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The Evolution of Selling

Updated: Feb 8, 2020

Five Tips from Expert Storytellers on How to Craft Your Next Message

No one likes to be sold, but people generally like to buy. What is with that? We buy things all the time we never thought we needed and often with little reflection on the process. Yet, everyone remembers the car purchase or the cell phone mall pitch that left you “hating” sales people. Selling shouldn’t leave you or the customer feeling “sleazy” or “had.” Sure, this may work with one time purchases, but in today’s world, it’s far too expensive and competitive to acquire new customers each and every time. Sustainability thrives and dies with the lifetime customer. Many believe if we want to achieve long-term success that the best way is to spend more time on the story and invite the customer to join us on the journey.  

Whether you’re a CEO, sales manager, or territory manager, getting your message across is paramount. Selling is not only an important skill, but it is often the cause of failed products and businesses.  If you have been around sales for a while, you may have noticed a shift in the way people are selling. Gone are the days of relationship-building and questioning people to death with “spin selling”(sorry Neil Rackham). Today’s selling is all about the story. So how do you get someone to buy something and have them feel good about it? Experts agree it’s in the message and that it takes a lot of research and planning on your part to understand the buyer. 

Here are 5 tips from experts on how to craft your next message with “story:” Tips from “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath and “Story Selling” by Nick Nanton and J.W. Dicks

Develop Your Hook – This is the most important step because if you can’t get people to pay attention, then what good is the rest? One of the best ways to achieve this is by doing the UNEXPECTED. Imagine if you started your next pitch by saying you “hate sales people and never wanted to be one, until you realized it can be done successfully without doing all the things you used to hate.”  At the very least, you got their attention and invited them to learn about where this is heading. 

Make it Memorable- Our memory is strongly tied to “visuals”, so the key to having your message remembered is by using something simple and visual. Strip down your message to its authentic, bare bones core and then deliver it with a visual. What is the key differentiator? Every product and company needs a “special sauce.” How can you use a visual to demonstrate it? In Made to Stick, Chip Heath uses Velcro as a visual example of memory. “If you look at Velcro really close, you will see that one side is all loops, and the other side all hooks. The more hooks you secure, the better it sticks.” Now that is a visual.

Be Authentic- Trust is so essential to selling that if you never gain it, or worse yet lose it, then you’re toast. Authenticity here is often synonymous with agree-ability as well. You want at least the majority of your customer base to be able to agree and relate with what you are saying. 

Elicit Emotion- The goal is making sure they care and believe. First, identify the emotion that fits with your product and then decide on the vehicle for delivering it. Do you want them to feel “hope” and that they “can make a difference” or do you want them to feel “inspired” and “motivated”? Should they feel “unique” and “special” or “safe” and “protected”? If asked to list some companies and or products that fit these feelings, you could without question. If you described the feeling you’re trying to message, could your customer name your company or product?

Call for Action- Get your customers wanting to take the next step. Like the teaser clips at the end of a great episode of your favorite show, how are you going to get them to take the action you want them to? And most importantly, how can you make that action EASY! One click, one signature, no money down, free installation, trial periods, on and on. There are lots of ways to make it actionable and easy, but ask yourself: if you were the customer, would you take action on this?

So that is it. Message your product or service with a story and your customers will evolve along with you. We have come a long way from the cave drawing messages of our ancestors, so don't find yourself beating on your chest, and your customers, with feckless info. Instead? Invite them on a journey!

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