How to Use Storytelling in b2b Sales

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A while ago, I came back from lunch with a couple of colleagues.

When we arrived at the office, I heard the office manager yelling: “who drew on my windows?”

Well, that who, that was me.

Before lunch, we had booked a meeting room to catch up. At one point we were talking about creating urgency, and moved to storytelling.

I thought it was a good idea to draw my storytelling method, and as there was no white board, I took a marker and drew on the windows of the meeting room.

Little did I know – then, that those were permanent markers.

I design winning revenue strategies for B2B tech clients and creating a storyline is fundamental in becoming successful in selling.

Why did is storytelling so fundamental as an entrepreneur or sales person?

While revenue generation is rational. It’s a system that consists of different elements. You can tune those different elements in order to improve the performance of your organisation.

Buying however, is emotional. This is where many sales people get confused. They try to rationalise buying, but this is wrong.

In b2b tech sales, we often see the opposite: the sales process is intuitive, emotional and even random, while people try to convince prospects to buy through feature dumps.

You need an approach to help this emotional journey.

And for this, storytelling is the ONLY way.

How do I see storytelling?

I visualise it as a walk in a dark forest together with your prospect.

And you’re the only person that knows the way out.

If you go too fast, you will lose the prospect, and they will simply return and keep on doing what they have always been doing -or end up going to the other side with a sales person that is better in storytelling.

And salespeople have a strength, at the same time, a weakness is overusing a strength, we are very solution driven. When we hear a problem, we immediately want to go in and say: “hey, we can solve this, no problem we fix it…”

While it is a reflex, in storytelling we have to hold back.

The reason is that your prospect is not mentally there yet.

Very often they are unaware about the problem, the size of the problem, or the pain. Maybe the pain is bearable because they have always been doing it the same way and they are unaware that there is a solution or a solution that has such a big impact.

It’s your role as a salesperson to make them aware of all three of them.

While you’re the only person that knows the way out, you cannot push.

They will start thinking, why did you bring me to that dark forest all alone? That’s a bit creepy. You can guide them.

You can tell them, hey, there’s a poisonous plant there, there’s a puddle there, careful for that trunk over there.


The Storytelling Method


My storytelling method is based on the man-in-hole storyline where 75% of the Hollywood movies are based upon.

First of all you have your prospect and it’s business as usual for them.

When you start the discovery with them, until then they are fine and unaware.

During the discovery, you -and obviously they, will realise that they do have a problem, that the pain is NOT normal (= the status quo) and that there is a cure.

And… that the cure is not as hard as they might think.

Very often when you start that discovery and the pain increases, you will feel that emotion around the table.

While some people will then hold off, you really have to go deeper into the pain.

It is similar as when Leonidas in the movie 300 kicks the Persian messengers into the hole.

Don’t worry, I am not asking you to literally kick your prospects… the thing is you have to help them in getting that realisation. They have to be deep into their pain, so they get that Aha-moment where they know it can be solved.

There is a way out!

And we are going to give them that way out.

Still, even here we don’t offer them the solution. We are not there yet.

You have to give them a way out, a stairway to heaven.

And when you arrive at the heaven, you will start giving them some proofs.

You will talk about references, about cases, strategies that help, you give them numbers.

In this stage, you confirm that you are a subject matter expert where you teach, just like the challenger sale shows us.

You will also share insights.

For example, in my first job I had to help with job adverts in that would appear in paper newsletters. These were sold by the millimeter and column, and this was the traditional way of finding candidates.

With the advent of the Internet, job adverts shifted online for a fixed cost.

Later, when I joined Indeed, we were selling a performance based model (price-per-click). It was important to demonstrate to prospects the advantage in moving to this model, … not just to sell more, but specifically to show through insights that the performance based model was better -for them, than a fixed price model.

Through a subject matter expert story, and with the help of data and other insights, we could prove that people working ‘in the old ways’ were left behind compared with people working ‘in the new ways’, through better results, lower costs more control… (which is by the way my way to the story, not the official Indeed storytelling)

In that sense, we are the teachers that helped them realizing of the pain and they should move forward with your solution, with your technology.

All this to show you when you then create a similar journey for your business, when you create that insight for your clients with that storytelling method, you will have better business, you will sell more because your people, your customers will be bought in and they won’t be pushed.

When you’ve got questions for this, feel free to contact me and have a nice day and as always, don’t forget to subscribe.

How can I help you?

For b2b CEOs between 1 and 20 million ARR: Are you looking to create a revenue strategy and interested to work with me? Contact me here

For b2b Tech CEOs < 1 million: I am launching a dedicated program for you, since you have specific challenges.  You have more information here.

For sales pros: Looking to nail your storytelling skills?  Pre-register here for my online course.

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