Sales is a transfer of thoughts, ideas and emotions. And one of the best ways to connect emotionally with buyers is with stories. Research even shows that when listening to a story, changes take place in our brains. We actually connect emotionally with the storyteller.
Of the 5 types of stories I suggest salespeople have at the ready, a Personal Story has the greatest potential to make an emotional connection. Why? Because the storyteller is obviously more connected to their story which increases its emotional impact. And also, because personal stories are unique, authentic and therefore more memorable.
Despite this, many salespeople resist using personal stories for one of three reasons:
- They believe buyers don’t want to hear a personal story/feel it’s inappropriate
- They don’t think they have an interesting or relevant story
- They don’t know how to adapt their personal story to use in a business setting
Here’s my rebuttal to #1: Buyers are just people – even CEO’s! They watch movies, read books and share stories with their friends, just like us. Most will appreciate a succinct, authentic, appropriate and purposeful story.
As for the last two concerns, below is a process I use in my Storytelling Workshops that can help you find your personal story, connect it to your buyer, and adapt it to a variety of situations and audiences.
4 Steps to Find and Use your Personal Story to Connect with Buyers
- Identify your audience. Consider age, gender, industry, meeting context, etc. Know as much about your audience as possible so you can weigh your story topics for appropriateness, relatability, and interest.
- Determine your key point. While a story should be engaging and even entertaining, it also needs to underscore an important point or message you want your buyer to remember. Keep your point simple – it’s not a marketing message. For example, perhaps you want to emphasize “cheaper is not always better,” or “small changes can make a big difference.” For help defining your key point, read here.
- Identify 3-4 interesting personal experiences. Just start brainstorming and don’t worry how it’s going to tie to your buyer yet. Comb your personal life, work, travel, hobbies, groups, passions. Every time I do a Storytelling Workshop someone says “I don’t have anything interesting to talk about.” But after a bit of prodding they’ll reveal the time they were on Jeopardy, or how they played in a pro mini-golf championship. People tend to minimize the value of their own stories (“Sky diving? Yeah, that’s really no big deal”) so it’s advisable to bounce your ideas off someone you trust before dismissing them.4. Connect your experience to your point. Take each of your story ideas and see how they might come to the same conclusion as the key point you want to make with your buyer. Sometimes the connection is obvious, and sometimes you have to work a little harder to find just the right thread in your story to make it work.
I’ll walk you through how I used the above process to develop a personal story I use in business.
My Audience: B2B salespeople at an annual Sales Kick-Off meeting
My Key Point: You have to stand out to win business today
My Experience: I went to an open audition for HBO’s Sex and the City hoping to get a role in the popular series. When I showed up there were a thousand women who had the same aspirations. Wondering how the casting director would ever remember me, I looked around and noticed all the women were wearing cocktail dresses – as was I. As it turns out, they were casting for a funeral scene. I had someone save my place and went home and returned wearing a plain black dress and shoes.
Much later that day, I had my audition. Two days later I received a call offering me a small part.
Connect my Experience to my Point: Like an audition, in sales you are also dealing with busy people in great demand. After seeing one vendor after another, salespeople can start to sound and look all alike. You have to stand out to win business today.
BTW, I can use various threads of this story to make different points for different audiences. For example, I could emphasize the importance of doing discovery, perseverance, or “you can’t win if you don’t show up.”
Everybody has a story. Finding your personal story doesn’t have to be a difficult process. And using it strategically can help you make that critical emotional connection with your buyer.