The Depot Dispatch
by Ed Kalaher
May 28th, 2018

Forget the Pitch. Work on Your Story.

We often obsess, and rightly so, in our sales presentations. That mission-critical opportunity to capitalize on all the blood, sweat, tears, time and pressure that were applied to the marketing process, which can be as cold, dark, dirty and unforgiving as a piece of coal…in order to produce that diamond we call a LEAD.

We strive to provide a masterful presentation, looking to ‘close the deal’…then, and there.  Those who do, typically deliver it using a step-wise process.

But even the best sellers around are typically missing something.  They’re missing something that can take them from stars to superstars.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong advocate of using a system.  I’ve studied it, I’ve used it, and more importantly, I’ve been able to observe the profound effect that a good selling system can have on a person’s life.  But there’s another layer that can be applied to our process to take it to new heights.

 Storytelling.

It is said that stories are a bridge between logic and emotion. And as much as we may preach on the importance of building trust during the selling process, trust is simply the logical conclusion that allows and unlocks a powerful and positive emotional connection between you and your prospect.

Facts, figures, ratings, prices, credentials … all extremely important.  But if we are unable to create an emotional response, and/or connection between those elements and our desired outcome (the close), the odds of a sale are greatly diminished.

There’s a reason we talk about telling a “company story” and not just reciting a list of “company credentials.” The company story is our chance to build trust and elicit emotion directly between our company and our prospect.

What exactly do we mean by storytelling?

Simply put, and in this context, storytelling means using an oral narrative, preferably one that draws on personal experience, to relay the facts we’re trying to convey.

(How’d you like that boring, unemotional description!  Haha!)

But I think you know what I’m getting at.  Storytelling is…telling a story.  Telling a story to inform, rather than just delivering a lecture.  Drawing upon personal experiences that could possibly relate to the experiences of the person you’re trying to build trust and an emotional connection with.  Which is the key.

The key reason to use storytelling in our presentations is to find that common ground with the prospect.  When the person you are trying to connect with can see themselves in your story, the all-powerful “aha moment” can occur.  And when those moments occur, that person’s emotions are more free, and more likely to enter the conversation.

Now, I had mentioned using the “company story,” but there are plenty of other opportunities to engage in storytelling during the selling process.  An endless number, actually.

Want to point out the dangers of choosing the wrong product or company (the competition)?  Tell them a story about someone you know who made that mistake.  Want to better explain a technical detail about your product?  Tell a story that highlights the real-world importance of that technical detail.

Great storytellers aren’t just “winging it.”

We’ve all witnessed great storytellers.  Perhaps family members, perhaps someone you’ve seen deliver a speech or sermon, or perhaps even a fictional character through TV or video.  And the common mistake is to believe that all of these storytellers are “born with it.”

Yes, there are those more gifted with the ability to recall and describe a situation or event.  There are those who speak with a pace and inflection that allows for a more compelling reception.  But, if you study the very best of the best, those gifts are not enough.

You see, the very best storytellers, especially those who use that skill for the persuasive outcome of a “sale,” are almost always incredibly and precisely prepared.  They understand the exact outcome desired, they’ve mastered their subject matter, they have true empathy for their prospect, and they’ve rehearsed their delivery over, and over, and over … and over.

This is a process that requires no special gifts or background.  First, it requires a desire to put yourself squarely in the mind of that person you’re wishing to connect with, and to sell.  And second, it requires your commitment to crafting and practicing your story, or even better … stories.

It’s not just about your products; it’s also about your people.

And for those owners, managers and team leaders out there, storytelling isn’t just a useful tool for your sales process, it is a genuine skill that will allow you to master the art of influence, which will make you a more effective leader.

Believing that all you need to do in order to have those around you follow your vision is to “lay out the facts” is like expecting to close every sale based on your products’ technical superiority.

Before you can lead and inspire your people, you need them to connect with your vision.  Stories are a great way to transport them into your world, and to have that “aha moment” generate a shared vision.

We are all in the business of selling.

Working on your storytelling skills can help you to sell a product or service, to lead and inspire, or to literally sell yourself to a new acquaintance or employer.  Storytelling is a means to uncover empathy, both in yourself, and from the person you’re trying to connect with.  And when that connection is made, so is the sale.

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau

Ed Kalaher is the president and CEO of Window Depot USA in Canfield, Ohio.

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  1. Great points, Ed! I’ve read that folks assess the risk of doing business with a home improvement salesperson similarly to the risk of doing business with a used car salesperson. I’ve always taught salespeople that they have to be able to “tell” three great stories, a personal one, a company one and a product one. If I do a great job of telling these stories, it sends the message that doing business with me, my company and my product are less risky than doing business with my competition. Higher trust factor AND closing percentage.

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