Why it’s time to abandon the traditional “sales pitch” and start telling stories.
Humans now have attention spans shorter than goldfish. This means that no matter how long you spend preparing a traditional 30-second elevator pitch, there’s no guarantee that anyone will hear it all. In fact studies say you have 10 seconds—20 words—to capture their attention.
So what’s a sales person to do?
Tell a story.
A powerful narrative captivates buyers, giving them room to become invested in something greater. Put another way, pitches focus on the product you’re selling; stories focus on why you’re selling it. And that’s not just us saying that; it’s a science!
This is especially important in account-based marketing, where storytelling means targeting key personnel, engaging them in a vision and exciting them enough that they want to become your ambassador. Your compelling story becomes your customer’s compelling story … which makes it easier to evangelize your company’s message throughout their org … which increases the likelihood of a successful sale.
If that sounds simple, it should. There’s a reason, after all, that we read little kids morals-based bedtime stories (Goldilocks, Tortoise & Hare) rather than bedtime pitches.
To start developing your story, make sure your narrative meets these three classic “C” criteria:
- Concise: Leave your list of credentials to your LinkedIn and get to the point.
- Consistent: Make sure your story stays the same across all channels.
- Connected: Tell a story that has relevance to your audience—their needs and personalities.
Beyond that, there are almost as many ways to craft a compelling tale as there are stories to tell. So we translated the best advice from three leading storytellers into actionable insights for your next sales opportunity.
1. MAKE SURE YOU BELIEVE. Leadership expert Simon Sinek’s TED talk has garnered more than 36 million views. In it, he suggest following the “Golden Circle” method for getting people to “buy why you do it.” So it makes sense to:
- Start With Your “Why” — The best way to capture a person’s attention in ten seconds is by stating your brand’s purpose.
- Explain “How” — Now that you have their attention, briefly share your company’s process.
- Finally, Say “What” — What can your company provide the buyer that they need? Make sure you connect your product back to your purpose.
2. THINK OF THE CHILDREN. In addition to bedtime stories, there is a lot to be learned from children’s movies. Kids have even shorter attention spans than adults, yet storyboard artist Emma Coats notes that Pixar films manage to capture—and hold—their attention by adhering to a few simple rules:
- Focus on what’s interesting to an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer/teller — What parts of your company’s story will your buyer care about the most?
- Model your stories on others that you find compelling — Learn from brands you support. What compels you to support them?
- Give people a reason to root for the character — In sales, the character is your company. Paint a picture of the outcome if they don’t choose your company. Then, let them know how much better the picture will look if they make the sale.
3. WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T DO THIS. Almost as important as adopting storytelling best practices is avoiding the worst ones. this is hard-won at The Moth, the famed storytelling nonprofit. Kate Tellers, the organization’s director of corporate programs, shared some of them with Fortune Magazine:
- No meandering endings. Your last line should be clear in your head before you start — Strong closings lead to closed sales. Everything in your story should build up to your product.
- No rants. Shape your anger into a story with some sort of resolution — If anger at a world problem fueled the creation of your company, let the buyer know but keep it mild and emphasize how you’re working to solve the problem.
- No stand up routines. Funny people should tell funny stories — Comedy can be a great way to capture a buyer’s attention but it must contribute to the larger story of your purpose.