I recently attended a free seminar at the end of which I fully expected to be pitched. The presenter had a complicated set of slides that alternated between music, animation and other fun effects. As he switched from slide to slide, it became clear that the most interesting part of his presentation was, in fact, the music and the special effects. All of the information he presented on his product was flanked with statistics, bar charts and other data. All of the pertinent information was there but there was one problem. It bored me to tears. Amid the numbers, the statistics and the mission statement his presentation had lost character, personality and appeal. What he needed was more persuasive material.
Have you ever begun to read something with the earnest desire to finish it only to find yourself dropping off after a few paragraphs? Have you ever had a sales presentation going on right in front of you and still found yourself daydreaming? It is true that with all of the best intentions, we sometimes need a great deal to keep our minds focused on one thing for very long. If you are approaching someone with a proposition, if you desire a “yes” in response, your most basic of requirements should be to peak your prospect’s interest.
Traditional corporations teach their salespeople to bombard their prospects with facts, figures, charts and bar graphs until they are subdued into a “yes.” The problem with this theory is those facts and figures are often quite boring. Instead of presenting a number of bland bar charts and graphs, focus your presentation on something with which your prospects can relate. I refer to a quote from a friend and business partner…
“Facts tell, stories sell.”
Stories have more appeal than numbers. They take us to a place with which we are familiar and, if told well enough, can even conjure emotion. When you use an anecdote of a real life situation to exemplify your point, you are more likely to gain the interest of your prospects than if you were using bland numbers and boring charts. The formula is simple, tell a story and make the point, then support it with data and analysis. Repeat. For the next major piece of content, tell a story and make a point, then support with data.
Action step: Do the exercise below in order to cultivate a list of stories that you can use in different selling situations.
1. List the key products and services you sell;
2. Think carefully about all the stories, real case studies and situations that surround success and failure with each product or service. Make a list including cases where someone bought what you sell, used it, and produced results…anything that could persuade others to think favorably of you, your company and what you offer;
3. Choose the most persuasive story for each service or product Practice telling each story and make sure that you tell it very effectively. Stories should illustrate customer satisfaction, referrals you received, how people’s lives were changed, how Rover, the dog, lived four more years, how Nancy lost 150 pounds, how Pee Wee’s stamina and performance improved, and so on;
4. Keep this story list with you on an index card. Use it as a prompt during your next few selling presentations;
5. Day after day as you encounter different people and situations, add stories to your list where appropriate.
When you tell your stories, be as specific as you can. Include names, cities and dates in order to establish creditability. You can even use stories when answering objections, pointing to past clients who have faced similar concerns and overcome them with your product/service. Even past failures can serve a good use in your presentation. Explaining how your product/service fell short in one area in the past can lead into a discussion about how that deficiency has since been corrected and is now one of your company’s strongest points.
When you master the skill of selling with stories, you will find a more engaged audience and increase your chances of getting a “yes.”