How to build a story structure that enables effective selling - ClickZ

30-second summary:

  • Once sellers have taken the time to truly get to know their buyers, the next step for effective storytelling is to build a structure that helps them stay on point.
  • As well as being simple and easy to understand, an effective story structure should clearly outline the key points that sellers are trying to get across.
  • Having a structure like this in place will put sellers in the best position to deliver a story that resonates with buyers, compels action and drives them through the sales cycle.
  • To meet these needs, there are three key pillars that every effective story should include. They can be referred to as the three F’s – Framework, Flow and Flash.

In the first article of this storytelling series, we discussed the importance of preparation. When developing a storytelling framework that compels buyers to take action, the first step should always center around getting to know your buyers and the specific problems they want to solve.

This requires sellers to lay the groundwork for success by drilling down into each buyer’s situation and truly getting to know the people they are dealing with. By doing so, sellers will be able to focus on the root cause of the buyer’s problem and develop a story that will resonate.

Once this has been achieved, the next step is to build a story structure that helps sellers stay on point when interacting with these buyers. This is absolutely vital, as today’s sophisticated and knowledgeable buyers don’t have the time or patience to deal with off-topic interactions. They are looking for experiences that are engaging and personalized to their needs.

Indeed, 88% of sales, marketing, (Read more...) enablement professionals agree that buyers expect more relevant and personalized information today than they did five years ago.

So, the pressure is on sellers to build a structure that will enable them to tell the story they want to tell. But how can businesses help their sales teams stay on point?

Constructing your story

An effective story structure is one that is simple, easy to create, easy to understand, and that clearly outlines the key points that sellers are trying to get across. Buyers should be left with no doubt as to what the most impactful areas of the story are and the aspects that are most valuable for them to remember.

It’s similar to writing a thesis statement in high school. A thesis statement gives you focus by outlining what the content is going to be about and highlighting how you’re going to walk readers through your point of view.

Having a structure like this in place will put sellers in the best position to deliver a story that compels action and drives buyers through the sales cycle. To meet these needs, there are three key pillars that every effective story should include:

1) Framework

First, build the outline for a bespoke experience. This involves doing your research so that you’re able to put the framework in place for a compelling and personalized story that will appeal to your target buyers.

There are a few simple aspects that contribute to a strong story framework. For example, like any good story there should be a start, a middle and an end – a logical progression that outlines a problem before pointing toward some kind of resolution. It’s also important to identify the appropriate personas involved and ensure that the story is aligned to key objectives and challenges.

Finally, make sure you know the three to five things you need to prove. Without this skeleton in place, it will be harder to stay on track and you may end up glossing over or forgetting the most important part of your story.

2) Flow

A key requirement of any effective story is that it is easy to consume and digest. Buyers should come away from the interaction with a clear understanding of the most important issues and the pain points that you’re able to solve. If the story doesn’t engage the buyer quickly, it’s probably too complicated.

So, be sure to consider whether the buyer will be able to easily follow the story. If the answer is no, try simplifying the narrative or using different content formats to help get the message across. And make sure that every talking point is aligned to the business outcomes, as this is what will resonate most.

Sellers should also clearly define the characters/personas in their story and make sure that they have an in-depth understanding of the key use cases or workflows that the story addresses. The combination of these factors will help ensure a buyer experience that flows smoothly instead of stutters.

3) Flash

This final aspect is arguably the most important. For the story to be successful, it must be memorable. After all, a story can include all the right elements and say the right things, but it’s worthless if the buyer is unable to recall the key points as soon as the interaction ends.

The story must also clearly showcase the power of your offering. This provides the ‘x-factor’ that will differentiate you from your competitors and help move buyers from prospects to customers.

It’s a lesson I learned as a Sales Engineer at when we were selling to Bausch and Lomb, where Simon Woods, Vice President of Global Applications and Technology, once told me that “the most successful seller can take a massive amount of information about a buyer/product/solution and distill it down to a few powerful marketing soundbites that I can sell internally at Bausch and Lomb.”

This fundamentally changed the way I approached my role as a Sales Engineer and laid the foundation for the way I approached every sales opportunity I was involved in.

So don’t be afraid to add a bit of flash when interacting with buyers. Present your story with energy, show enthusiasm and find ways to emotionally connect with your buyer. Ultimately, at a time when buyers are being bombarded with sales pitches, find ways to make yourself and your story stand out.

Especially in today’s all-digital working environment, salespeople may choose to do this by tapping interactive content; this involves incorporating videos, GIFs, quizzes or polls into sales materials, encouraging the buyer to actively engage with the content they’re consuming.

They might seem simple, but these three elements are central to building an effective story structure that guides sellers during their interactions with buyers. With this in place, sellers will be empowered to tell a story that resonates with buyers and drives more effective selling.

The only thing left to do is deliver it in a way that makes you the only option for your target buyers.

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