We hate being sold, but everyone loves a story

I had an epiphany last year after attending a 2.5 day Mike Bosworth Story Seekers seminar. Several weeks after the event, I was in a role-play with a client.

The client is a business owner and an expert in her field and we were trying out new value proposition messaging.

We began the role-play around a win-theme in their value proposition and I quickly became uncomfortable and then defensive, as the expert told me what we I needed to do to overcome my problem.

I wanted to put my hands up and physically push her away.

I stopped the role-play and explained how offensive it felt being sold and being told what I needed to do.

I asked if they had any customers using their product to overcome a similar problem to the one we were role-playing and the answer was – yes of course.

So we role-played again, except this time she asked me if I wanted to hear a story of how an executive in a similar role had solved a problem using the software. I agreed and listened to her story.

I experienced the exact opposite sensation. I welcomed the story, the seller’s expertise and depth of knowledge shone through in the telling of the story and I was receptive and willing to listen to the next steps she proposed.

Stories Need Structure

I’ve been selling for a long time and have used success stories frequently in my sales encounters with buyers, but there was no structure to them.

The stories were in my head and were an ad-hoc recounting of how a customer had implemented our product or service and unusable by anyone but me.

Humans have been passing down knowledge in the form of stories for millennia and the structure of storytelling and myth follows a predictable pattern. Joseph Campbell chronicles the use and form of story in his classic work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”.

The classic structure of story and myth is known as “the hero’s journey” and it used extensively in literature, film and business storytelling, because it works.

A reproduction of Mike Bosworth’s Story Seekers storyboard

Mike Bosworth uses the Storyboard above to capture 150 word “who I’ve helped stories” using a different colored card for each step in story. “Who I’ve helped” stories convey emotion and designed to be told in 60-90 seconds.

Instantly available, tagged, easily shared

The WittyParrot widget displaying the Trivone “who-I’ve-helped story” 

The screenshot of the who I’ve helped story in the Witty Widget on the right is from a recent messaging engagement with Advanced Markering Concpets client, Trivone.

It uses the same color coding as the Story Seekers card structure and is made available on the salesperson’s desktop, iPad and iPhone. It will soon be available on Android smart phones, when WittyParrot ships the Android release.

Stories are powerful. I liken them to “body-armor” for salespeople and a great way for rookie salespeople, as well as experienced reps to engage buyers in conversation and to prevent what Mike Bosworth calls, “premature elaboration”.

Every company has a story for every successful customer implementation, but few are captured or in a reusable form.

The same story can be used to engage across the buying process from opening a call and in each meeting with different buyers, emphasizing different aspects of the story depending on context.

Stories that are not captured and easily accessible by direct and channels teams are unrealized opportunities. We can help convert long form case studies into 150 word “who I’ve helped stories” as part of a messaging project.

If you are interested in learning more about WittyParrot’s Component Content Management System and how it can be used to capture and align sales and marketing messaging for re-use, please view the recent Sales and Marketing Alignment, Content Capture and Reuse webinar recorded with enterprise content management specialists Content Rules and The Content Wrangler.

sales marketing alignment webinar

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