Storytelling is a vital element in building a business and a lasting brand.
A company is a collection of unique stories — why it was started, challenges it faced, products and services it built, customers it made successful, competitors it encountered, trends it anticipated, trends it missed, strategic decisions it made etc. From these stories have come hard-won learnings and insight.
Sales reps that know and share these stories and insights with prospects are the reps that build trust, credibility and value with buyers.
Stories with happy endings are typically favored – “customer x had a problem, we solved it seamlessly and the results drove the business to new levels of revenue and profitability.” It’s almost counterintuitive, but stories that exhibit the struggle and strife that really occur in business do a much better job in building credibility with buyers. Why? Vulnerabilities, especially those that are recognized, are transformed into strengths.
Ritz-Carlton has a dedicated page on it’s website entitled, “Stories that Stay with You: Memorable Moments from the Ladies & Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton.” They are a collection of brief stories that reflect the philosophy and character of a brand renowned around the world for its incredible service. In some instances, the hotel brand was unprepared to handle a request by one of their well-heeled clients and had to readjust to meet their needs. In the telling, Ritz-Carlton reveals all the hard work that goes into making it one of the most prestigious brands in the world.
A recent Ritz-Carlton example:
A guest mentioned to the doorman that he had been out fishing that day, and caught a 200-pound yellow fin tuna. The guest said that the fish was in his cooler in the car and asked the doorman if it would be possible to get some extra ice.
The doorman quickly volunteered and offered to do much more than that. The assistant front desk manager took the cooler to the kitchen where the cook supervisor cleaned the fish for the guest. This was no small task. After much work, he cut the meat, and broke it down into smaller pieces. Given the size of the fish, this was not easy.
The cook supervisor went a step further by cleaning the guest’s cooler and organizing the small pieces of fish in ice for him to take home. The beautiful piece of tuna was now ready to cook once the guest arrived home. The guest was “wowed” by the entire experience. The hotel took his simple request – delivering more ice – and managed to anticipate his needs and exceed his expectations.
Authenticity is a universal connector – real buyers know that all projects are full of surprises and challenges and want a partner that is prepared for real challenges as well. Stories with compelling characters, real problems and successful resolution emphasize that the seller and his company understand that performance comes with blood, sweat and tears; that in the end, they have succeeded in delivering high value products and services to customers despite challenges and obstacles.
Putting storytelling at the heart of the enterprise and creating programs that extract, document and share brand-defining moments give sales reps a substantial advantage over the competition. Handshakes and small talk are easy. Handing over a flash drive loaded with product demos and fact sheets is easy. Buying a cup of coffee or lunch is easy. Pointing people at your Facebook page or website is easy. Revealing “how we work” and “what we’ve learned” told through customer stories is a real separator.
Stories build trust in the business and the sales rep sitting across the table from the buyer. Role-Play Automation systems such as SharperAx allow firms to operationalize the process of recording, practicing and mastering powerful stories sourced from the entire selling organization – executives, sales, marketers, customer service etc. – and share them with the influencers in the buying organization.
By establishing a video practice platform – a role-play automation system – as the central repository for brand stories, companies can help teams absorb and deliver skills and messages more effectively. As a result, sales reps gain tremendous advantages over the competition as trustworthy and knowledgeable consultants.
To learn how a role-play automation system could work for you, please contact us.
Mark Heisten is a seasoned marketing and business development executive with more than 20 years of experience at Fortune 100 firms and start-ups.