If you were a fan of “Mad Men,” you probably noticed Don Draper’s best pitches always included a compelling story. In the example of the Kodak Carousel slide projector, his emotional storytelling left the Kodak executives quiet, mouths agape, utterly sold into his vision. Modern research backs what Draper may have known instinctively: People respond to stories.
In a sales presentation, storytelling keeps your prospects engaged, makes your pitch memorable, and connects your audience with your message. And I’m not talking about sprinkling an example of your product’s benefit or an anecdotal success story here or there. Powerful storytelling uses a variety of techniques.
Make your sales presentation relatable and relevant
Stories only work if they’re relevant to your audience — you can’t use the same presentation for every prospect. Do your homework and learn as much as you can about your prospective customers. Make sure you address their unique pains and challenges.
One way to make the presentation relevant is by asking the “why now” question. Andy Raskin writes in HubSpot that building the “why now” into the story can help overcome buyers’ initial reluctance and skepticism — and tease out “why he/she is motivated to act now.”
Turn your customer into the hero
Instead of focusing your narrative on your product or company, make your prospect the “hero” of your story. You become the supporting character who is instrumental to the hero’s success.
Take a page from Hollywood. The movies that enthrall us typically have the same formula: They advance the plot through tension, conflict, and resolution. The conflict is evident early in the story, and the tension builds up as the characters try to solve this conflict. A well-executed resolution leaves us satisfied with the film.
Create a “plot” that builds conflict, tension, and resolution the same way in your sales presentation. A customer’s challenge or problem becomes the conflict, the stakes or missed opportunities create the tension, and your product brings resolution. (See variations on this plot, along with ideas for three others, in this MarketingProfs article.)
Use some techniques from fiction writers as you build up the plot — metaphors, suspense, even dialogue if appropriate — to help your audience feel immersed.
Add facts (and make them visual)
A compelling narrative is crucial, but you still need to mix in relevant facts. While numbers by themselves may be unexciting and difficult to process during an information-packed sales pitch, using data correctly adds a punch to your pitch.
Data enhances the credibility of marketing claims and also activates a different part of the brain: the logic centers. Some people are emotional decision-makers, some process information in more logical ways and others fall somewhere in between. You need to appeal to all those categories.
Keep in mind that many people process information better visually. If you’re in an online meeting, use screen sharing to complement and enhance your storytelling with a visual presentation, especially if it’s rich in data.
Sell experiences, not products
There’s a different art to selling in today’s world, where consumers and business buyers alike are inundated with content and short attention spans. Whatever they’re selling, brands across industries are adapting their strategy to sell experiences instead of “things.”
One example is Intel’s “Experience Amazing” campaign, focused on stories showing how its technology (i.e. the product) played a role in various amazing projects (i.e. experiences).
This idea ties together all the strategies we talked about. By telling stories that are relevant to your customers, focusing on the customer, and using storytelling devices like plot, conflict, and metaphors, you will drive your message home.
Create a story and allow your audience to be the center of it. They’ll walk away with a much clearer understanding of why they need your product. And you’ll probably walk away with a deal 🙂