Stories are a powerful selling tool, but rarely is a single story right for every selling situation or customer. In a dynamic marketplace, salespeople should be prepared to tell 5 types of stories in their pitch or presentation. Here are pros and cons, tips and examples for each type of story.
- Your Organization Story
Pros: Your company’s unique origin story can illuminate not just the problem you solve, but why. A compelling founding story can serve to humanize your company and offer insight into your values and purpose.
Cons: Company stories are like opinions. Everyone has one and most people don’t want to hear yours. Typical company stories don’t relate to the prospect and come across as a whole lot of chest-thumping.
Tips: Don’t lead with it. Use elements of your organization story in response to questions or to reinforce credibility – only after you’ve thoroughly addressed your customer’s situation. Your company story should be succinct and purposeful. Focus on those points that demonstrate the “why” rather than the how.
Example: Our company began because a good friend of our founder had his bike light stolen and then was hit by a car coming home. That’s why we are passionate about providing riders with the most secure bike lights available.
- Customer Story.
Pros: A good case study or customer testimonial is vital to have on hand for any presentation or pitch. After all, a customer who has benefitted from your product or service has much more credibility than any vendor, and it allows you to “show” actual results rather than “tell.”
Cons: Your competitors have their own success stories, so you can’t rely on this alone to distinguish you. Case studies are often delivered in a clinical fashion with little focus on the emotional value of the solution. One-size-fit-all customer stories can cause a prospect to question your understanding of their own unique situation.
Tips: Find out enough about your prospect so that you can choose a well-matched customer story. Tailor it to highlight the similarities and demonstrate specific outcomes when available. Provide enough detail about your customer to bring the story to life and give it emotional impact.
- Business Story
Pros: A story about a business or industry that is unrelated to your customer’s business can provide surprising insights into problems, solutions or opportunities.
Cons: Many business stories are over-used and can create audience tune out. For example, everyone’s heard the cautionary tale of companies like Blockbuster and Blackberry who failed to adapt to the future.
Tips: Look for lesser known stories that offer a fresh twist on the message you’re trying to communicate. For example, the story below might be used to help a prospect think beyond the status quo:
Example: Fiji water is sold in a square shaped bottle. Many people think this was a marketing effort to set them apart from competitors. In fact, this unique design is actually a less expensive way to ship water as more bottles can be packed in a case.
- Analogy or metaphor
Pros: A story that compares something new to something familiar is an effective way to help your customer quickly understand complex solutions or features. Analogies are also useful for softening any beliefs or misconceptions your customer may have.
Cons: Stale analogies can cost you credibility while obscure metaphors that require too much explanation detract from your point.
Tips: Know your audience. Pick a topic for your metaphor or analogy that your audience is familiar with. To find the right topic, focus on what your key message is (i.e., growth, accuracy, safety, etc.) and brainstorm the different ways it relates to your message.
Example: Much like an iPhone, our solution replaces the need for a whole host of products.
- Personal story:
Pros: Drawing on your own personal experience is one of the most effective and memorable ways to communicate a message. Unlike business stories, personal stories can connect with your customer on an emotional level.
Cons: Personal stories are often less polished and tend to meander. There may be some customers, businesses or cultures where telling a personal story is regarded as inappropriate.
Know your audience and tailor your story accordingly. Keep it succinct. Focus on why you’re telling the story, eliminate unnecessary detail, and when you’re done, stop.
“When selling my house, I thought I could save some money by going with a newer real estate agent. After three failed offers, I finally went with a proven agent who helped me price it correctly and get my house in front of more potential home-buyers. In 3 weeks it sold for $10,000 over the asking price. Like that experienced realtor, we can help you avoid costly mistakes and make sure you get in front of as many potential customers as possible.”
Gain a competitive edge by being prepared to deliver any of these 5 types of stories in your sales pitch or presentation.