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Is Sales Telling The Straight Story?

On a recent episode of the Pivot Podcast, Scott Galloway said  the greatest skill any young college student can learn is storytelling.  

A core marketing principle is  that storytelling is a great way to build or reinforce a brand.  Often a marketer’s story is just a way to associate a brand with a compelling issue or idea.  The target customer reacts emotionally and the hope is that the positive emotional reaction provides connective tissue to the brand.

The best salespeople are storytellers.  But what are the stories they are telling about your business or your products or services or your customers?  Are these stories curated?  Have you listened to these stories?  

Great, experienced sellers are  blessed with the ability to think on their feet and pull stories out of their career histories.

But younger sellers or sellers who are new to your company need help.   If your company is new, the stories attached to client success may be non-existent.   How do you tell stories about your brand or product when there is no history?

The answer is to stay focused on the customer. See this great example of how Dove rode the coattails of social media's negative effect on adolescent girls to paint their brand as a champion of this issue.  The story being told has little to do with the product but everything to do with the target customer.  The lesson here is that even if your company is new, the stories can still live within the pain points of the customer.

For more mature companies, the stories are plentiful and there are new ones generated every day.  Unfortunately, mature companies have mature sales teams.  Many veteran salespeople may have fallen into passive communication traps that truncate your brand's story.  

In earlier posts I have talked about how passive communication is taking over.  Texts and Slacks are not good platforms for telling customers stories about your products, your customers, or your company.  Your sales management needs to make sure your biggest customers are hearing the latest stories about your products, services, and customers.  

Every interaction with every client is an opportunity to share a story that further underscores your value.   It is important that your sales team has a consistent library of stories for the different kinds of clients you sell to.

If inside sales develops a new business lead.  What is in the deck that goes out?  What is the exact verbiage in the initial email?  How does it convey your compelling story?

Can your sales team relay several important case studies on their feet to fit different situations?  What resources does the team rely on to grab these stories?

Is your sales management using client success stories with the sales team on a consistent basis?  Are these stories accessible in an organized way on shared drives?    If this isn’t happening, you should make sure it is fixed pronto.  A common narrative is critical to making sure your story is being told.

The great sellers will build on the common narrative to tell even better, more pointed stories about your brand.  The other 70% of your sellers need a more specific playbook so they don’t fumble great opportunities.  

As a Senior Leader, you should be able to pull any seller aside and ask them to deliver an impromptu story to fit a specific situation.  Don’t just assume your sales management is doing this.  Chances are great that if management is working remotely and the sales team is working remotely, they have lapsed into passive communication defaults.  They might be reactors instead of proactors. Storytelling is a skill and needs to be coached with feedback.

Have longtime customers been updated about how your company has evolved?  Do they know some of the innovative ways you are solving problems for different customers?  Sometimes sales and sales management gets passive when communicating with longtime customers.  Communication becomes transactional.  Who can bridge that gap and tell stories of how others are benefitting from  your products?  

If you are the CEO or in a similar position, how often are you having real life conversations with clients?  If you don’t have a relationship with Senior leadership at your top customers, you are vulnerable.  These relationships will provide a launch point for your to share the great way your company is serving your customers.

Here are some action points for CEO’s  you to ensure your company’s stories are getting told:

  • Compel your Sales Leadership to get face to face interactions with C-Level people at Top Clients so you can share your stories about your business.

  • Review your company’s library of customer case studies and ask to be included whenever this library is updated

  • Schedule time with top, long time customers and prepare to share newer case study ideas.

  • Ask Sales Management to review the company’s narrative for initial outreach

  • Have an unplanned meeting with individuals from your sales team so you can hear their positioning of your company’s story.

  • Utilize your marketing team to help sales curate stories so sellers can access and weave into presentations.