How storytelling in sales can make you a better sales leader and increase team motivation as you transition to the Future of Sales
by Krauthammer blog, on Dec 2, 2020 10:29:02 AM
Every leader has a set of skills that they need to master in order to be effective in the role. Some of these skills will be specific to the external sales environment, with leaders needing to possess talents that help them to manage the client experience. Other crucial skills will be more aligned with leadership itself, ensuring that the sales team can be effectively and efficiently managed in a way that maintains motivation and productivity. And some, like storytelling in sales, are skills that extend into both categories.
Storytelling in sales
Storytelling in sales is nothing new. In fact, storytelling has long been a skill that sales representatives have needed to deliver on their sales strategy, win new clients and nurture relationships with existing ones. Storytelling is one of the core skills sales managers should have because it sparks an emotional response in clients - and in prospective clients - that goes deeper than the initial rational response to a pitch.
Storytelling, in the traditional sense, is something that many of us are introduced to at a young age. It helps us to understand the world - and our place in it - through relatable tales. So, couldn’t storytelling also help teams to better understand the new normal as we navigate the future of sales management? Couldn’t it help them to better understand where they fit into the new sales landscape and perhaps even help to nurture the productivity of remote workers?
Looking at storytelling in this way, it’s easy to see how it fits effortlessly with the humanistic management style that’s emerging as one of the most effective ways to lead through change. Storytelling is rooted in human emotion. At a time of transition especially, a guiding narrative could help to keep your team on track.
But just how can leaders create the right narrative for their team? The truth is that every narrative will be different, but every good story is built around the ABCD framework.
The ABCD Model
Many sales leaders have already adopted the ABCD model of presentation for engaging with prospects. And this model can also be used as a framework for generating the body of your story and incorporating all necessary structural aspects:
In direct sales, attention is created by asking questions that trigger curiosity. For example, we may ask ‘are you interested in new ways to boost revenues?’. The start of the story is always a page-turner; it makes readers want to carry on. It’s the same for leading through storytelling. You must understand what your team wants, and use the beginning of your story to dangle an idea in front of them that aligns with that need.
Many sales leaders have recently made the shift from product-based sales - focusing on the product itself - to solutions-based sales that focus more on what the product can do for the buyer. This sets the scene for the pitch, and it also sets the scene for your team narrative. Telling your team that they need to change won’t work. But showing them why they should change - honing in on end results and benefits - can be useful.
In a client pitch, you might be able to present independent studies that validate what you’re saying. Or you might have a strong reputation for quality that automatically enhances your credibility. Or you might be able to back up your pitch with a demo. When leading your team and introducing change, you must use your story to justify your actions. For example, discussing case studies of competitors who have done the same.
The most vital aspect of all is that you must know where you want your story to end up. Where do you want it to go? What do you want it to achieve? In sales, that’s often closing a deal. But when using storytelling to lead, there’s a lot more scope. Do you want to boost motivation? Build trust? Help teams embrace change? Improve productivity? The reason you’re telling the story really is the most important factor.
Taking a reverse approach
Perhaps the biggest and best piece of advice that sales leaders should take onboard is that, when creating a story from scratch, it can be more effective to reverse the ABCD model to begin with direction; to first think about where you want your story to end up.
Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to building a story to guide your team:
- Direction - Think about what decision you want your team to make at the end of your story. If you want them to become more motivated, what decisions will they need to make to achieve this for themselves? Base your story on encouraging these changes.
- Credibility - What conclusion will your team need to arrive at in order to make the decisions that you want them to make? Utilise the same persuasion tactics that you’d use in a pitch and ensure that you’re providing credible, insightful information.
- Benefits - Understanding direction and the need for credibility in coming to a conclusion, it’s time to create the main body of your story. This should primarily be based on the benefits of change, taking a solutions, rather than product, approach.
- Attract - The very final part of building your story will be summarising what you’ve already created into a short, impactful, powerful question that really packs a punch. Make sure that your introductory question closely aligns with your closing sentiments.