Think about the last time you went and saw a good movie. What was that like? There’s a big chance that whatever film it was left you feeling pensive or uplifted, or at the very least refreshed.
But more importantly, that experience probably also helped you develop trust with the people involved in creating the film: the actors, the directors, the producers, the writers, the endless technical crews. You might go see another film by any or all of these creators because they’ve already told you a good story: a narrative that resonated with you in some way beyond the ending.
Narrative, it turns out, actually encourages the body to release oxytocin, a side-effect of which is to encourage trust and dropping your guard. As oxytocin production increases, cooporative and empathetic traits do as well.
A study published in 2013 indicated the power of oxytocin over pocketbook decisions firsthand. In the study, participants were given synthetic oxytocin while watching a variety of public service announcements. Those who received the oxytocin were more likely to donate to the charities represented by the PSAs. In other relevant studies, chemicals that inhibit the action of oxytocin were found to discourage cooperation.
What does this mean for salespeople? It means it’s important to be a good storyteller, and in turn to be able to tell the right kind of story in the right situation.
Find a good story.
This one seems obvious, but a good story can be tricky to find. Look for something that not only suits the sales purpose, but engages the listener’s sympathies. It doesn’t even have to necessarily involve your product or your company, so long as the story can eventually be brought around to the purpose of selling.
Founding tales make good stories.
If you can’t find a good story, consider the founding of your company as a potential tale. While using it too aggressively can seem like a hard sell, telling the story behind your company’s founding can demonstrate the strength of your product, or at least of the leadership.
Victories for past clients can help, too.
If the founding of the company isn’t that interesting, try using some of the victories your clients have scored since adopting your product or service. Testimonials have the strength they do for a reason, and a story of success told compellingly is even stronger still. Be sure to include the difficulties your clients faced, both before and after adoption of your product or service, because people love an underdog story.
Practice your story.
Once you find the story you want to tell, whether it’s a cautionary tale, a triumph, or a fun anecdote, practice it until you can tell it with aplomb. If you have a good grasp of what your story is, including its rising action, climax, and falling action, you’ll be more confident when retelling it to clients, investors, and other stakeholders. Confidence, in turn, can make a story seem much more compelling.
Run your story by some allies.
While you may know the story backwards and forwards, this may actually be a detriment to telling it. You may skip details that seem obvious to you because you don’t think to clarify them, whereas a disinterested observer such as a family member or friend will spot these omissions immediately. Run each story by people of varying familiarities with your industry to get a good sense of how much explanation different types of people need.
Tie it all together.
When your story ends, your audience should already have a good idea of the action you want them to take. It should segue neatly into your sales pitch, or your explanation of the benefits of the system. All that preparatory work in telling the story is wasted if you don’t do anything with the trust it engenders.
What do you think?
Stories can really enhance face-to-face meetings, especially with small business owners, who often appreciate the personal touch that a story offers. Have you worked a particularly good storyteller, whether in the office or when making the sale? Do you have a sales story that you like to use? Sound off in the comments.