Everything’s a story in business. Customers understand complexity from a story. They rationalize their buying from a story, which means sellers sell stories.
Sales reps pitch gel electrophoresis systems. These devices separate DNA, RNA, and protein molecules in CRISPR genetic work.
Those sales reps must persuade buyers to buy. But some buyers won’t understand the deep-dive science of using the thing.
Yet complex B2B sales are won or lost on reps’ abilities to tell engaging stories and make the complicated understandable. This is the major sales challenge today.
“If sales reps can’t explain what they mean so that an eight-year-old understands them, then those reps don’t know what they’re talking about.*”
Why would customers buy from sellers who can’t make sense of their customers’ circumstances and simplify the complexities customers face?
Stories have inspired humankind in every century, culture, religion, and art form. But they must be the right stories for the context. Same is true for business.
Business stories can create emotional bonds that earn customers for life. They can illuminate a seller’s promise to customers, square up features with benefits, and ignite customers’ “wants” on top of their “needs.”
Engaging business stories go something like this…
“Customers are the heroes — and sellers provide magic gifts — that help customers avoid danger — guiding them towards their perfect destiny.”
And poor B2B service companies, they don’t have it easy. They sell an intangible, something that’s not produced yet, something that’s made right in front of customers.
Service reps can’t say… “Here, hold the puppy. Isn’t that wonderful? Can’t you see yourself taking this puppy home?”
“Service companies crave stories because customers can’t hold the puppy.”
Customers choose one service company over another because of the stories they encounter. The service company with the most engaging story, the one with an emotional narrative and compelling solution wins.
But all is not rainbows and unicorns with the word “story” in business.
The Problem with “Story” in Business
Try this top-of-mind test — What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “story”?
They can’t say to customers, “Hey, I’d like to tell you a story…” because the first thing that comes to customers’ minds is a negative about the word “story.”
Yet telling a business story is exactly what customers need and want to hear.
The Good Side of “Story”
Luckily, there’s a good side to the word “story” as well.
Stories have the ability to grab customers’ attention, to engage their imagination and emotions, and quickly build trust and loyalty.
The Big “But”
But before customers will engage a seller, they need a story to decide if it’s worth their time.
Every contact with a seller is a customer’s investment in time and effort; to share their history and situation with a seller, to meet with a seller, or to answer a seller’s emails, calls, texts.
The seller’s story had better justify customers’ investment, or no customer engagement.
Engaging Stories to “Engage”
At the heart of every business transaction and relationship is a story. It’s how humans make sense of a complicated world, and especially the complexities of B2B buying and selling.
Customer engagement happens multiple times. It’s a seller’s constant ask with a hoped for customer response to move down the road to a sale.
A hoped for customer response could simply be a returned call, or more importantly, a customer sharing confidential inside info with them.
So, from the seller’s side, here’s a view of how sellers’ asks (ACTION) seek customers’ responses (SELLER’S GOAL).
What does this mean for Sellers?
The answer is…To gain customers’ attention and earn their time, sellers must make every “ask” come from an engaging big story. To tell a better business story in all instances.
Sellers’ engaging big stories must be:
1) Engaging enough for every customer in a vertical market,
2) Big enough for the story to hang true and consistent regardless of how customers are asked, such as by email, text, DM, call, meeting, etc.
Or why would customers bother to listen?
* My rendition of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Any scientist who can’t explain to an eight-year-old what he is doing is a charlatan” from his 1963 book “Cat’s Cradle.”