Storytelling has long been a means of passing down information throughout the generations. Rudyard Kipling said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
The imagery presented in stories, fables and fairy tales are memorable because they connect to the human brain in a way that is distinctly different than learning facts in a classroom, or for that matter--in a sales presentation! It is akin to the skills used in neuromarketing utilized to connect with your clients memorably.
To understand this valuable tool, one must first understand the role the limbic system or “emotional brain” plays in one’s decision-making process. In addition to the “reptilian brain” which controls our basic instincts, humans unwittingly tap into their emotional brain when making important decisions. The Limbic is the part of the brain associated with all things passionate and poignant. From smells, sights, sounds, feelings, learning, and behavior, the emotional brain takes a front seat in the decision-making process, and constantly proves that clients do not check their brains, or awareness, at the door when consulting with a potential service provider. With this in mind, there are three takeaways to keep in mind when attempting to employ this newfound awareness of the role of storytelling in sales or presentations:
Establish the Connection
There is no substitute for getting to know your client. During interactions, whether face to face or virtual, make sure that you are taking time to listen and reflect. It doesn’t take long to find out the key components of your client’s decision, and you’ll be surprised at how much they share. You are, in essence, collecting the information that is needed to create a story that connects to the business case or challenge. By listening and reflecting back what we heard learn the setting, characters, a plot, a conflict, and the desired resolution. In the same way that authors research crafting the most appealing story possible, you are doing the same. This groundwork is necessary for making the business connections to a story that will be attention-getting, engaging and memorable.
Make it Genuine
After you have spent time getting to know your potential client on a personal basis and garnering all pertinent information about their desired outcome along with what makes them tick, it is time to connect what they’ve shared with what you want to accomplish in the business relationship. The easiest way to do this is to employ the storytelling practice in a way that stimulates their emotional brain. Pull the sensory details that they offered freely, and weave them into a personalized presentation, remembering that imagery is the key to connecting the client to your concept. Appeal to their five senses in a way that stimulates their “old brain,” and cements your place in their “new brain.” Reference important people, places, and events, and don’t hesitate to parallel your personal stories with their own. Connections that involved shared experiences are of the strongest sort. Be short and to the point, but hone in on details that are only applicable to that specific client, as most clients can sense replayed and overused rhetoric from a mile away. You’ll find that, after a bit of practice, it becomes almost effortless.
Soften the objection
At the same time potential clients share their wants and needs, they often, unknowingly, share the things that may cause them to hesitate as you approach the closing of the deal. In attempting to soften their “no,” don’t hesitate to pull, once again, from your personal experience toolbox of stories. A “you’re too expensive” argument is cooled with a “That reminds me of a recent purchase I made…” mini-narrative, quickly pointing out the long-term value. Greeting their worries and worst case scenarios with storied evidence that proves their fears unfounded provides a peace of mind that cannot be afforded by spreadsheets and data.
Human beings appreciate the ability to escape routine, and a successful sales presentation that marries the black and white of business with the colorful spectrum of storytelling is sure to provide both you and your decision makers the best experience possible.