This article originally appeared in the August 2022 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.
A little more than 20 years ago, a sales director was leaving a customer site in Long Island to meet one of his salespeople in New Jersey the following day. At about 7 p.m., it was raining badly, he started feeling tired and hungry, and had not even reached New York City yet. As he approached the city, he thought about one of his favorite things to do: drink his morning coffee in downtown Manhattan, watching the bustle of the center of the financial world. He hated the idea of missing that opportunity and since the weather was so bad, it was easy to justify a change to his plans. So, he decided to stay the night in the city and get an early start by having breakfast in Lower Manhattan.
That sales director was me, and that night was Sept. 10, 2001. Are you curious what happened? Keep reading.
The Value of Stories
Storytelling can be an amazing skill for all salespeople, but few proactively work on it. Among other reasons to become a master storyteller, here are a few benefits every sales professional can gain from learning to tell stories:
Stories engage your audience. When you start your sales call, most of the people in your audience are distracted and thinking about something else. At the beginning of your pitch, a brief and relevant story can accomplish the goal of shifting their attention to you.
People retain stories for much longer than they retain data. If you start by sharing facts, statistics and specifications with an audience, you will bore them; however, by engrossing them in a story that shares the same knowledge, they will retain it for much longer.
Stories move people to a similar emotion as the speaker. MRI scans of audience members show that statistics and facts produce random emotions, but stories converge the emotions of the members of an audience and the emotion of the speaker. Imagine being able to speak to a group of customers who are experiencing a similar emotion as you are at that moment.
5 Tips for Telling Memorable Stories
How can you become a powerful storyteller? Here are five ideas:
1. Write it. Do not tell a scripted story; instead, write out all the words and then summarize it.
2. Practice it. Practice telling the story or set of stories repeatedly. You will learn when to pause, when to move faster, and when to invite audience participation.
3. Start with “Once upon a time…”. You do not have to use these exact words, but let them know that you are telling them a story. For example, when I tell the story at the beginning of this article, I start with: “Let me tell you a story about a sales director and the most important decision he ever made.”
4. Maintain a slow pace and conversational tone. No one wants a professional speaker selling to them, but they do want to hear a conversation by a relaxed storyteller.
5. Mistakes are better than scripts. Although the first recommendation is to write your story, never – and I mean never – work off a script. Write the story to establish a baseline, but then relax and talk. If you make a mistake, who cares? People love mistakes if you are being genuine.
Still curious about what happened to me that night? Well, I was planning to eat at an Outback Steakhouse in Brooklyn, right off the highway. As I mentioned before, it was pouring out, so I yelled out the window and asked someone about the wait-time. The answer was 45 to 60 minutes, so I abandoned my plan and drove to New Jersey, thank goodness.
Chris Peterson is the founder and president of Vector Firm (www.vectorfirm.com), a sales consulting and training company built specifically for the security industry. Use "Security Business" as a coupon code to receive a 10% lifetime discount at www.vectorfirmacademy.com. To request more info about the company, visit www.securityinfowatch.com/12361573.