23 August 2017

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Think for a minute. What makes a story interesting or compelling?

Stories that pique our interest and grab our attention are those that draw us in. Wouldn’t you agree the stories that are most captivating are the ones where you can imagine yourself as part of the story, or perhaps feel jealous because you are not?

The same applies when dealing with our sales story.

I benefited from having mentors like Robert E Johnson (the GM of the Dale Carnegie organisation in Greenville South Carolina) and Kendall J Smith — the Chief Manager of TED ( Training Education and Development ) for Westpac back in the 80s ( where I eventually became the Head of TEDJ).

Both men were absolute masters at framing the story. The customer was always the main character and centrepiece of their sales pitch.

But as I began to observe other salespeople (in the many — sales coaching roles I’ve had) I noticed most were not very good when it came to telling their story. In fact, most of them had a hard time grasping and maintaining a buyer’s attention.

The biggest difference was that, unlike Bob and Kendall, these salespeople were totally focused on their product and why it was so wonderful as opposed to issues important to the customer.

When I transitioned into sales — after the TED stint- I followed the lead of my mentors, whose effectiveness convinced me that selling was about the customer and their wants, needs, desires, goals and ambitions. As my career progressed and I had more sales calls under my belt and found myself –always- in the top 1 per cent of sales people — no matter what organisation I worked with — I became more convinced that most customers couldn’t care less about what we do. However, they were incredibly interested in what our products or services could do for them.

Our story must pass the ‘so what?’ Test

As important as this profound sales truth is when dealing with existing customers, it’s magnified exponentially when trying to gain the attention of a new prospect.

So many people is sales lead with statements such as ‘we make’ or ‘we are suppliers of’ or ‘we do this, that and the other thing.’ And when salespeople lead in this manner , buyers are almost immediately thinking : ‘so what?’

I encourage you to try the ‘so what’ test on yourself and others…and you’ll soon see what I mean. There’s too much self-focused, non-attention grabbing drivel that comes out of our mouths that has no real meaning to the customer.

What happens when we start our pitch by talking about what we do?

The prospects thinks or may even say aloud- “we already have that.” We have a banking relationship, we have a widget supplier, we have an advertising agent, we have a courier service, we have an accountant — etc.

Bestselling author Jill Konrath speaks about the challenge of getting the attention of today’s crazy-busy prospects in her superb book SNAP Selling . I love the mental picture created by the phrase crazy-busy prospects.

We are not earning a spot on a crazy-busy prospects calendar by talking about our offerings (with a possible exception if there is an Apple logo on our product). Breaking into a prospect’s world is only going to happen when we talk about something that matters to them.

The Three Critical Building Blocks for a Compelling Sales Story

There are three critical sections, or building blocks to a compelling sales story — A story that must be presented in this order to have maximum impact. Do not change the order- break the rule and lose the sale.

1. The Client ISSUES we address

2. What is our OFFERING


Customer/client issues, the first building block and bedrock of our compelling sales story refers to:

· Customer pains we remove

· Client problems we solve

· Opportunities we help customers capture

· Results we achieve for clients

Offerings, our second building block simply state what we sell. (emphasis on simply). Our offerings are what we do — the services, solutions, or products for which we bill customers.

Differentiators, the third building block, explain why we are better and different from other alternatives. This final building block provides solid reasons why we are the best choice to address the client’s issues, as listed in the first section of our story.

These three building blocks are all necessary to craft a succinct, compelling, client — focused sales story. And the sequence matters — a lot. As important as the actual components themselves is the order in which we say them.

You may have had an opportunity to have watched one of the many wonderful Steve Jobs’ talks on YOUTUBE or other media …if you dissect his talks you will see they all follow the same pattern and sequence…

· What’s the problem? — CLIENT ISSUES

· What happens if you don’t fix the problem — HOW THEY GET WORSE

· The solution to the problem — OFFERINGS

· Why you should choose Steve/Apple — DIFFERENTIATORS

Good Luck and (always) Good Selling

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