Imagine this - you're at a networking event, dressed up and ready to make these valuable business connections. Someone asks you a simple and expected question: "What do you do?"
Unfortunately, too many of us mumble, throw buzzwords and industry jargon, recite our company's mission statement, or shove our business cards at the unsuspecting stranger. Shall we set aside time to go through the entire pitch on Tuesday at 2 pm?
As icky as it sounds, this happens more often than we'd like to admit. And the reason for these painfully awkward interactions is that many of us aren't great at storytelling. Some of us think that "Storytelling" happens in Hollywood or TED Talks, not in B2B sales. Others believe that great storytellers are "born and not made", so they don't bother improving their skills.
Ravi Rajani is here to disprove that! And in the process, show you the power of storytelling and how to get better at it.
Ravi's own story is that of authenticity and finding his unique superpower after working on the trading floor and being someone he wasn't. Recognizing this and leaning into his talent led Ravi to jobs in TV, speaking, coaching and building sales teams in the world of early-stage startups. What do all these have in common? Success and failure depend on the ability to communicate the value, story and solution memorably.
Today, Ravi coaches the world's best sales teams to ditch the pitch and become better communicators to get their solution in the hands of those who need it the most. We sat down to chat about all things storytelling, where to start learning about it, how to get better and why it is crucial when selling over video.
- Hook the prospect > elevator pitch
- Build connection > share a personal story
- Build trust > customer success story
- Convert prospect into customer> cost of inaction story
- Handle objections > Reverse resistance story
Five Stories Every Salesperson has to Master
Whether you're selling a highly technical product or a simple-to-understand solution, there are five stories you must have in your arsenal to grab your buyers' attention. The first is your elevator pitch. Think of the first line of a cold call. Or the first interaction at a conference.
Salesroom elevator pitch
What do you do? We help sellers take control of their customer conversations in real-time. Do you sometimes struggle with asking the right questions and engaging buyers on video calls?
Your elevator pitch should leave the other person intrigued and wanting to learn more. It acts as a hook to grab someone's attention and get them interested in what you have to say. From then on, it's all about building a connection with the person on the other end. That's where a personal story comes in. Why are you working at this particular company? Why are you the right person to help your buyer solve their million-dollar problem?
After connection comes trust and a customer success story is a great way to build trust (HINT: There is a big difference between a customer success story and a case study!). Remember that you just created a connection with the person on the other side. This should also hold for the customer success story - let your prospect build a relationship with the person in the customer success story, not a fancy company name.
Further on in the sales process, you need to have a cost of inaction story ready to speed up the sales cycle and convert the prospect into a customer. When objections come up, you'll need a compelling reverse resistance story to overcome them in a non-sales'y way.
How to Craft the Perfect Story
"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn," said the great author and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. ACORN - that's what you need to remember when you are crafting your stories.
The five ingredients of a winning sales story
A - attention-grabbing
C - contain a relevant and identifiable main character
O - organically unfold into context/conflict turning point/transformation
R - reveals a villain
N - nurtures trust
You can use this framework to craft your five stories to ensure your message is relevant and memorable to prospective buyers. Sounds straightforward but also a bit daunting. Crafting a "reverse resistance story" when you haven't previously worked in this way will be tough. To set yourself up for success, you have to start small. Below is an exercise you can do with your team tomorrow (or even today!) to get started.
Exercise for teams who want to work on their storytelling skills
- Pick one person to share something they're passionate about outside of work in less than 60 seconds.
- That person then picks three more people who will recap their story - what's important to them, why it's important, and some other intricacies of their message - in less than 45 seconds.
- The first person then picks the winner - the person who made them seen, heard and understood the most.
Why is that helpful? Everyone around the table gets to practice storytelling alongside active listening. When you recap someone's message, the tonality and language someone uses to make their point are just as important as the facts in that message. Doing this exercise a few times will expose the gap between everyone's perception of their skills and reality. And that is the first step on the way to mastering storytelling!
Sharing your Stories over Video
Now that you invested time into crafting your stories, it's time to think about the delivery. 9/10 (if not more), you will deliver your message over a screen. That means lacking the "eye to eye" connection with the person you're speaking to, being unable to read their body language and risking losing their attention faster if your message doesn't immediately resonate. What can you do to increase your chances of success?
- Make sure you are looking at your prospects.
- Set up your screens, props and camera so that you are ALWAYS looking directly at the people you are speaking with. Without eye-to-eye contact, there is no connection!
- HINT: If you're a Salesroom user, you can re-arrange your meeting guests on the screen to ensure that the video tiles of the most influential people are always closest to your camera! That way, you can watch their reactions without losing eye contact. It also works when you're screen sharing.
2. Let the buyer break the ice.
- Be intentional with what you're showing to your prospects during the call. Can you drop some subtle hints about who you are as a person? Books, pictures, and other memorabilia in your background make prospects curious about you as a person.
- HINT: If you're a Salesroom user, use your lobby to show a bit of personality. Use pictures of your holidays, hobbies or pets to spark to make the video call a bit more human.
3. Think about the evolution of your relationship
- Your relationship with your champion should also evolve as you progress in the sales cycle. Knowing a company's decision process is not enough; you need to know about the people who will be part of that process.
- Use every touchpoint to work on connection and trust alongside progressing the deal forward.
4. There is no connection without vulnerability.
- Buyers can sense when you're not being authentic and genuine. If your words sound like a pitch, guardrails will go up!
- When you ask prospects to open up about their problems without being genuine yourself, you're unlikely to hear an honest answer. It's not natural to do this in video interactions, but working on this skill set is necessary to succeed in the virtual-first world.
5. Stack the energy
- Salespeople fail because they ask for too much too soon. I cold-called you. Do you want to give me an hour of your time? We spent 30 mins chatting. Can you introduce me to the rest of your team?
- The same is valid for how we go about our customer meetings. If one of your first questions is about the negative business impact of the million-dollar problem, it will put the prospect off, and they won't answer truthfully!
- Instead, think about stacking a "low pain threshold" question, followed by a "medium pain threshold" question, followed by a "high pain threshold" question to increase buyers' engagement.
- Head to Ravi’s podcast to see an example of how this can be implemented during a presentation and learn more about the stack-the-energy method!
Did we spark your curiosity about storytelling? Watch the recording of our conversation to dive deeper!
If you want to learn more about storytelling and start implementing it into your process, follow Ravi on Linkedin and check out his website and podcast:
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