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Utilize Storytelling to Sway Customers

Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2012, at 9:20 PM

There is perhaps no greater weapon in a sales rep's arsenal than a well-told story.

There are fundamental selling skills salespeople must have to find success -- the ability to uncover a prospect's needs, formulate customized solutions, overcome objections, and ask for and close the business. You would assume those skills, coupled with proper selling tools, would equate to success.

Why then do so many reps with the right tools and training fail to execute successfully?

Often, the missing link is an intangible -- his or her ability to connect with a prospect in a way that builds trust. One of the secrets to building trust lies in your ability to share powerful, engaging stories.

It may be easy to tell a prospect how your product or service is different, but if you can bring those differentiators to life through thoughtful, practiced storytelling -- by sharing how you've gone above and beyond for a specific customer, for example -- your prospects are much more likely to relate to and remember those differentiators. Your prospects may even picture themselves in your story.

Storytelling is a powerful technique for imparting complex information in a way that builds an emotional connection with the audience. There are five objectives to keep in mind when determining which stories should make the cut.

Paint a picture of your unequivocal commitment to your customers, distinguishing that they aren't merely stepping stones on the way to reaching your sales target.

Share your subject matter expertise, for example, through a story of a client experiencing flat sales and customer attrition, outlining how you were able to turn it around with relative ease.

Use stories to demonstrate your willingness to partner with your clients to find unique solutions and get the job done -- whatever that may be. Consider sharing an anecdote about how your entire team worked all weekend long at no additional cost to the client to be doubly sure their project was completed on time.

Utilize a story to showcase your ability to communicate clearly and regularly to ensure there are no surprises.

Lastly, there's nothing better than a story to reveal the integrity-based culture under which your company operates on behalf of its clients.

The formula for telling a memorable story is to organize it with a clear beginning, middle and end. Start by telling your prospect what you're about to prove. Use transition words such as "first," "next" and "finally" to help organize the story in their minds. Evoke emotion at pivotal points in the story. Like the most powerful prose, end where you began, by restating what you've just proven.

Unleash the power of your own storytelling abilities and consider utilizing storytelling in more than just the selling process. It's a powerful tool for motivating not only prospects, but also your team and outside influencers, to see just what makes you and your company so special.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover Sales & Marketing in Memphis, TN. www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).

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Lori Turner-Wilson
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Lori spent over 15 years leading corporate marketing and communications divisions in the financial services, hospitality and franchise restaurant sectors. As Director of Target Marketing for the Hampton Hotels brand of Hilton Hotels Corporation, Lori managed promotional, direct and Web marketing, as well as custom publishing, for the brand's franchise system. In her role as Vice President of Employee Communications and Development for First Horizon National Corporation, she managed the corporation's internal culture initiatives, communications, and employee recognition programs. Other positions held include Sr. Communications Director/Corporate Editor for TCBY Enterprises, Inc., and Vice President of Marketing for First National Banking Company. Lori is a founding sponsor and member of the Board of Directors for LaunchMemphis -- an organization committed to developing an entrepreneurial community in Memphis comprised of investors, entrepreneurs and local organizations. In addition, Lori is on the Board of Directors of the Sales and Marketing Society of the Mid-South and on the Advisory Board for the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County. She is a sought-after speaker in the Memphis area, delivering sales and marketing keynote addresses and workshops to organizations like: the Memphis Chapter of the American Advertising Federation, the Sales & Marketing Society of the Mid-South, LaunchMemphis, EmergeMemphis, the Memphis Regional Chamber, the National Association of Women Business Owners, and the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. Lori holds a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in addition to having completed the University of Colorado's School of Bank Marketing and Management. She is the recipient of numerous industry awards including local and district Addy's, Communicator awards, and a Telly. She received recognition as one of the Memphis Business Journal's "Top 40 Under 40" recipients in 2009. Lori also served as a contributing ghost writer for the renowned "Complete Idiot's Guide to Guerilla Marketing." Beyond her passions for marketing and dogs of all shapes and sizes, Lori is an avid traveler, runner and foodie.