Stop Selling - Tell a Story Instead
Your sales are going well but you can't seem to crack that next level when it comes to bringing in new business. Is it your pitch? Are your prices too high? Ironically it might not be what you sell, but HOW you sell.
Think about a product or service that you really love to use. Your iPhone. Instagram. Chik-fil-a. What do all of these things have in common? They are strong brands for sure, but more importantly they command amazing stories. As humans we tend to connect with others (be it a company or another individual) not because they are always the best at something, but because of the story behind them. Going back to our three examples for a moment:
- iPhone - is there anyone left that doesn't know what an iPhone is? Apple was the company that literally created the smartphone industry and is one of the most iconic companies in existence.
- Instagram - this app allows you to share photos and stories with friends, family, and even those in your industry. You can connect with others in a visual way that extend beyond emails or text messages.
- Chick-fil-a - it isn't just about the food (which is great), but the outstanding customer service which is embedded in their brand that people remember and connect with.
Whether you want to admit it or not, regardless of your role in a business you are also part sales person. You need to constantly ensure that clients are in queue so that your business doesn't dry up. This means you need to always be selling whether it is physically (in person) or digitally (content marketing). If you are starting to get an uncomfortable that you've been doing this wrong, don't worry. There are three areas you can look at which will help you perfect your story.
Focus on the WHY First
Often times when people pitch a product or service they frame the conversation in terms of features or benefits that they can provide. This is important for sure, but only after you have sold the person on the WHY. Why are you in business? Why should I take the time to listen to what you have to sell? The "why" part of your conversation is essential your story. Before you sell anyone on what you have to offer, you need to connect with them on their underlying problem, share your story, and build a bond with them. Without this initial foundation, you might get lucky but ultimately you'll end up losing more business then you make. The ultimate goal to shoot for is the ability to sell someone without ever mentioning your product or service. Sound crazy? It isn't. Help your customers connect with the problem first and you've already won half the sales battle.
Understand Your Sales Journey
A very common term floating around these days is the "customer journey". For those that haven't heard this term before, it boils down to the journey that your customer experiences each time they interact with you. It is a "visual" way to represent what your customers see and experience each time (with the ultimate goal of ensuring the experience is exceptional and consistent). Keeping this concept in mind, think about the "sales journey" that your customer experiences. Imagine the following (minimal) sales journey:
- Hard Pitch
There is obviously a set of activities that happen at each phase, but the critical part to focus on is what your customer is feeling at each phase. What element of your story are they connecting with, particularly at the early phases where you are still trying to make them a customer. Again, features and benefits are great to differentiate yourself at the "hard sell" phase but it will only work if you've sold them on your story and formed a connection with them.
Leverage Use Cases
A great way to connect with a customer is to not only tell them a great story, but shape it around a particular problem that they are experiencing. Over time you will (hopefully) see some of the same problems again and again which might make them perfect candidates for use cases. This type of social proof is something that you can also leverage as part of a repeatable sales process to address common challenges that your customers face. Additionally, if the customer presents a brand new use case it will allow you to expand not only your library of use cases but also consider that this is where great customer feedback can help you shape your product or service for future enhancements.
Telling a story is just one technique that you will use time and time again as a business owner. It is important for selling as you've (hopefully) seen in this post, but that isn't the only use for it. Think about partnering with another company, finding investors for your own business, or dealing with public relations matters due to a viral video. There are many times when being able to tell a story and shape your message will be important so don't wait to long to start practicing. Now that you have some guidance, ask yourself, what does your story look like?