How to Use Storytelling in Your Sales

"SalesTech will never replace your marketing and sales team - People will buy from your story not from your sales tools," says Frenci Bardhi, Business Development Manager at LXA, and our resident sales tech expert. 

storytelling sales

We're big fans of sales tech here at LXA, but the newest, shiniest thing is often given the most attention. So, we can't forget the foundational parts of sales which are running the show and are made even more impressive with the help of some pretty cool tech. 

But today, we're heading back in time and focusing on one of the oldest human past times - stories. Don't worry, though, there's no "once upon a time" or "it was a dark and stormy night" here. 

Storytelling in sales is part art, part science. In fact, Hubspot has found that facts and figures only activate two regions of your brain, language comprehension and language processing. In comparison, stories activate a whopping seven: movement, touch, language processing, language comprehension, scents, sounds, and colours and shapes. 

Telling your company story, and the stories of your customers, often humanise your selling and makes connections with prospects more meaningful. It also means your customer's brain is more engaged, and they'll be more likely to react emotionally. Remember, emotions drive most consumer decisions, and stories inspire people to take action. 

According to April Dunford, author of books such as Obviously Awesome (📚 check out our review here 📚), there are 6 specific components of a good sales narrative. So, your story should:

  1. Specifically define the problem
  2. List the different approaches to solve it 
  3. Explore the pros and cons of each approach for different types of customers 
  4. Highlight the gaps and why they matter for your target prospects
  5. Describe a perfect solution for your target prospects
  6. Demonstrate how you can uniquely deliver on that value

Right then, let's jump into why you should be introducing storytelling into your sales pitches. 

Number One: Storytelling Makes Your Presentations More Conversational 

The facts are good, but they aren't enough to make people buy. If you deliver a bunch of information without having a connecting factor, the data can fall flat. 

Presentations without stories often make the conversation feel very one-sided, making the prospects believe the whole thing is being thrown at them, rather than including them. If they can't picture themselves within the narrative of your company or product, they won't be able to see themselves purchasing and using your product. 

Screenwriter Chad Hodge, suggested in the Harvard Business Review that good storytelling helps "people to see themselves as the hero of the story" because “everyone wants to be a star, or at least to feel that the story is talking to or about him personally.”

So, your stories should follow a few conventions in order to appeal to your customers in a conversational way. Consider having your narrative:

  • Avoid clichés
  • Get personal
  • Avoid complex language
  • Be relatable 
  • Be descriptive

Number Two: Storytelling Makes Sales Memorable

When your customer's brain is more engaged, it's far easier for them to remember specifics. In fact, one study has found that people remembered stories 22X more often than facts and data. 

But even away from the science side, storytelling can be all about establishing yourself as a memorable and creative brand. It also helps to resonate with your audience on a deeper level. 

So, it can be a good idea to include case studies or customer testimonials to tell your story. Storytelling in this way can deliver obvious, visual, and relatable outcomes from prospects. This, in turn, leads to increased sales productivity and demos.  Plus, telling your story through characters makes the pitch far more compelling than spouting off a bunch of data and stats.

Number Three: The Human Brain Responds to Storytelling

The human brain will process data and information in a bunch of different ways, depending on what it's experiencing. So, when your customers are given a sales pitch based on facts alone, it'll get processed through the logical part of the brain. This information has no impact on how they feel and can be easily forgotten. 

However, a story stimulates the right and left sides of the brain, and they begin to work together. Logic, senses, and emotions start to combine to build a whole picture of what your customer is listening to. This full picture triggers emotions, which cause the brain to release oxytocin. Known as the "trust hormone", Oxytocin lets your customer know everything is A O.K. and builds a bond between the storyteller and the listener. Trust is the backbone of customer relationships and experience and can make or break long term bonds. 

In fact, studies have shown that stories can synchronise the brain activity between a storyteller and a listener. this means that when the speaker is constructing an emotional story that has a personal impact on them, the listener reacts in the same way as the storyteller's. This causes the pair to feel and experience the same series of emotions. 

Tips and Tricks for Adding Storytelling Magic to Your Sales Pitch

Turn your prospects into characters. 

So, storytelling isn't just all about the storyline. You also need to make sure you include engaging, exciting, and interesting characters that fit the narrative. 

Specifically, you need to turn the prospect listening into the main character. This can be done by uplifting them during the sales pitch, making them feel good about themselves and their ability to overcome their problems.

You'll also make them feel important if you focus on how vital it is for them to overcome their problems, and what would happen if there wasn't a solution or a conclusion. The whole idea is to empower your prospects into believing in the possibility of a cure-all, and that they can achieve this. With your help, of course. 

Decide which emotions you need to trigger. 

Emotions make stories far more memorable. When fostering an emotion in a story, you can trigger a memory of a time a person felt a certain way or has a similarly positive experience. Therefore, you can piggyback on that positive emotion, using the foundations to connect your story to that happy time. This will help your customer in retaining the information you're sharing. 

It helps to focus on positive emotions such as the following:

  • Happiness
  • Excitement
  • Surprise
  • Inspiration 
  • Nostalgia 
  • Fun

You can even experiment with triggering negative emotions, through reminders of their pain points, and turn them into positive ones throughout your story. The relief that comes from a frustration that is alleviated, can make the joy feel like it has more of a base. 

Learn the Principles of Storytelling

Understanding the main principles of storytelling will provide the foundations for creating a more complex and effective sales narrative. But first up, you'll need to understand whom you're speaking to, and then you can begin to construct a story that's custom-tailored to their needs.

But in order to do this, you need to understand the principles - Robert Carnes' 4 principles is a good place to start. This framework involves four elements: Character, context, conflict, and creation, which "pulls together characters, context, and conflict into on comprehensive narrative", says Robert. 

This final point is super important for sales. Many people are lost during a pitch which is just a long-winded story that never gets to the point. Or on the other end of the spectrum, a narrative which is so rushed that the conflict and impact are lost. These are failures of creation and mean you lose all the effort you've put into constructing your story. 

Turn Positive Customer Experiences into Stories

Now your story has been built well, and a good narrative has been constructed, it's time for characters. You should go back to the pain points you've identified when working with your buyer personas and match them with previous success stories from past customers, who have solved similar issues using your company. 

So, you might be a company which sells cloud software for digital marketers. Then:

  • Your character could be the marketer who owns the cloud tool in the company 
  • The context of the story could be a board meeting with the company's investors
  • The conflict could be the marketer's team falling behind with their KPIs due to issues surrounding outdated technology or siloed teams. 

Close the Deal at the Climax of the Story

The last task will be to close the sale when the prospect's emotion is at its highest. This should've been building as the story builds.

Then, just as this is at its peak, you jump in and make your proposal, with all the offers, deals, and persuasion on the table. 

In sales, optics are key. Your sales pitch might be top-notch, flawless, and intensely polished, but if you don't make the proposal at the right time, i.e. when your prospect's emotions are at their highest, you risk losing the sale.