Sales reps know that nothing engages a buyer quite like a good story. The “Storytelling Enterprise” has been grabbing attention as a fresh approach to harness a company’s hard-won insights in the form of stories delivered directly to the sales team. It is a powerful way to scale what sales reps have always known – great stories move prospects to action.
Sharing successes and — yes — failures is one of the best ways to open dialogue with prospects and really get the conversation going.
Think about the last good movie you saw; one that kept you on the edge of your seat or choking back sobs. Was it the plot that was so good? Or was it the characters, the emotions, the music and the words. Hollywood writers and directors will tell you, that plotlines are easy to come by. They aren’t that unique. Christopher Booker argued that there are only seven storylines in history of the world in his book, “The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories.” Think about how hard it is to get truly surprised by a twist in a movie. We’ve seen it and heard it all before.
That’s what product marketing gets so wrong with business case studies. They present abstracted descriptions in a one-size-fits-all format and expect sales reps to transform them into deal-winning discussions.
This “final mile” – the sales conversation — is where product management, product marketing, field marketing, sales enablement and sales training fails. They don’t focus on getting the memorable nuggets that prospects care about into selling conversations and – guess what – sales conversations usually fail (90% of the time according to Forrester).
A great way to combat this big miss is crowd-sourcing selling stories from the entire company, including the sales force. Leveraging role-play automation systems here help companies quickly collect and disseminate brand-defining stories from everyone in the company.
Although the plots are the same, the content is rich with concrete details about characters (heroes and villains) struggling against the odds to make their world a better place. They are stories set in real-to-life situations. They are at their essence relatable to buyers.
One software customer of ours launched a mobile version of their software and held a company-wide contest to get their sales team the best mobile stories.
More typically, our customer’s sales teams are crowdsource stories from their own ranks to make sure that if something is working, everyone is using it.
We moderated a crowd-sourced selling story session yesterday for a ticket selling software company. The weekly story was an elevator pitch for their website product. It ties together their ticket selling capabilities – event descriptions, ticket prices, seating charts, discount codes, donation flows, ticket transfer capabilities, the shopping cart etc. – into a website that can be built with their tools and – if needed – their people.
All the reps from the SMB and middle market teams practiced and submitted their best elevator pitch via their webcams prior to the session.
During the session we reviewed multiple versions of the elevator pitch. One rep told a story about how a Playhouse customer in San Francisco pushed them to add website building capability to their offering because 80%+ of the information on their website was coming from the ticketing system – and they were finding it difficult to find the people and time to build a great looking website.
Another rep talked about how in the old days, theaters had to create separate websites on their home page, their mobile page and their Facebook store to sell tickets. But went on to say that now theaters can leave those “bad-old-days” behind because a single version of their website can be used in all 3 places.
Yet another rep focused her elevator pitch on how the mobile version is so easy to use that patrons won’t ‘give up trying to buy tickets on their phone out of frustation and go to a movie instead of a play.”
She also mentioned how theaters can fill more seats with a great mobile site because on the night of the show, her customers have seen a big spike in last minute ticket sales. As people out on the town finish dinner they investigate what to do next. When they find a show that they can easily buy tickets for on their mobile phones, they do it after their entre plates are cleared and mosey on over to the will-call window after dessert.
Because every rep had already spent ½ hour earlier in the week working out their best version of this elevator pitch, they were deep enough into the thinking and details of the story to appreciate all these new ideas.
As we watched the videos together and discussed these different approaches, there was a rich discussion with every rep in the room and on the GoToMeeting participating, ingesting and trying on the new ideas, language and stories to use themselves when needed.
Every rep walked out of that ½ hour story workshop ready to have a value-added conversation with their prospects on this new module and confident that they had the right insight and stories to move prospects to action.
A story program leveraging crowdsourcing with a role-play automation system is the perfect way to capture the collective wisdom of the company and the sales force. It enables continual upskilling of the sales force and builds a library of compelling stories within one quarter .
Sales reps are natural storytellers, so make it a company priority to get them stories and to make it easy for them to share stories and learn from each other. This will ignite your sales results like few other initiatives.
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.