Rob Stenberg likes to say, “The shortest distance between two people is a story.” And if you’re looking to make an emotional connection, being able to tell a succinct story is a critical sales skill. Some people are more intuitive storytellers. But just like any other skill, you can learn how to tell stories. It takes time and practice and training to gain mastery. Rob shares some of his strategies to craft compelling stories in this episode of Sales Reinvented!
Rob notes that you need to set the stage where you introduce the hero of the story. Then there needs to be a complication or challenge—what’s wrong that you’re trying to overcome? Then there needs to be a turning point where the hero of the story has an “aha moment” and sees a new way of doing things. The final segment is the resolution—what were the end results?
What else can you do to make your story stand out? Follow Rob’s dos and don’ts:
But if you struggle to be brief, how do you tell a short story?
In Rob’s workshops, he teaches salespeople to put the ingredients of a story on color-coded cards. Each card is allowed two bullet points of talking points:
If you look at your cards and follow those talking points, you can keep a story within 60–90 seconds. Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address in two minutes and two seconds. If he can do that, salespeople can get their stories down to a minute.
Salespeople can be intimidated by sales leadership. Rob was teaching a workshop when the VP of Sales asked to speak briefly at the beginning of Rob’s presentation. The VP proceeded to tell his sales team that they were doing a terrible job.
Rob was mortified. If he was part of the sales team, he’d be looking for a new job. But the VP of Sales spoke again after lunch. When he did, this is what he said:
“I grew up very poor. I was the youngest of three kids. I didn’t wear a piece of brand-new clothing until I was 16 years old. I vowed that I was never ever going to live like that again. I also vowed that nobody that works with me is ever going to live like that and ever be poor like that. That’s why I ask so much of you, and I just wanted you to know that.”
Rob would walk through fire for that guy. If you’re a sales leader, make sure you have an “I am human story,” a “vision story,” and a “customer hero story.”
Everyone has a story. So you have to ask good questions to get that person’s story. Rob thought this man was a jerk. When he learned his “why” he saw him in a different light.
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