OK perhaps the title of this is a bit grandiose, but it did get your attention. After all who want to read or listen to a sales story that’s dull or boring?
So what goes into the best sales stories? Although we can’t always pull this off, the best stories are ones that spark the imagination. Stories that enable us to visualize a desired outcome or experience. This last point is very important to keep in mind.
When we buy something, whether it be a tangible product or a service, we’re really not buying the “thing”. That’s not what primarily motivates us. What we crave is the experience that the purchase will give us. Buying a fancy watch doesn’t enable us to tell time any better. However when I purchased my first Rolex, it was the physical manifestation of a level of success I had achieved. I realize that it sounds somewhat silly as I type this, but I wanted to show the world that I was no longer someone who aspired to own a Rolex, I was someone who had achieved a level of success that enabled me to do so.
Much research has been done about the purchasing behavior in the luxury marketplace, and this desire to show “success” is a primary motivator behind the purchase of expensive cars, pens and other status objects. Thus, the more we can connect to the desires that our audience has, the more our story will resonate with them.
OK, that sounds find in theory, but how exactly do we do that? Here are some thoughts to keep in mind.
First, you need to write for a specific audience. One that you know and understand on a very deep level. This is the reason why niche marketing is so important. What we want to strive for in all of our sales and marketing stories is to have our readers and listeners see a reflection of themselves in what we are communicating. Not surprisingly, in order to do that, we need to target our message.
Secondly your story needs characters. To quote Stalin, “One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.” If your story has characters that the reader or listener can relate to, the greater attention they’ll pay to what you have to say. Not surprisingly, the one of the best characters for your story is yourself.
Which brings me to a very important point.
However, despite knowing that I needed to tell stories and that stories needed characters, my first attempts at creating unique sales stories were mostly forgettable. The problem was that my character, me, wasn’t particularly sympathetic. My early stories were all about my successes and accomplishments. Looking back on those early attempts, it appears that I sprung into my profession without a single misstep along the way. Of course the reality was much more different. In fact my wife is often fond of saying that she wishes that I could get it right the first time just once.
Showing vulnerability wasn’t easy for me. I equated it with showing weakness. However, it was clear that my stories were not resonating with my audience so I figured it was worth a try. The results were significant. What I found was that by sharing this information, I showed that I wasn’t all that different from those who I was writing and speaking to. The only difference was that I was maybe a few steps ahead. What I knew I had learned from others, and from trial and error. It was that hard won wisdom that I wanted to share.
When I developed stories from that perspective, I found that I developed a deeper bond with my audience. By not focusing so intently on trying to convince people that I was an expert in my field, I somewhat ironically found that I was accomplishing just that.
Which leads me to the third piece in the puzzle. My wife Marian is a strong believer in what she calls “your authentic voice”. For more years than I care to admit, I looked at the style of those who seemed successful and tried to copy it. My thinking was that if it worked for them, it should work for me too. What I failed to realize is that the reason it worked for them was because it was their authentic voice, not mine.
The worse experience came when I spoke at a local Rotary group. I adopted a sales style that worked quite well for one of the well-known gurus in my field. Unfortunately it left my audience cold. In fact one lady wrote a note to me in which she stated that she “loathed” my presentation. Feedback like that certainly makes one rethink their approach.
I won’t say that my authentic voice was developed overnight. The real key for me was to relax and not worry about how others might perceive my message. To paraphrase Popeye, “We are what we are.” Once we accept that and focus on delivering our message rather than on impressing others, our authentic voice comes to the surface.
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Mark Satterfield, Gentle Rain Marketing — Author, Marketing Consulting Expert, Lead Generation, Business Development, Marketing Strategy, Get More Clients, Increase Revenue — Click here for his Facebook Twitter LinkedIn YouTube