stories matter

Let me tell you a story instead. 

The secret sauce to the best product demos on earth. 

I'm a sucker for stories, and if you're following the latest thinking on this, so is everyone else. Literary scholar Jonathan Gottschall argues that Homo Sapien, or "wise man" is too limiting a perspective. He proposes instead that we think of ourselves as Homo Fictus, the "storytelling man" instead. 

Since I was going to blog about this, I looked up a few facts. Did you know that the average person has 2000 daydreams, per day? Yup. Let that sink in for a second. Every time we project into the future, make a plan, or look forward to something; we've spun a story, a daydream. Children do this all the time, and it helps them learn. A child thinks through scenarios, thinks about the alternative paths, goes down these paths, and picks the one that most favors the outcome he wants. Decision-making is born this way.

As adults, we are riveted by anything with a hook - advertising, movie trailers, ballads, provocatively titled articles (hehe!) and of course, the many feuds on social media. Instagram calls posts 'stories' for a reason. We love underdog stories and those where the protagonist wins 'against all odds' and those where the situation feels hopeless until it doesn't. Why do we like to put ourselves through it? All that emotional activation, for a make-believe character? 

Because we're wired for it. This is how human beings learn. From cautionary tales told on cold nights around campfires, from fables and mythologies that build up certain behaviors and tear down others, from history, from fiction. Human memory works best when emotions are activated: this is why you remember the Red Wedding from Game Of Thrones in all its detail, but can't remember the plot points of whatever last action movie you saw. 

 storytelling in sales

Now, that's why we like storytelling in sales. Not only because we're wired for it, but because when we do it right, our product sticks in the customer's mind. The right story connects us with our prospects, shows them who we are, and why we matter. It gets them to like us, have empathy with us, and hopefully, trust us and our product. 

How do you pin down the wandering mind? How do you counter the tendency of the prospect's mind to walk away from your super custom product demo? Instead of death by PowerPoint, what if our product demos involved riveting stories? Tell them a more compelling story than the one in their heads. Get them to switch channels, so to speak. You don't get distracted during Game Of Thrones (okay, not the last season!), do you? 

For me, the story of SmartCue is a compelling one. Here I was, a burnt-out Sales Engineer who couldn't make one more demo. I was sick of being pulled into demos on an SOS basis, of being scheduled to demos because my Sales Reps felt ill-equipped, and I was sick to death of making demo script after demo script after demo script. As the Hero's Journey would tell you, I was at my nadir. Something needed to change. 

It began with a fantasy -->

What if there was a tool that could pop up with the right cues at the right time so Sales Reps didn't need a script? 

What if it could 'see' where the cursor was pointing and offer script suggestions? 

What if it allowed Sales Reps to go off-topic, follow the customer wherever their questions lead them, without desperately reaching for an SE? 

What if it allowed me to replicate demos and then customize the little bits in context? 

You can see where this goes, right? Today, equipped with SmartCue, I'm at that point in my Hero's Journey where I'm sharing what I've learned (and created) with others who can benefit from my adventures. And that is exactly how the story goes in my sales demos. 

I don't just talk about the challenge that the prospect is facing, but the ones I faced when I was in his position (Discovery is key to getting this right). I talk about feeling how I felt, and then taking matters into my own hands and creating a solution that was just right for me (and therefore, him!). I look to create 'me too!' moments (I know, not that kind) where the prospect can't help but feel like I'm also telling his story. This moment, right here, is where trust is born. 

I know I've made the sale when my prospect starts talking about 'us' and includes me in that 'us'. They begin to talk about their pain points as if I understand them, because having heard my story, they know I do! This is where I stop being someone who is asking them for money and become someone who is working with them on the solution they need. The story has done its job. 

Here's the fun part: you don't need to be an entrepreneur to have a compelling story. Or to tell one. Everything you're selling has success stories behind it. Find them, and match them to your prospects' stories. Know your buyer personas inside out - find out what drives them, what they need, and how they're currently meeting those needs… and how your solution is better. Then, instead of telling them how it will solve their problem, show them the functionality in action, and tell them the story of a similar client whose problem you've already solved. Create that moment of resonance, that 'me too' feeling. 

Is it easy? No. But you're a sales rep! You've climbed higher mountains and swum deeper seas. You have your own battle scars and lessons learned from those. You, by virtue of being in sales, understand how to grab attention and hold on to it. If anyone can spin a story, if there's a profession out there that is more suited to storytelling than most, it is sales. 

Bring your music.