“I can’t wait to get stuck in with your sales team. I’ve one final question for you, what made you choose us?”
This is the question I asked the local sales directors of one of the biggest medical device companies in the world. It’s the question I ask every time I close a deal with my sales consultancy business and every time I get a similar answer.
A couple of years ago I’d assumed it’d be something along the lines of –
“Your marketing material was the best”
“Your presentation to the C-Suite blew us away”
“We loved your sales methodology and systems”
What I get every time though is “we loved your story”.
We’re social creatures. Features and benefits don’t sink in unless they’re very unique (your product features and benefits suck, I promise you) its personal stories stick.
Our brains are designed to remember and share them because the lives of everyone in your tribe rely on it.
A story of how a particular plant made your friends head swell up and he spent 3 days in the shamans tent throwing up is more memorable to most people than telling them that the plant is not to be eaten.
Marketing have been leveraging stories for decades. Now it’s time for salespeople to take advantage of them too.
Personal stories give salespeople the following –
A) Less competition
People want to buy from people. It’s cliché I know but it’s true. Even more so in the internet age when most products have similarly priced alternatives.
When you throw your personal story into the mix you reduce your competition to zero. If people buy into your personal story, personal vision or personal expertise they have no choice but to buy from you.
There are plenty of other sales blogs out there but readers (like you hopefully) come back time and time again because I speak truthfully without any of the corporate BS and I tell personal stories from my past.
B) They make you an industry expert
Experts are experts because of their personal experience. Know industry experts are just people who have learnt to share their stories effectively.
Sales people that are known as industry experts have prospects call THEM.
If a prospect needs XYZ and when they google the product they find your name at the top, they’re going to call you first.
They are more valuable to their companies and…
C) They remove price from the conversation
Price is generally only negotiated in B2B sales when your product has already been or is currently being commoditised.
If your prospect buys into the fact that you personally and you alone are the best person to implement the product and facilitate the sales process because of your personal story then you’ve taken price off the table.
Often they will pay over the odds because they trust you and they don’t trust your faceless competition.
When I do B2B sales consulting work I never discuss price. I get the prospect that sold on the fact that I’m the only person on the planet with my background, knowledge of technology and insights on the future of sales from interviewing so many leading sales experts on the Salesman Podcast that whatever price I throw at them is just accepted.
I really mean this.
The only reason I don’t charge more for my consulting services is down to the limits I have on my own self-worth rather than the prospects opinion of it.
D) They make you human
For a prospect to buy from you need to tick three boxes, they must know, like and trust you.
Having a strong personal story allows you to leverage Pull Push Prospecting to smash through these barriers.
By sharing a story you let a prospect get to know you.
You have an opportunity to align the story with the prospects hobbies and interests so they instantly like you.
Then you share the positive experiences that others have had working with you to build that important trust.
By becoming a real person rather than yet another person in a suit taking up the prospects valuable time, trying to sell something you…
E) Increase relevance
Most sales people come out of University, get into a graduate sales scheme and are thrown out of the door, with minimal training and told to hit a target.
If you can show that your background experience aligns with what you’re selling you instantly become the preferred sales rep (even if you have to spin your background to make it fit).
F) They’re shareable
In an age of information overload things that are easily shared have big value.
“Well, John is an ex-fire fighter and always goes back to visit his old customers as he loves keeping his customers informed on the latest fire safety standards”.
“That other guy from XYZ fire management software is a little cheaper though”.
Johns personal story (which narrates him as an industry expert) instantly makes him the sales person to beat when the deal is being discussed internally.
This gets more powerful higher up the food chain. C-suite decision makers care less about product features and more that the job is just going to get done and not take up their time.
They value that the salesman is an implementer not just quick whited.
They barely have time to meet with you, never mind integrate your product into their business.
In the post-consultative selling world, the way you add value is to implement.
G) They’re free
Personal stories don’t have a set up charge and monthly running fees like most sales tools. They can be dropped, changed and upgraded for free with immediate effect.
Most importantly you own them.
It’s intellectual property that belongs to you, the salesman. Not your company.
It’s something that you can take with you if you leave. It’s something you can leverage if you want a raise. It’s a way to take all those late nights at industry events and weekends away helping customers into a tool that makes you more money.
If you want to know a little bit more about how you can implement sales stories, check out this podcast I did with Professor Craig Wortmann