And in the world of business narratives there are only three breeds; the big story, the enabling story, and the individual story (formerly the personal story). Like breeds of dogs, one breed of sales story is no better or worse than another, just different.
As salespeople, we likely prefer one breed of sales story over another, as we might prefer Corgis more than Poodles. But it’s this preference, this default choice, that limits sales success.
When starting with, or sticking to, a favorite breed of sales story because it’s comfortable, it’s easy to miss out the parts that are meaningful and compelling to the customer sitting in front of us.
Here are the three breeds of sales story, and how to use them when selling.
The Big Story
That’s right, an experience: not selling products or services. Here’s why:
Think of a Rolex watch. It isn’t about telling time, it’s about having the owner feel they’re wealthy, successful and sophisticated every time they put on, or look at their watch.
It’s also about telling others that the Rolex owner has made it; is adventurous,elegant, one of the elite. That’s the Rolex experience.
And Rolex the company, is focused on creating that experience – they just happen to do it selling watches.
The Big Story when Selling
The big story for a sales rep is to show how their offer helps a particular customer deliver their end-users’ desired experience.
And as each customer’s experience will differ from its competitors, so will the sales rep align their offer to that unique experience.
The goal of the big story is to always connect the offer directly to the desired experience. This is simple but not always easy.
For example, a sales rep selling server space to an online business has customer conversations about the end-user’s desired experience, which is secure, fast, always-up, and worry-free.
The rep’s story makes that connection between their server space and the end-user’s experience. And this version is only possible when the customer buys their service.
The Enabling Story
There are times when your customers don’t provide the primary activities that deliver the desired experience. These customers provide support activities across their organization, such as HR, Finance, Legal, Procurement, IT – the shared support services.
From an organizational view, shared support services are enablers (in a good way). They fulfill core functions so others can deliver the desired end-users’ experience.
The Enabling Story when Selling
The enabling story for a sales rep is to show how their offer enables a department to help others deliver the desired end-users’ experience.
This enabling can be the removal of roadblocks, making things happen faster and easier, or providing access and availability to useful resources.
For example, a sales rep selling security guard services to a manufacturing company has customer conversations about a secure and safe workplace that promotes higher employee productivity. The rep connects their guard service to enabling the customer’s employees to do their primary activities better.
Other enabling stories that sales reps can use with shared support services include:
* Resourcefulness in doing more with limited resources
* Increased productivity from fewer headcount or smaller budgets
* Effective implementations or improvements
* High degree of innovation compared to other departments
* Recognition among industry peers for best-practices
The Individual Story
The individual story speaks to one person’s world, a particular customer contact. Specifically, the hopes and fears of the individual, both as an employee and as a human being (we hope they are anyway).
Often these individual stories help customers overcome their fears, and give them the courage and motivation to make a change or try something new, even if there’s a remote possibility of failure.
Some of these stories speak to the individual’s gain, which is part of the company’s gain. However, sales reps must always make it clear the company’s benefits are exponentially larger.
The Individual Story when Selling
The individual story for a sales rep is to show how their offer, once bought and implemented, will reward customers personally, as well as their company. Personal rewards in an individual story might include:
* Fewer worries, headaches, fears from poor performance, low quality, late schedules, cost overruns, etc.
* More free time to focus on core duties rather than attending to a poor purchase
* All the enabling stories but attributed to an individual as well as a department
* Greater job security
* Promotion opportunities
* Performance bonuses & salary raises
Buying decisions come down to the individuals involved. The individual story covers powerful topics that can finish up a complex sales cycle and secure the sale.
On your next sales call, take all three breeds along. Mix and match them as needed, and see if you don’t improve your results, and have a barkingly good time in the process.