In a recent LinkedIn post on sales strategy by Koka Sexton, one statement that really struck me was, “After a presentation, 63% of attendees remember stories. Only 5% remember statistics.”

As much as I’m a data-obsessed statistics lover, I’m the first one to admit that storytelling is one of the best ways to win someone over. Why? Storytelling is more effective than numbers at creating an emotional connection and communicating how your product or service improves your customers’ livesB2B-sales-ideal-candidate

And appealing to your customers’ emotions is huge: according to research by CEB, B2B customers are much more emotionally attached to the brands they purchase than B2C customers are.

So how well are you using storytelling in your selling?

Summarizing Gregory Ciotti’s great post on the research on effective storytelling and Nancy Duarte’s research on how to best structure a presentation, I describe some research-backed ways to use storytelling to win over prospects.

With the following tips in mind, make sure your story answers the questions:

  • How does your product/service help me solve problem X?”
  • How does your solution differ from your competitors?
  • Which customers like me have had success with your solution?

1. Make your prospect the hero

We all dream about being a hero. Make that dream come true for your prospect by making them the hero of your story. Your prospect will encounter many roadblocks but emerges transformed and victorious (through the use of your product or service of course!)

2. Communicate that you understand your prospect’s pain

When you’re able to explain how well you understand the problem your prospect is dealing with, it creates a bond between the two of you and he or she becomes open to hearing your ideas for a solution.

3. Create suspense or curiosity gaps (i.e., the Upworthy effect)

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The simple reason why headlines like “You won’t believe what happens next” work: we want to know what happens next! A curiosity gap tends to be pretty irresistible to us. But proceed with caution: if your solution don’t live up to your set up, your prospects will feel manipulated and get upset.

Nancy Duarte labels this the “what is/what could be” approach: after you describe what is, explain your vision of what could be. She suggests making this gap as big as possible for maximum effect. Because your prospect is going to be resistant to change, you’ll need to go back and forth multiple times.

4. Use detailed and vivid imagery

Make it easy for your prospects to picture themselves in your story by including specific visual cues and metaphors and using emotionally expressive language.

5. Provide social proof

It’s easier to convince your prospect to change a behavior or take a desired action (like buy from you), by providing an example of how a similar customer benefited from using your product or service. You should also model how the prospect should feel about your proposed solution (“Isn’t this awesome?”)

6. End with a call to action

Provide a vision of how your product or service will solve your prospect’s pain and replace it with what Nancy Duarte calls “the new bliss“. Your call to action should tell your prospect what they need to do in order to achieve this new blissful existence (e.g., no more pricey recruiters!)

Bonus

Paul McGhee wrote a recent blog post for HubSpot on how to practice storytelling with your sales team.

Have you successfully used storytelling to connect with your prospects? Let me know in the comments or tweet @ideal.

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices and data-based HR. She writes about trends and research in talent acquisition, people analytics, and workplace diversity.
Ji-A Min