Are You Telling a Good Story?

Part of being a successful salesman is doing the legwork, but there is another aspect, too, one that many overlook.

Think back to the last time you listened to a great story. There was a fantastic cast of characters, breathtaking scenery and, of course, a plot line that hooked you. For a brief moment, you were there, right in the middle of it, living the story.

Each time a successful salesman sit downs with a potential customer or client, he weaves together a story in which the product or service has already become an integral part of the listener’s life. The customers, through the picture painted by the salesman’s words, soon realize how beneficial this particular product or service could be and start to wonder how they existed without it for so long.

Does this sound like some sort of trick?    

Does it seem like some sort of mind game played on unsuspecting victims? 

No. By painting a picture with words, by telling a story rich in substance, the insurance professional accomplishes a number of things. First, he helps to develop the conversation with the potential client. By offering details, and making sure that everyone is seeing the same picture, he can see where miscommunication may occur. Also, the potential customer is more likely to think of more detailed questions to ask to help fill out the remaining part of the picture.

Remember that people make the connection with an item or a service not through rational thought but through emotion. Sure, a potential client needs to know the good points, the bad points and the mechanics of how something is going to work, but the final decision is greatly influenced by how he feels about something.

Does your product or service instill confidence? 

Does it feel familiar? 

Does it cause excitement? 

All these feelings and emotions can help make the sales process a success.

So, how do you craft an emotionally engaging story?

First, it is important that you, as the storyteller, believe and are emotionally connected to your story. Remember, a client will hear the sincerity in your voice, or the lack thereof. This is where the knowledge and personal use of your service or product can be so important. By using your own experience, or that of other customers, you can easily convey a believable story that extols the virtues of your product or service.

Second, a great story has structure. We have all heard stories that seemed to go on forever, with no point in sight. We have also all heard stories that jump around so much we tune out because we are lost. There are different ways to structure a story. One is called a “hero’s journey” model. The hero’s journey follows a departure, an initiation and a return.

Steve Jobs was a master storyteller. Watch one of his keynote speeches and observe how he weaves a story throughout his entire presentation. Case in point: his Stanford commencement speech in 2005. (Text is here. Video is here.) His first story connects the dots of his childhood to his success. The second story tells about his loves and losses. The final story is about death. He really gets personal, connecting with his audience on an emotional level. You hear jeers, cheers, laughter, and when the camera pans the audience in the video you see tears. His message is to trust the process, love what you do and don’t settle. Don’t live anyone else’s life. When you listen to this speech, as well as his others… you pay attention, you listen and you feel. You are emotionally connected.

As you formulate your presentation, remember how we, as humans, communicate. Surprisingly, when a person is talking, research shows that most people only give a fraction of their attention (7%) to the words that are being spoken. Over half (55%) is given to the various pictures and images that are created during the conversation. The remaining amount of attention is allotted to the mechanics of speaking itself, such as our mannerisms and body language.

To be an effective sales person, you must engage your potential client and make the entire story memorable. Like an artist, you need to create an emotional picture with your words and bring what you are trying to communicate to life. Don’t be a stick in the mud while talking; use your hands naturally. If you feel enthusiastic about your product or service, don’t be afraid to let those around you know. Chances are the excitement that is coming from you will encourage them to take a second look at what you have.

The art of selling isn’t really about selling at all. It is about sharing a story and bringing your potential client into the creation of the next chapter. By guiding them to a vision where their success and their satisfaction is an integral part of this story, you’ll have a great chance of convincing them of what they truly need.

Are you connecting emotionally to your audience? 

When was the last time you told a good story?

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