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Use Narrative to Boost Sales

For a business, there’s no better conclusion to a story than the sound of its cash register ringing. Connecting the right dots to get there is the challenge. How do you know if the story you’re telling is working? More importantly, is anybody listening?

Countless applications, metrics, tools have sprung up in hopes of answering these questions. Some are quite useful, and can play an important role in a company’s marketing mix. But they can be expensive or overly complex — prohibitive for smaller businesses with small marketing staffs and even smaller budgets.

There’s a better way.

Think about the last party you attended: When someone tells a compelling story, people naturally tune in. When Bob from accounting starts yammering on about his tomato plants, folks typically do the opposite. It isn’t about how loud you speak. Quite the opposite. It’s about how compelling your story is.

Selling your business to prospective buyers is no different. Be interesting, and your audience will listen. With so many distractions and bits of information bombarding your prospects every minute, there’s no better way. A tight, cohesive narrative is a scientifically proven way to arrest attention and keep your potential clients tuned in. A basic narrative has abeginning, middle, and end, and often features some kind of trial or difficulty that resolves itself. 2 That’s it.

You probably employ dozens of these every day when speaking with your friends and family. So why not apply what you know intuitively when conversing with your potential customers?

Companies across all industries are recognizing that commercial communications don’t need to be stiff, salesy, or make their company out to be a superhero. Instead, they can flow like normal conversations.

Take Dell. The computer giant relies on younger users to buy its laptops and tablets for high school or college. To connect with them, it produced a novel digital campaign featuring young people using Dell products to realize their academic, artistic, and professional dreams. The videos are casual, and their subjects exhibit passion and vulnerability, which is rare for a commercial.

We especially like these spots because Dell allows the narrative and subtle glimpses of its products to speak for its brand — playing rhythm instead of singing lead.

Even traditionally assertive organizations are coming around. Oracle’s hard-driving sales culture is the stuff of legend, but they’ve soared to even greater heights by showing a softer side, making their pitches more human and interesting.

An Oracle executive recalls an exchange with a buyer, “I jumped in with: ‘Can I tell you a quick story?’ His arms remained crossed for the first minute of my story, until I started to reveal our flaws. I could see the entire team of buyers loosen up, I could see their body language totally change.”

When you treat a sales presentation as a conversation, rather than a wrestling match, amazing things happen. And just like a conversation with a friend or colleague, you can naturally discern whether it’s going well simply by observing your audience. Sure beats rattling off a PowerPoint and asking for a check at the end.

Stories are the essence of humanity. They always have been. But somehow we lost sight of that, turning instead to corporate doublespeak and aphorisms to connect with our audience.

If the old fashioned sales tactics are working for your business, more power to you. But if you’re looking to forge a deeper bond with your audience — and boost sales in the process — tell stories. Good stories. And if you want help with making storytelling part of the fabric of your sales organization, give us a call at Woden. We can help you write a narrative that’s sure to leave your prospects wanting more, not waiting for you to stop talking — like you might be when Bob starts in with his tomato plants.