The fundamental challenge in sales is that no one wants to be sold to, but nearly everyone likes to buy. Unfortunately, the common tendency when sales professionals have the opportunity to speak with a prospective customer for the first time is to go into sales mode: pointing out features, going deep into the solution, and trying to do anything to get the prospect to agree to a next step. And while the product, the user experience, and the specific features are certainly important, they shouldn’t be the main subject of a discovery call—in fact, there’s no better way to tune out a prospect or cut the conversation short. As we’ve shared in a previous post, the first 10 seconds (and really the entire call in general) lays the foundation for the entire sales process.
When it comes to selling, there are many methodologies that sales teams use: the Challenger Sale, the Sandler Method, SPIN Selling, or even a hybrid of two or three. But regardless of what methodology a team uses, there are always certain components that should be present in every sales call. Just what are those components? The makings of a story with the prospective customer squarely at the center. After all, if the conversation is about the prospect’s needs, challenges, opportunities, and goals and not just about the product, they’re sure to stay much more engaged—and will be remain engaged even when the product, features, and services do eventually join the conversation.
In this article, we’ll take a look at 3 storytelling components that should be included in every sales call, regardless of the team’s chosen methodology.
3 Components of a Successful Story-Based Sales Call
Everyone loves a good story, and it’s easy to understand why—it draws in the audience and helps the reader feel like they’re part of it. They feel the raw emotion, the struggle, the triumph, and they are rooting for the characters. A good story is hard to turn away from just like a good book is hard to put down—you want to keep reading until the end to find out what happens.
When it comes to sales calls, a story can help prospective customers feel as though they’re right in the middle of the action, and that someone else (the sales professional) understands their pain and their opportunities and wants them to reach that glorious goal at the end: the last chapter where everything comes together. Not only is storytelling effective for sales professionals, but it also feels more natural and more conversational than reciting product facts or trying to convince the prospect to give the demo a chance. But how is storytelling possible in the context of sales? It doesn’t have to be difficult—in fact, it’s often much easier than product-based selling.
1. The Hook and the Empathy
As a consumer, what are you drawn to when it comes time to make a purchase? For many, it’s a brand that empathizes with real-life scenarios and problems. Sales professionals have the opportunity to open each call with a real life pain point to get their prospective customer on the other end nodding along. For instance, they might say, “We talk to digital marketers every day and one of the biggest issues we hear about is tracking conversion rates… is that something you struggle with too?” Immediately, the storyline begins.
The sales professional has expressed empathy and also has engaged the prospect in meaningful conversation. The opening of the story should empathize with the prospect and also invite them into a “safe zone” where they can share more about the challenges they face.
2. The Build-Up and Climax
Just like in any captivating story, there’s build-up, suspense, and ultimately a climax. But unlike a story or a book, sales professionals only have a few minutes to get to the point. During the climax of the story, the sales professional digs deep into what the prospective customer is experiencing, how the challenge is impacting their job, why they struggle with the particular pain point, solutions they’ve tried in the past, and so on. This is the bread and butter of the conversation. It can only take place once the prospect trusts the rep on the other end of the line and truly believes they can and will help. The information they share is usually sensitive, personal, and transparent, meaning that the sales professional must keep them engaged in the story so they continue to open up about the details that will help the rep uncover the right solution for their needs.
During this part of the conversation, it’s key that the sales professional stay engaged, capture detailed notes, and interject questions and clarification points that keep the conversation on track to reach the ultimate goal: get the prospective customer to see a better future.
3. The Vision For a Better Future
Finally, every good discovery call ends with a mutual understanding that the prospect does indeed have a challenge or opportunity and that the sales rep has a solution that can help them either resolve the challenge or excel in a new, innovative way. So once the prospect shares the details of his or her situation and paints a clear picture of the ideal outcome in the climax of the “story”, then it’s the sales professional’s chance to shine: they can paint a picture of what a better future could look like with their product or solution in place.
While no one likes to be sold to, people love to feel a connection. In sales, the magic happens when a prospect feels a connection with the pain point or an opportunity and when this happens, they no longer fear the product or solution pitch—they embrace it because they see themselves using it and benefiting from it. While it can be tempting for a sales professional to oversell at this point, the key is to focus on the pain point or opportunity at hand and to share a vision for a better future that the prospect wants to discuss in more depth.
Fortunately, the end of the discovery call doesn’t have to be the end of the story—in fact, by using the sales call to tell a story, it can be just the beginning.
Ready to Learn More?
For more information on best practices of great sales leaders, check out the Costello resources below. If you’d like to see Costello in action, request a personalized demo of our real-time sales playbook software.