Salespeople need stories to sell. Much of the time, salespeople use stories about their client's problems and how their solution was essential to turning things around. You will not hear me criticize these stories, as they are often an important tactic to helping a decision-maker or B2B buyer recognize themselves while also providing proof. A sales organization must have a catalog of stories available to help their clients move forward with confidence. Most, however, lack the stories necessary to sell effectively in today's environment.
If the stories we have told in the sales conversation for decades are about sharing our knowledge and experience while providing proof, the new stories accomplish those same goals, but in different areas. Let's call this "the new storytelling in sales." These new stories help salespeople to compel change and make sense of the client's challenges and their future results.
The New Storytelling Is About What's Changed
Most of the time, salespeople ask clients questions designed to elicit a problem the client is experiencing, following up with additional questions to identify "the pain." It's unlikely your client is unaware of their many problems, including the one they share with you. If pain was enough to compel change, you wouldn't have to make cold calls because you'd be receiving them.
One version of a modern sales approach provides strategies and tactics that work in B2B sales in our current environment. It starts the sales conversation with a story about what's changed and what it means for the client. Those who wish to compel their client to change are going to need stories to help the client break from their past. For those who sell in an industry that requires that they displace their competitor, a story about what's changed can create a context lock, causing the client to engage in a conversation after recognizing a new reality and the impact it has on the client's results.
The ability to tell the story about what's changed provides the client and their team with an explanation as to the root cause, or more likely, root causes that are responsible in part or in whole for their poor results or soon will be. This is one of the ways the modern sales approach differs from the legacy approaches, as the modern approach as it causes the client to recognize themselves and provides proof of an inflection point.
The ability to tell the story of what changed can help create a paradigm shift that would help the client decide to address the changes they need to make to improve their results. This story can include both external and internal forces, and factors that combine to cause the client to recognize the need to change.
The New Sales Storytelling and Differentiation
When you are young and in sales, it’s easy to believe your competitors are inferior. It's not uncommon to hear salespeople disparage their competition, describing them as lacking morals and winning through underhanded and unfair practices. Believing your competitor only won because they deeply discounted their pricing isn't going to help you understand how and why salespeople win.
In large part, the legacy approach to sales insists the salesperson believes their company, products, and services are superior. Sadly, the contest lies elsewhere. The contest is around who creates the greatest value and trust in the sales conversation. Every legacy sales organization is differentiating in the same way as their competitors, contributing to the commoditization of all participants.
A mature, professional salesperson recognizes their competitors work for equally good companies of equally good people who have products and services that are good enough that they can help their clients with the results they need. Instead of telling a story about the brute that is their competitor, they address the competitive models and how to choose the best one for the client.
Because the client is working to improve their results, the decision-maker needs help making the right decision and ensuring the outcomes they need to be valuable. The story the salesperson tells is about the different models the client will happen upon when exploring change. The salesperson who would endeavor to be One-Up will use a form of a story to differentiate their model.
A story about how different companies create value for their clients is an effective strategy that provides the client with an understanding of each of the models, their strengths, and their weaknesses, including the truth about their own model. You might not recognize this as a story, but when talking about the differences, you are telling your client the story about what and how you have learned that producing the better results requires an approach that takes into account certain factors and why they are necessary to produce the best possible results.
This approach allows the salesperson to address the weaknesses of their competitors’ models without ever naming or hinting at the competitor's name. What makes this story so powerful is that the salesperson is truthful about their own model’s sins, like the higher price the client will need to pay to improve their business.
The Need for New Sales Stories
The modern sales approach does much more to help the client with a decision, it provides greater counsel, advice, and recommendations. The success of this approach requires new sales stories. These new stories are important for helping clients make sense of their world, their situation, and the changes they need to make to deliver a better future. Start working on the new sales stories you need to create and win new opportunities.