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Use storytelling at work

Did you hear any captivating stories as you sat around the Thanksgiving table this past week? If so, you might have noticed that the speaker used certain techniques to draw you in–vivid descriptions, facial expressions, a narrative arc. A good storyteller makes these things seem natural.

If you think about it, storytelling has A LOT of cross-application when it comes to work. In the past, I’ve discussed how it can be a powerful sales tool, but it can be useful to anyone in almost any industry. Use storytelling techniques to:

  • Be a more engaging, charismatic leader
  • Keep others’ attention when you’re presenting during a meeting
  • Snag a new client
  • Make a convincing argument or illustrate an idea
  • Present a point to your team

Ok. You’re probably convinced that storytelling is useful, but it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to everyone. How do you work on developing your storytelling techniques?

1. Practice

You probably won’t be a natural storyteller at first, but the key is to PRACTICE. Think about scenarios in which storytelling might come in handy, and then make an effort to do it. Be sure to practice the story you’d like to tell beforehand–do it aloud and in front of a mirror to work out any rough patches.

2. Consider the main point

Your story can’t just be a story. It has to have some kind of relevance to the topic at hand. If, for instance, you’re trying to prove the effectiveness of a product, tell a story about how the product helped a specific person. If you’d like to demonstrate to a potential new client that your company is trustworthy, tell about a time that your team came through in a pinch.

3. Remember the classic story arc

Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning should hook your audience, while the end should clearly give the main message and potentially be a call to action. If your story is jumbled, others will have trouble deciphering the main message or become disengaged.

4. Use a “lead-in”

It’s odd to jump straight into a story with no lead-in. You’ll want to tie the story to the topic that’s being discussed before plunging in. Frame up your story with a lead-in like one of the following:

  • “I am confident product XYZ is a good value to our customers. One example that comes to mind is…”
  • “I think it would be beneficial if we changed to system X. One reason is that…”
  • “This reminds me of something I witnessed last year…”
  • “We have to consider statistics, of course, but anecdotally, I once noticed…”
  • “I’d like to give you an example of why I think X would be a good idea…”

5. Practice some more

You may not hit the nail on the head the first time you try storytelling. Keep at it and modify your techniques as need-be. Does your delivery need work? Do you need to use better vocal inflection? Are you having trouble articulating your main point?

Assess, try again, repeat. Skilled storytellers don’t develop overnight.

 

Need more storytelling techniques? Feel free to contact me for guidance.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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2.7 New Era of Selling 2

 

Whether you own your own business, you’re a solopreneur, a social media marketer, or in customer acquisition in a large firm, you’re in sales. You have a product or service. You want others to use it. It’s as simple as that.

Well…I wish it were that simple!

I worked as a sales manager at 3M for over two decades and saw a lot of changes…but those changes have accelerated over the past ten—or even five—years. Now, your potential customers can easily shop around and get to know your offerings and prices (and those of your competitors) before you even have a chance to reach out and engage them.

It’s also a social media-heavy marketing environment, and really hard to predict the next trend. Not to mention, with so many people elbowing for space on social media, it’s tough to get your voice heard.

It’s also a global society. You can hop on Etsy and buy a dress from a Japanese clothing company, or a pair of hiking shoes from Sweden.

In some ways, all these changes are great for consumers—they have a world of knowledge and products at their fingertips—but it’s not so great for small business owners or companies who are struggling to keep up.

HOW on earth do you approach sales in this new era?

I’ll admit, I’m not a marketer. I won’t tell you how to find your potential customers, but I will advise you on your approach once you find them.

Start with these five steps:

1. Believe wholeheartedly in your product

If you aren’t fully behind what you’re offering, it won’t sell. Potential customers are savvy enough to know when you’re not actually enthusiastic about the product you’re selling. Some of the most convincing ads I’ve seen on social media were for product that might seem ordinary (meals in a box, yoga pants, marketing webinars), but they were endorsed by very enthusiastic individuals who seemed to have a genuine stake in their product.

2. Pinpoint your audience with laser focus

Use data (and data analysts) to develop a deep understanding of who your audience is and it will be easier to find them and approach them. I’m talking not just about demographics (which is important, of course), but also your audience’s interests, their frustrations, and what makes them happy. Your product or service solves something. WHO benefits from your solution? When you know who, precisely, that is, you will feel good about selling them something that helps improve their life.

NOTE: You can utilize social media advertising to target people in a VERY narrow way. By having a precise understanding of your audience, you can take advantage of this ultra-targeted marketing.

3. Tell a story

If you’ve ever watched a crowding funding video on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, you know that some of the most successful campaigns are ones that tell a story. It doesn’t have to be a personal story (although that can sometimes be effective); it could simply be the story of Jane Doe who travels for business all the time and can never sleep on the airplane…until she tried the Ultra Amazing Pillow!

When you tell a story in sales, you’ll want to make sure it feels natural (not over-rehearsed or awkward) and is relevant. Your story could be as simple as: “Mr. Jones had X Problem. Product ABC helped Mr. Jones in this way…”

4. Focus on education

This is the era of giving things away for free. Your customers will likely be used to getting free information (online newspapers, blog posts, eBooks, etc.), so why not take advantage of that mechanism? Offer a valuable (key word!) freebie and learn how to effectively use a sales funnel to turn interested individuals into paying customers.

5. Meet face to face

In our fast-paced, digital era, the most surprising “bold” move you can make is moving offline. Now, face-to-face interactions are more valuable than ever. It’s becoming a lost art to sit down with someone, look them in the eye, and tell them about what you do and what you’re offering. If you’re good at it, you will likely have an edge over nearly everyone else who is just playing the digital game.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

 

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ditch the elevator pitch

For years, we’ve been taught to hone our elevator pitches—those thirty-second sound bites about ourselves that are theoretically meant to engage a complete stranger. The problem? The typical elevator pitch usually comes across as canned and overly-salesy. The eyes glaze over, the listener makes any excuse they can to get away. You might manage to shove a business card into your listener’s hand before they dash away…

It’s not surprising that this kind of approach doesn’t work. But, what does?

According to international sales speaker Kim Duke, you should ditch the traditional elevator pitch in favor of storytelling. Tell a little something about yourself in story form. Make it interesting and unique.

What should your story involve? According to Kim Duke:

  • PEOPLE. You’re not talking about gadgets and services – you’re talking about people. It is conversational, interesting to listen to.
  • CURIOSITY. You lead with something that captures their attention – something that they are struggling with.
  • DON’T SOUND CANNED. There’s a difference between being passionate or being an actress. If you’re too dramatic, or too flat – people TUNE YOU OUT both ways! Practice your introduction but don’t sound like a robot.
  • GET TO THE POINT. What is your claim to fame? This is where you can include a little Zip (e.g. My clients on average increase their sales by 50% or more.)
  • CALL TO ACTION. People should feel inspired to want more, learn more, go to your website, ask for your card…make them think!

And don’t forget to LISTEN to what others have to say. A good listening ear can go a long way.

Remember to always be your authentic self when telling your story. Don’t stretch the truth or just “tell ’em what they want to hear.” Lay out your story and practice it in the mirror or with a friend. That way, you’ll feel more natural when the time comes to actually talk to a potential client. Above all, be yourself!

 

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