How to sell anything to anyone by telling great stories

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Regardless of your industry, almost everyone is in the sales business today. Whether you’re trying to get customers to buy your product, pitch your business to investors, motivate your employees, or get your teenager to wash the dishes, your success will be dictated by your ability to influence, persuade, and “close the deal.” sale “.

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And storytelling is arguably the most powerful tool in your sales toolbox.

The best lesson I ever learned about the power of sales stories was while on vacation in Iceland last year. I was at the airport gift shop and was looking to buy some last minute souvenirs for friends. I was thinking of buying a few fridge magnets that wouldn’t cost more than 5 euros each. The store had a huge selection, ranging from Icelandic monuments to elf figurines. They were all very pretty and I had a hard time deciding which to choose.

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Then I noticed a magnet that looked cheap. It was a square piece of wood with a small magnet stuck to the back. On the front, there was a symbol painted in red, which looked like an eight-pointed star drawn by a toddler.

“What is that?” I asked the store clerk, a blonde in her twenties.

“Ah, it’s a magic symbol for Icelandic fishermen!” she says.

She went on to tell me that when Iceland was first occupied by the Vikings, most people’s livelihoods depended on fishing. It was a dangerous occupation given the harsh climate. The Vikings worshiped Norse gods, and it was the magical symbol that fishermen wore or carved on their boats to appease the gods and bring good luck and protection to their fishing trips.

“How much does it cost?” I asked

“10 euro.”

I bought five.

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If you think about it, what happened in that transaction was pretty magical. Before the employee told me the story of the Vikings and the gods, the magnet wasn’t worth a dime to me. After she told me the story, which mixed elements of history, religion and exotic adventure, the little piece of wood suddenly made so much sense that I had to get it – willingly paying a high price that doubled my budget.

Now, when I gave this magnet to friends, I also told them this story, so they would know that I was not giving them a cheap piece of wood, but an embodiment of Icelandic magic and blessing.

And that is the power of a well-told story. It gives meaning to an otherwise impersonal product. It differentiates your product offering from that of your competitors and makes it more memorable. It builds relationships and inspires your audience/customers/stakeholders to make decisions beyond pure logical calculation.

But, when should you tell stories in the sales process and how should you tell them? Let’s start with how not to start a story.

1. Don’t apologize or ask permission to tell a story.

Many people don’t know how to start telling a story, especially at work. They start by saying things like “I’m sorry, but can I tell you a story about this?” or “I promise it will be real quick,” as if apologizing for doing something wrong. When you start a story this way, the message you’re communicating is “this story isn’t important.” So why should your audience listen to you? If you think your story isn’t that important, don’t tell it. If you think it’s worth spending time with your audience, don’t apologize.

Related: The Secret of Storytelling

2. Don’t use the ‘s’ word.

The “s” word in this case is the word “story”. Don’t mention that word unless your audience is a group of 5-year-olds. Many people in a work environment have a negative reaction to the word “story”, associating it with unprofessionalism or inefficiency. Don’t skew your audience by saying things like, “Let me start today’s presentation with a story.”

3. Don’t reveal the ending

One of the main reasons stories draw people’s attention to you is the suspense factor – we all want to know what happened next. Don’t sabotage yourself by prematurely telling your audience how the story unfolded. For example, in the middle of your story, don’t say things like “Finally, what happened is [insert the ending]but at the time I didn’t know any better.” You just ruined your story!

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This is the most effective way to start your story.

Storytelling coach Paul Smith explains that you should always start your story with a good hook. A hook in this case is a single phrase or phrase that shows your audience why they should listen to your story. For example, instead of saying, “Let’s start today’s meeting. And I’m going to start by telling you a story,” try something like, “Let’s start today’s meeting. Something happened last week that completely changed the way I run this department. I thought I’d tell you about it.” The first method is clunky and likely met with resistance from your audience. This last method is a great hook that immediately grabs your listeners’ attention.

Another example of a hook: remember at the beginning of my story about Icelandic fridge magnets, I told you that the best lesson I ever learned about the power of sales stories was when I left on holiday in Iceland? Yeah, it’s a hook. Did I get your attention? See!

Knowing when and how to tell stories is a powerful skill that will immediately increase your effectiveness in selling anything.

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