solution to their problem, but if they don’t act now, they could miss an opportunity. Tell a story about what might happen if your prospect doesn’t change, framing the consequences of not taking action.
Start talking about the solution
You’ve outlined the problem, and, if you’re doing your job, your audience is nodding along. Now it’s time to start talking about the solution.
However, that doesn’t mean you should launch into the features and benefits of your product just yet.
Rather than presenting your product, a good sales presentation draws a picture of what life could look like for a customer once they start doing things differently. How will their business or lives change for the better? How will their world change? Importantly, how will they reduce spending and increase revenue?
Then you can start talking about your solution and the features that can make this brave new world possible. Do this in a few ways:
Position your features against the old way of doing things
Present those features as “superpowers” that will solve your prospect’s problems
Compare those features to competitors’ features
Use a combination of some or all of the above