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The three things you need to say to tell a story that people want to listen to.

Last week we looked at what you can say when someone asks how you’re different (if you didn’t see it and you’d like to take a look, you can do that here . At the end of that video I indicated that once you’ve discovered a benefit (that you offer) that is of interest to the other person, you need to tell them a story about how you’ve helped another client actually realise this same benefit.

Telling stories is one of the best tools you’ve got in your sales conversation toolbox. Stories allow you to share with a current or prospective client a little bit about yourself and what you do but from the perspective of how it’s helped someone else, so you move away from the traditional statements of intent and capability – statements that start with things like ‘we can do this’ or ‘we will do that’.

The problem with those statements is that they come across as boastful, there’s no evidence or proof that you’ve actually done that or will be able to do it, and they’re also totally self-oriented which is one of the key things that kills trust.

So, what is the best way to structure the story for maximum impact? There are three key parts:
1. What the previous client needed (NEED)
2. What you did in the situation (FEATURE)
3. The results the client got from what you did that addressed the need they had in the first place (BENEFITS, which themselves fall into three categories as we discussed last week: time, money or comfort/confidence). This is the most important bit!

Here’s an example:

I recently had a client that told me they wanted to change the way their sales force impacted the marketplace. For them, key to this was improving the confidence of their sales people to pick up the phone and call prospects. So, I asked them if they’d be interested in hearing a story about a previous similar situation, to which they said yes. So, I told them a story made up of three key parts:
1. In 2008 we were approached by one of the Big 4 Accounting firms in China and Hong Kong (note that you do not need to disclose the name of the actual client for the story to have impact). What they told us was that for 20 years the phone had been ringing, and now the GFC had hit and the phone had stopped ringing. Their partners had lost the confidence to pick up the phone and call clients and prospects. (NEED)
2. So we conducted an assessment of confidence levels across the partnership group, and then we ran a series of coaching and training programs across the partnership for 18 months. (FEATURE)
3. As a result, the organisation did a reassessment of the confidence levels of the partners, and confidence levels had gone up 17% over that period. (BENEFIT – comfort).

And that’s the three-part story. If you’ve got any questions, or would like some help with your own three-part story, please get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.

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