May 312012

Storytelling: Why Your Top Sales Talent Fails at the Big Meeting

Storytelling: By Matt Sharrers on Tue, May 29, 2012

Your best new business hunter calls you as he walks out of the big meeting:  “Boss!  We killed it!  I saw lots of buying signals and they’re going to make a decision soon.  This is a game-changer for us!”  Two weeks later, your competitor wins the deal.

What happened?

The rep failed to tell a story in a way that connected your solution with the prospect market problem.

Was it a failure to perform pre-call planning?  Doubtful.  Was it sales skills?  No.  This is your best sales rep.  Your product offering is superior, and your sales organization can articulate the value prop.  The reality is more complicated, because it touches on an important aspect of human psychology: People Are Moved to Action Best Through Stories.

A real time gap VPs are dealing with today is their sales talent hasn’t learned to tell stories in a way that connects your solution with your customer’s market problem.  Curious if your team has this refined capability?


As a benchmarking firm, we have a distinct advantage of speaking with Executives from across 19 industries on a regular basis.  Sales forces are not evolving as fast as executive leadership needs them to.  Executives need their reps to know how to think and connect at a deeper, more strategic level with customers.  And your customers are hungry for this level of connection.

Have you ever met a new person at a dinner party and genuinely enjoyed visiting with them?  Was it because they could tell you the exact specifications to which the chicken was prepared?  Of course not!  They told stories – clever, engaging stories that told you what kind of person they were and what their world view was.  And as a result you made a connection.

Think of it as the Holy Grail for top sales talent.  Individuals who have mastered this trait are able to connect what their company is selling to what their customer is trying to accomplish in their business.  And the more complex the product, the more mission-critical this skill becomes.  Why should you care?  Because this hard-to-measure quality often determines the victor when top competitors go head-to-head to earn business.  It’s a failure to shape and tell a story…

The good news?  Storytelling is a skill and can be learned like any other.  Here are three ways to get started:

#1 – Spend more time on preparing the story than on the feature/function portion of the presentation

Use the “Guidance” form in the storytelling job aid.  What’s the desired outcome?  How will you “grab” your listeners so that they are influenced by your words?

#2 – PUNCH the story!

Put your audience in the story.  Get their attention by saying or doing something Unexpected.  Introduce a New  thought.  Challenge conventional wisdom.  Use Humor when appropriate (but no jokes!  The key is to be fun, NOT funny…).

#3 – Use images

Images enhance words.  Images live longer in the mind.  Images provoke an emotional reaction and connection to what you are saying.  No need to get fancy – a key statistic thoughtfully culled from a sea of data might be plenty.

What do you do next? 

Tell a story of your own (leverage this storytelling tool here).  Use it to gain your top sales talent’s buy-in that effective storytelling is a muscle that can be built, like any other. Curious how you measure up with competitors? Download our competitor comparison tool.  Assign this as a developmental item to one of your ‘A’ players that wants to move to the next level– and help your sales talent  walk away with the business locked up.


To Discuss how these Solutions will add value for you, your organization and/or your clients, Affinity/Resale Opportunities, and/or Collaborative Efforts, Please Contact:

Tom McDonald,; 608-788-5144; Skype: tsmw5752

Storytelling, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC