Storytelling is an essential skill for any successful sales professional. It allows us to capture our audience’s attention and create a connection that helps to drive the sale. Using narrative techniques, we can paint a vivid picture of what success looks like and how our offering can help them get there.
You need to be able to tell memorable stories.
To make sure I’m telling effective stories, I use a modified version of the Hero’s Journey to create an engaging narrative structure. This approach helps to ensure that my stories are clear, powerful, and impactful.
The Hero’s Journey
The Hero’s Journey is a common storytelling technique that has been used in many different forms of literature, movies, and other forms of media. It was first described by the scholar Joseph Campbell in his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”.
The Hero’s Journey is a 12-step pattern that describes the journey of the hero or protagonist in a story. The 12 steps are:
- The Ordinary World: This is where the hero starts, in their normal life.
- The Call to Adventure: The hero receives a call to action that sets them on their journey.
- Refusal of the Call: The hero initially resists the call to action.
- Meeting the Mentor: The hero meets a mentor or helper who provides guidance and support.
- Crossing the Threshold: The hero leaves their ordinary world and enters a new world or situation.
- Tests, Allies, Enemies: The hero faces challenges, makes allies, and encounters enemies.
- Approach to the Inmost Cave: The hero approaches the most dangerous or difficult part of their journey.
- The Ordeal: The hero faces a major challenge or crisis.
- Reward: The hero receives a reward or gains something valuable as a result of their efforts.
- The Road Back: The hero starts to return to their ordinary world.
- Resurrection: The hero faces a final challenge or crisis and is reborn or transformed.
- Return with the Elixir: The hero returns to their ordinary world with something valuable, such as knowledge, a treasure, or a new perspective.
Many successful stories, such as Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, follow this pattern. However, not all stories need to follow the Hero’s Journey, and some stories may follow a modified version or a different structure altogether.
The basic premise behind the Hero’s Journey is that each of us is a hero in our own story. It follows a basic structure of a hero who gets called to action, overcomes obstacles in pursuit of their goal, and ultimately achieves success. In my modified version, I trim this concept by focusing on how the customer can become the hero of their own story and heal the current situation.
How to Shape a Sales Presentation
The Hero’s Journey is great, but it is too long for a sales presentation. I shorten the formula and modify the story format into five sections. Each section of the shortened formula guides the audience to mutual understanding. After you tell the story, you will know if you can proceed with this prospect or if the timing isn’t right for them.
The five sections are:
- Create an undisputable analogy
- Explain what success and failure look like
- Explain what the future will look like
- Present your solution to heal the situation
- Make them feel comfortable with you
Create an analogy for your audience they know is true or cannot dispute
If you want to build an effective enterprise sales story, it’s helpful to find an analogy that your audience can relate to and that will help them understand the central theme of your narrative. Start by identifying the main message or idea that you want to convey. Think about a real-world example or situation that captures the essence of your theme, then simplify this example into a metaphor or analogy that your audience will understand.
- Identify the central theme or idea of your story or sales presentation: Before you can create an analogy, you need to have a clear idea of where you want to lead your prospect. What is the central message or theme that you want to convey to your audience?
- Find a real-world example that illustrates your theme: Look for a real-world example or situation that captures the essence of your theme. It could be a historical event, a natural phenomenon, a cultural practice, or anything else that helps to illustrate your point. Be sure and find an example that your ideal customer will understand.
- Simplify the example into a metaphor or analogy: Once you have your real-world example, think about how you can simplify it into a metaphor or analogy that your audience will understand. The analogy should be clear, concise, and easy to grasp.
- Integrate the analogy into your story: Once you have your analogy, find a way to integrate it into your story. You could use it to introduce the story, as a framing device, or as a recurring motif throughout the narrative.
For example, let’s say your story is about the power of teamwork. You might use the analogy of a relay race, where each member of the team takes a turn running a segment of the race before passing the baton to the next person. This analogy illustrates how each member of the team plays a crucial role in achieving the goal, and how their success depends on their ability to work together. You could then use the analogy to structure your story, with each chapter or section focusing on a different member of the team and their contribution to the overall success of the group.
Explain what success and failure look like
Explaining what success and failure look like is important when crafting a story as it helps to create a sense of urgency and stakes for the audience. It allows them to visualize what the future could be like if they choose to invest in your product or solution, and gets them more invested in the outcome. By articulating both successful outcomes and potential pitfalls, you can create a clear, vivid picture of the world before and after they choose to do something or not. Doing so gives your audience a better understanding of the value that it will bring to them and encourages them to take action. Providing both scenarios also helps to build trust by showing that you are consulting them on potential benefits if they repair the current situation or what could go wrong if they stay with the status quo.
- Define success and failure: Before you can explain success and failure using real-life examples, you need to have a clear definition of what those terms mean in the context of your story. What does success look like? What does failure look like? Make sure to be specific and concrete.
- Find real-life examples of success and failure: Look for real-life examples that illustrate your definitions of success and failure. These examples could come from history, current events, personal experience, or any other source that is relevant to your story.
- Analyze the examples: Once you have your examples, analyze them in depth. What factors contributed to the success or failure? What were the consequences of the outcome? What lessons can be learned from the example?
- Integrate the examples into your story: Once you have analyzed your examples, find a way to integrate them into your story. You could use them as a subplot, as a way to illustrate a character’s development, or as a way to highlight the central theme of your story.
For example, let’s say your story is about a struggling musician who wants to achieve success. You could define success as selling out a major concert venue and failure as playing in an empty room. You might then find real-life examples of musicians who have achieved success, such as Beyonce or Ed Sheeran, and analyze what factors contributed to their success, such as their talent, hard work, and marketing savvy. You could also find examples of musicians who have experienced failure, such as The Beatles’ early rejection by record labels, and analyze what lessons can be learned from their experiences. Finally, you could integrate these examples into your story by having your protagonist learn from the examples of successful musicians and avoid the pitfalls that led to failure for others.
Explain the end state you want your viewer to have in the future
You want to improve your prospect’s life in the future. Describe it. Formulate a vision of what work is like after they implement your solution. The end state your viewer should have in the future is one of success and growth. With their newfound capabilities, they will be able to expand their reach and impact in ways they never thought possible before. Their business or organization will become a leader in their respective industry as they innovate, collaborate with new partners, and delight customers. They will be able to make decisions quickly and efficiently while taking advantage of newly available resources. They will have access to new markets and opportunities, as well as the ability to embrace change without fear. Most importantly, they will have peace of mind knowing that their business is secure and prepared for the future. Your prospect can help drive all of these or at the least influence others to do so. They are the hero.
- Define the end state: Before you can explain the end state you want your viewer to have in the future, you need to have a clear definition of what that end state looks like. What is the ideal outcome that your viewer should be striving for? Make sure to be specific and concrete.
- Paint a picture of the future state: Once you have your definition, paint a picture of what the future state will look like. Describe how life or work will be different as a result of achieving this ideal outcome. Be vivid and compelling, and focus on the benefits that the viewer will experience.
- Avoid talking about product features: Resist the temptation to talk about your product features and capabilities at this stage. Instead, focus on the benefits that your solution delivers. Describe how your solution will make the viewer’s life better, easier, or more fulfilling.
- Integrate the future state into your story: Once you have described the future state, find a way to integrate it into your story. You could use it as a vision or goal that your protagonist is working towards, or as a way to illustrate the benefits of your solution in action.
For example, let’s say your story is about a new fitness program. You could define the end state as a healthy and fit lifestyle, with benefits such as increased energy, improved mood, and reduced risk of disease. You might then paint a picture of what this lifestyle looks like, describing how the viewer will feel and what they will be able to do as a result of being healthy and fit. You could also avoid talking about the regimen of your fitness program, and instead focus on the benefits that it delivers.
Present your solution to heal the situation
Now that your viewer or prospect is aware of the benefits they can gain by achieving their ideal end state, you need to explain how to get there. Presenting a solution should be done in an empathetic manner and without any hard-sell tactics. Show them that you have the right capabilities to help them reach their goals, whether it’s through technology, expertise, or a combination of both. Help them see the value in your solution by describing how it can make their lives easier and more efficient. Show that you understand their needs and aims, and demonstrate how you will bring the necessary resources to help them achieve success. Make sure to explain why they should choose your solution over others on the market. With this approach, your viewer or prospect will be more likely to trust and invest in you.
