Have you noticed how a good story draws people in? It's almost magical how a simple narrative can capture the imagination and enhance presentations in ways that explanations ‒ no matter how clear or clever ‒ never can.
Good public speakers know that peppering presentations with a few short tales that reinforce their intended message can grab audience members' attention and makes their talks memorable. That is because they are communicating with imagery, emotion and plot, not facts and analysis alone.
"For over 27,000 years, since the first cave paintings were [created], telling stories has been one of our most fundamental communication methods," wrote Buffer co-founder Leo Widrich in a 2012 blog post for the Life Hacker website. "Why is that? … We are wired that way. A story, if broken down into the simplest form, is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think. We think in narratives all day long, no matter if it is about buying groceries, whether we think about work or our spouse at home."
Storytelling is an effective sales tool, as well. "In a selling situation, a well-timed and well-delivered story can help the prospect visualize how your product or service will solve their challenge or make their life easier," Tony Smith stated in "7 tips for using storytelling in sales presentations," published on the Brooks Group sales training blog. "A great story can make a presentation compelling enough for people to act."
However, incorporating stories is more complex for merchant level salespeople (MLSs) than for keynote speakers. Why? A person at a podium has been given the floor. People have come to listen and, if time allows, ask questions at the end of the speech. However, when an MLS calls on a merchant, listening and responding flexibly based on what the merchant reveals are paramount. Merchants want to be heard and understood, and if that doesn't happen, they won't be receptive to stories.
To utilize storytelling in sales, you must deliver the right tale at the right time. Try to fit a story that worked during a prior meeting without assessing whether it applies in the new situation could sink your presentation. Picking an appropriate story but presenting it at the wrong time could do the same.
So, how can you make storytelling work for you? Start with one story that captures your imagination and enlivens you, realizing it won't be a good fit for every situation. Find a written version or write one yourself, and read it aloud a few times, making note of important points and phrases you want to include. Then practice telling the story to yourself in your own words. You can do this while driving, showering, washing the car, etc. Practice until you can tell the story with ease.
Then find more stories and repeat the process. You'll soon have a repertoire of tales that are second nature to you. Then pay close attention to your prospects during meetings, find places where a story would likely take the conversation to a new level and slip one in. With practice, and a gradually increasing repertoire, you'll gain mastery in using storytelling to up your sales game.
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