You have been taught, trained, and told stories in sales. These stories may include your company’s history, starting from its inception up to the present day, or the story of your solution and how your company discovered a better way to deliver value. But the most used story is about a client that bought from the salesperson’s company and achieved amazing results.
See: The New Sales Story
Looking over this list, you will notice that all these stories fall under the category “Why Us,” which uses a legacy approach that does the opposite of what most salespeople are trying to accomplish. Instead of engendering trust, these stories are perceived as a waste of time in early conversations. They may be helpful in later conversations and in the right context, but they don’t offer your client any value that would establish you as an expert.
These stories are pedestrian and often indistinguishable from your competitors’ stories. Why our company is trustworthy, how our solution is the best, and how our clients are improving results by working with us—these stories are nothing less than a pitch.
Tell This Story
There is a story you can tell your client that will increase engagement, compel them to consider change and create value. To make it easy to understand this story, let us describe this story as “Why Change.” Keep in mind that you will need a better title for this section of the executive briefing you use in a first meeting.
Let me tell demonstrate the type of story you can use early in the sales conversation:
- In 2021, the United States had 1.64 births per woman. The replacement rate is 2.1 births, leaving a gap of 21 percent. This is 12 births per 1,000 women. This puts the United States 151st of 196 countries in terms of birth rate.
- 29,000,000 Baby Boomers are already retired. Every day in the United States, 10,000 more turn 65. The total number of Baby Boomers is 76.8 million. By 2030, all but 1 million Baby Boomers will be left in the workforce.
- Foreign-born population doubled from 20 million in 1990 to over 45 million in 2015 (a 33 percent increase).
- The U.S. population grew by 1.6 million from 2018 to 2019, with 38 percent of growth from immigration.
This is a story about a demographic drought. The Baby Boomers have amassed a great amount of wealth that will be redistributed to their children. None of the generations behind the Boomers are large enough to replace them. When you look at the demographics, you should worry about finding the people you need for your business, which will likely face less demand.
Because you didn’t know this story or its implications, I had the ability to use information disparity to educate you about a future risk.
Here is another story about the current state of sales:
- Gartner recently reported that 72 percent of buyers would prefer a “salesperson-free buying experience.” This is an indictment of how we sell.
- That same research found that 64 percent of the survey had bought without the help of a salesperson.
- In a recent book, the authors wrote that the average win rate in enterprise sales is 17 percent, a number barely above the win rates of an RFP.
- In another survey, it was found that 27 percent of salespeople reach their quota.
- 89 percent of salespeople are suffering from burnout.
This story suggests that what we are doing in the third decade of the 21st century isn’t working for our clients or our sales teams.
In recent posts here, I have suggested you do the damn reading and understand the importance of reading and research in B2B sales. This approach creates value for your clients, especially when they lack the information you share in your professional sales story.
A Story and Your Ability to Position Yourself
A good story supported by data can position you as a person who is well read, aware of the challenges of the future, able to see around corners, and, potentially, a trusted advisor. When your story demonstrates that you differ from any other salesperson they have interviewed, you have an extreme strategic advantage.
We call this approach One-Up. The concept of being One-Up means you know things your clients don’t because they lack your knowledge and experience. This concept may be new to you, but throughout human history, leaders facing important decisions have turned to people who have information and insights for help.
The Story Your Client Needs to Hear
The story you may want to tell, or have been trained to tell, may not be the story your client needs to hear. As impressive as your company’s origin story might be, it creates no value for your client, nor does it differentiate you from your competitors. The story about discovering your solution may also be a good story, but none of your executive leaders care about it; they care about their results. It’s great that you have clients who are pleased with your results. That information may be helpful in later conversations.
Your client needs to hear the story about the future of their company, starting with the trends and forces that will require them to succeed. Your stories should explain trends and forces and what their impact will be on the client’s business. Most of the time, companies miss the inflection point, when a change harms their business.
These stories are more powerful than the legacy stories most salespeople rely on to try to be credible by borrowing the success of their company. These legacy stories have no power to address the headwinds that create the client’s need to change. Leaving this article, start to develop the story your client needs to hear to make the changes that will ensure their future results.