Everyone has a story. Since the dawn of man, storytelling has become an art that evokes emotions and compels action and empathy from the direction of the artist. In many ways, the medium is the message and the true art is opening the hearts and minds of the listeners and turning them on to engagement. Once in “story mode,” people tend to let their guard down and begin to shape opinions and beliefs around the information they are given. And timing is everything- The window of opportunity to engage story mode can be as small as a tweet or as long as a meeting. After all, there can never be a connection without that initial acceptance of possibility and desire to continue down the path.
Pardon the nerdy references, but what is it that makes people connect with the hero’s journey and characters such as Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins? Is it the rise of an unsung hero? Or is it the humility in seeing the unfortunate events in someone’s life and the common thread of success in the face of adversity? And if those are true, how can you instill the motifs into your story? It’s not always easy to open up and shed light on the darker side of what makes success possible, but it’s what makes you human. Maybe you didn’t have your family massacred by Storm Troopers, and I pray that’s not the case, but you have conquered where many have failed and that enables you to tell your own hero’s tale. The same goes for your business and the customers you’ve helped in the past.
Speaking to the customers involves both personal and business dynamics. How does your individual story construct significance in the minds of the listeners? Is it one of trials and success, or failures and defeat? When you transition to the larger picture, is your company trying to sell the most products, or trying to help the most people drive their own success? There’s a subtle difference in those two ideologies and they push different agendas. The way your see the world shapes your reality, and though that notion is ripe with cliché, the view you have will dictate your future. Every moment and every connection is a chance to learn something new and share the human experience. If what you happen to be selling is of value, the desire to buy will come naturally.
Nobody likes to be sold to. As soon as you’re labeled a salesperson, walls go up and people shut down. The art of selling is a dance that can’t begin without the backdrop of friendship or openness. A good tactic to start the process is to shed light on yourself through small-talk in a way that’s inviting your colleague to reciprocate. Through communication you can determine what drives a person, what keeps them up at night and if there’s a way you can help make their life better. Starting at the human level is a much more effective, yet indirect approach to finding the information you need and communicating to a target audience. If instead you were to start by asking for a sale, a job or to become friends on the spot, chances are it would quickly go south.
There are countless examples of the failure to communicate a story. Look at any company spamming sales material onto social media channels. Where’s the connection? Where’s the value? Who is even talking? It’s hard to make a connection to a faceless avatar, and even harder when that avatar isn’t interested in talking with you. Salespeople have the added challenge of prospecting, where social media is designed to leave the door open with an inviting sign made of rich content and friendly interactions. In my mind marketing and sales are brothers in arms, and though the tactics differ, the strategies revolve around creating and delivering value in the minds of the customers. Creating value is impossible if no one is listening.
There’s a hero in every good story, but the heart-felt ending has no emotional pull without the beginning. Would the Death Star blowing up from a proton torpedo evoke cheers from an audience without the preceding struggle? Absolutely not. Where you are and what you’re doing has little meaning without the frame of the events that got you here. If someone is going to take the time to listen, be sure to tell them the real important parts that set up the here and now. Often people will decide to buy in before even knowing the nitty-gritty details because they feel a connection. So don’t spoil that opportunity with a pre-emptive sales pitch. Instead, develop creative hooks to get the conversation started and guide the flow towards your objectives.
So what’s your story?
Some of the ideas in this blog were adapted from a thought-provoking keynote speech by Mike Bosworth, founder of Solution Selling, at the B2BCamp Boston event and I like to give credit where credit is due. To learn more about his techniques or his new book “What Great Salespeople Do,” you can visit his website is at http://www.mikebosworth.com/