By taking the time to understand the end state they want to achieve and then presenting a solution that meets their needs, your audience can feel empowered to take action and realize their potential. With an effective enterprise sales story that follows the modified Hero’s Journey, you can help them make the right decisions to secure their business and thrive in the future.
- Understand the viewer’s pain points: Before you can present your solution, you need to have a deep understanding of the viewer’s pain points and what is preventing them from achieving the end state. This will help you tailor your solution to their specific needs.
- Introduce your solution: Once you understand the viewer’s pain points, introduce your solution as the key to achieving the end state. Instead of focusing on the features of your solution, focus on how it will solve the viewer’s specific pain points and help them achieve their goals.
- Highlight the benefits of your solution: Instead of pitching the product, highlight the benefits of your solution. Focus on how it will make the viewer’s life better, easier, or more fulfilling. Use concrete examples and case studies to illustrate the benefits.
- Show your capability to get there: Show how your solution is uniquely positioned to help the viewer achieve the end state. Highlight your expertise, experience, and track record of success. Make it clear that you are the one with the capability to get them where they want to be.
- Avoid hard selling: Resist the temptation to hard sell your product. Instead, focus on educating the viewer and providing them with valuable information. This will help build trust and credibility, which is essential for a successful sale.
For example, let’s say your story is about a software solution that helps businesses streamline their operations. After defining the end state as a more efficient and profitable business, you could introduce your solution as the key to achieving this goal. Instead of focusing on the features of your software, you could highlight the benefits it delivers, such as increased productivity, better customer service, and higher profits. You could also show your capability to get there by highlighting your experience working with businesses and your track record of success. Finally, you could provide valuable information on how to streamline business operations, and offer a free trial or demo to help the viewer experience the benefits of your solution firsthand.
Make your audience feel comfortable with you
Your audience will need to feel comfortable with you before taking action. Show them why they can trust your solution by providing industry analyst affirmations, detailed customer testimonials, and case studies on how your product or service has been used to make life easier. Talk about how it removed business constraints or saved customers money, rather than focusing on features. Show them that you are committed to helping them reach their goals and will be with them every step of the way. Make sure they understand that your solution is the best option for achieving the desired end state, so they can make an informed decision.
- Provide social proof: To make your audience feel comfortable with you, provide social proof in the form of testimonials, case studies, or customer success stories. Show how your solution has helped others achieve the end state you outlined earlier, and highlight the tangible results they have experienced.
- Share customer feedback: In addition to social proof, share customer feedback and reviews that validate your ability to deliver on your promises. Highlight the positive feedback you have received from satisfied customers and demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction.
- Demonstrate your expertise: Showcase your expertise and experience in your industry or niche. Share your credentials, certifications, or awards that demonstrate your knowledge and credibility.
- Be transparent: Be open and honest with your audience about your product or service, including its limitations and potential drawbacks. This will help build trust and credibility with your audience.
- Show your commitment to continuous improvement: Demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement by sharing how you are constantly improving your product or service based on customer feedback and market trends.
For example, if you are selling a fitness app, you could provide social proof by sharing testimonials from customers who have achieved their fitness goals using your app. You could also share customer feedback and reviews that highlight the app’s ease of use and effectiveness. Additionally, you could demonstrate your expertise in the fitness industry by highlighting the qualifications of your trainers or coaches. Finally, you could be transparent about the limitations of the app, such as the need for a certain level of fitness to use it effectively, and show your commitment to continuous improvement by sharing upcoming updates or new features.
Build better stories
Building an effective enterprise sales story will help you scale. Effective stories involve highlighting your product or service benefits, providing social proof, sharing customer feedback and reviews, demonstrating your expertise in the field, and showing a commitment to continuous improvement. By taking these steps, you can help your audience feel comfortable with you and help them make an informed decision about changing their business. With the right approach, your enterprise sales story can be the key to success.