The great American author John Steinbeck once wrote, “A story must have some points of contact with the reader to make him feel at home in it. Only then can he accept wonders.”
Let me repeat that last bit: only then can he accept wonders.
Tell a Story Your Audience Can Relate to:
Many sales professionals commit the common error of making their demos all about the product they’re selling.
Does the following scenario sound familiar?
A salesperson gets up in front of company representatives, makes a few jokes, and then spends the next 40 or so minutes demonstrating the features of the product to a room full of faces wearing expressions of restlessness, boredom, or, at best, politely feigned interest.
We’ve all been there.
The problem with this approach is that salespeople are overly focused on their own perspective and on what they have to offer. They make the story about the product. This is where they get the art of storytelling wrong: the hero of the story they tell is the product, when in fact the hero of the story should be the customer.
Make the Story About Your Customer:
That’s right –the hero of the story you tell is the customer. The conflicts and anxiety that produce the action of the story are the customer’s.
To give a successful product demo, you have to show that you understand his concerns.
Overcome Skepticism – Make Them Accept What Your Offer:
So if the customer is the hero, what role does that leave for us, the sales professionals? If we think of the demo as a story, as a heroic journey with the customer at its heart, then our role is the wise mentor, ally and advisor who helps the hero overcome his challenges.
Our task is to show how our product or service can help him overcome the obstacles that stand between him and a successful outcome.
We may not be Luke, but we can be Obi-Wan. We may not be Rocky Balboa, but we can be Mickey. We may not be Dorothy, but we can be Glinda. There’s room for us to talk about the ruby slippers we’re offering, but only after we prove that we understand what it’s like for the customer to be lost in Kansas. Only then can that customer become receptive to the solutions we offer.
The moral of the story? Use these key takeaways to become a customer-centered storyteller:
Telling a story is an exercise in imagination and empathy; you have to put yourself into someone else’s shoes. If you truly understand your customer’s needs, then your story will get to the heart of what’s relevant to them. Do your research, and talk to people at your target company before your pitch so you can get a sense of their pain points. The more you know about the specifics of the struggles your hero is facing, the more accurately you can tailor your product to be the solution they need.
Focus on positive outcomes.
Provide your customer with a way to make their job easier or better. Share stories of other customers or “heroes” who have succeeded in overcoming similar challenges by implementing your products or services.
Storytelling is a craft, and you can improve through practice. Each time you tell a story, you will get more comfortable with delivering it, and you will discover places where you can inject more colorful adjectives, humor, or dramatic pauses for effect.
If you incorporate these storytelling techniques, you will be on your way to a “happily ever after” for yourself and your customers.