John Cradden on how to master the sales pitch, from storytelling to presentation tips in order to clinch those customer deals.
It’s been well proven that you’re much more likely to remember a sales pitch centred around a story than one based on facts and figures alone – as many as 22 times more, according to research by one Stanford business school professor.
We’re hard-wired for stories. Most of what we learn is through stories, and just about everything we experience we turn into a story.
“Good sales people will tell you that people buy on emotion and justify their purchase on logic”
So it stands to reason that creating a strong narrative around your product or service can be a big differentiator between its success and failure when it comes to securing a sale.
“Good sales people will tell you that people buy on emotion and justify their purchase on logic,” says marketing consultant and Enterprise Ireland mentor Síodhna McGowan. “Stories are emotive and persuasive… without the hard sell.”
But it takes skill to craft a story that resonates and connects with your audience. Just telling any old story won’t in itself magically create a connection. Your business, product or service might seem fascinating to you, but unless you find a way to make it relatable to your target audience, it’s unlikely to work.
Create customer personas
Before you start crafting your business story, it helps if you know who you are talking to. Developing a range of user personas can help businesses imagine and even visualise their target customers. If you’re operating in a business-to-business space, each persona could include information on things like their job/role, their role in the decision-making process, the pain points or challenges they experience with your product or service, and even their own aspirations and goals.
Define your core message and value proposition
Clarify what you want to say and why it matters to your audience. What is the main point or benefit of your story? How does your product or service solve your reader’s problem? Think carefully about the ‘why?’ What inspired you to create your brand or solution? Why do you care so much about it? What are your values in terms of how you go about your business and what you want to do for your customers?
Define your story elements and structure
A lot may depend on what media format you choose (website blog, online video, press news story etc) and also the platform you choose to share it on (traditional media, social media, advertising), but it’s useful to define your basic story elements and structure as a starting point.
One possible structure could be: 1 context, 2 conflict and 4 resolution. 1: Introduce your characters (your customers and your brand), the situation (your customer’s problem or challenge) and the goal (what your customer wants to achieve). 2: Talk about the things that stop the customer solving their problem or achieving their goal (budgets, market conditions, internal issues etc). 3: Show how your characters overcome their problems or challenges (using your solution, explaining its value proposition).
Choose the right format and channel for your story
There are a whole range of formats and platforms you can use to share your story, each suitable for different spins and takes on your basic story. If you are creating customer personas (see above), this could include information about where your audience hangs out online and what content they like and consume. You could choose to do animated business-explainer videos for your website blog, sell a story to traditional media involving an interview with the business owner. You could create clever before-and-after photos to post on an Instagram feed. All of these ideas have a storytelling element in common.
Customise your story for your audience
Although you might have a basic business story, adapting it to suit the various interests and needs of your audience is important. For example, a photographer telling a story of their business to a couple looking for wedding photos will be very different to a business owner who needs to sell a property or needs product photography for their website. Again, your buyer personas will help here.