I read a lot of sales book, looking to pick up one or two tips to improve solving customers' problems. Many books have provocative titles but inside there is not much there that you can put into practice and start seeing results fast. However, that is not the case with Mike Adam's book Seven Stories Every Salesperson Must Tell.
The book focuses on the power of seven stories that salespeople can use during the sales process to win deals. I agree with the premise of the book that stories are effective in connecting and persuading. The challenge salespeople face is how to overcome people's short attention span. Mike's answer is to practice, practice and practice so you can deliver it in less than three minutes. After reading Mike's book, I had lots of questions, so it was hard for me to come up with the top five questions.
But before I get into my five questions, let me tell you a little about my interaction with Mike. He is a class act. He does not know me or has ever met me. Yet, when I sent him my questions, he responded so quickly that I was taken back. The rapid response was quite refreshing since many authors I reach out to don't respond. And some of these authors are writing about sales. Go figure. I am often left wondering why write a book if you have little to no interest in interacting with your avid readers. Well, Mike is not part of the these gang of "drive by authors."
Based on my experience with Mike, he must be great at sales and you ought to listen to what he has to say. You can start like I did by getting his book on Amazon right now and then study it. Soon you will start becoming a better story teller. I read it once and I feel I have learned a lot that I plan to put into practice immediately. Reading, studying and practicing what Mike teaches will not only improve your sales performance, but, more important, you will start enjoying selling even more and become natural at it like Mike.
I agree that storytelling is effective in sales, but aren’t you also opening up to customers telling their stories about their negative experiences with salespeople and even your company’s past behavior? How do you handle this situation?
Effective sales storytelling is about telling and sharing. We tell the right story to transmit important information but also to receive the client's story. Our choice of story content primes the client's story. I'm very interested in the client's story - good and bad, that sets my starting point for the engagement.
Is storytelling an art or science?
Is fear red or black? Your question is like that question, for me ;-)
I think of science as the process of detecting patterns in the universe in order to make useful, amendable predictions. Stories are the highest level of pattern capture that humans have. Stories are scientific when they synthesize real patterns from the universe for useful predictions. In that case, the story resolution completes a useful prediction. Stories can also synthesize fantasies and be non-scientific.
All art is a type of story - that is, a sequence of patterns that makes our mind try and predict the next step. Our cortex doesn't care what sensory inputs are being used, it can create auditory stories(music), visual stories(paintings), movement stories(sport) and emotional stories(therapy) with any combination of our eight sensory systems. (If we injected a brand new sense into our cortex it would happily make stories from that also).
Story art is scientific when it creates a useful prediction based on real patterns from the universe. [I guess, enjoyment could be considered a useful prediction, scientifically that means expressing some brain chemicals that creating an enjoyable pattern.]
Storytelling is a fundamental mechanism of the neocortex that can be used for art and science. (I consider fantasy a type of art, btw)
Should you ask permission before telling a story? Do you do that?
You could by saying "could I share about a time when ..."
generally I say something like "that reminds me of ..."
In our culture we usually don't ask for permission to tell a story, we just tell them at a logical point in the conversation.
What kind of stories work well with technical people and why?
All seven of the story-types in Seven Stories work well for technical people. Why? Because technical people are also humans who have a story brain (sequence prediction brain). Technical people often forget that their audience does not have their technical expertise. Translating that expertise into story, radically improves understanding for the listener. Other devices like metaphors (story on steroids) and analogy are also very effective.
Can storytelling distract the customers such that it affects achieving your overall objective?
Yes. Its critically important that your story makes a relevant business point. That said, I quite often come across people that tell too many stories and do not allow space for the client's stories. However, these people are MUCH better salespeople than those that do not tell stories.
One more question:
Isn’t there a lot of performance aspect to storytelling and how do you develop that?
Yes, stories have to be practiced and there is huge benefit from coaching. I do that with video messaging.
Please recommend five books that are sales or non-sales related that have influenced your thinking.
Jeff Hawkins, On Intelligence
Mahan Kahlsa, Lets Get Real or Lets Not Play
Mike Bosworth & Ben Zoldan, What Great Salespeople Do
Ries and Trout, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
Shawn Callahan, Putting Stories to Work
You can get more information about Mike and his work at his website mysevenstories.com.
Jay Oza is a writer, speaker, executive coach. He makes people thrive on high stakes stage whether it is for job interviews, sales presentation or an important speech. He is the author of the book Winning Speech Moments: How to Achieve Your Objective with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. In addition he was recently recognized by Hire Heroes USA for his outstanding volunteer work with military veterans and their spouses for coaching them get good high-paying jobs when transitioning from military to civilian life.
Please download the speech checklist and the speech workbook to help you with your next high stakes speech. You can get more information at www.winningspeechmoments.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 732-847-9877. If you have a high stakes event (job interview, sales meeting or a big speech) coming up soon, please contact him right away that is if you want to win.