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How to ask for the sale – Selling with Story part 4

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —August 5, 2015
Filed in Business storytelling, Selling

Today’s post is part three of a transcript from my recent interview on the Voice America Business Channel show ‘Story Powered’ hosted by Lianne Picot. The topic of the program is ‘Selling with Story’ where we talk about how you can use stories in order to move people closer to saying yes to the sale.

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Today’s podcast episode of ‘Selling with Story’, is the final post of this four part series on how to incorporate story into your sales.

The podcast continues… ask for the sale

Lianne:                 

Welcome back to Story Powered, I’m Lianne Picot and I am chatting with Shawn Callahan from Anecdote in Australia.

Just before the break we were having such a good conversation. We were talking about sales so hopefully you were listening but I’m going to recap. We were talking about how to incorporate story into your sales conversations and your sales. I would say even your sales pipeline. It might be in your conversations, you can do this through social media, you can do this through your blog postings, you can do this in all of your content.

So we have building rapport, establishing credibility, demonstrating value,  and then the fourth piece, which is one of the most crucial, and I have to confess that I sometimes forget to do this and it’s the thing that creates, for a lot of people that I work with, the anxiety.

I often forget to do it, partly because of that anxiety, but also partly because I get so excited talking about stories that I forget to do it.

But it’s the piece where your breathing gets a little bit tense and your body starts charging, and some of you may know what I’m talking about. It’s the ‘closing the deal part’ and, as Shawn puts it, it’s the ‘ask for business’ piece. Shawn, at this stage, what stories are we telling?

It’s time to drop the stories and wait

Shawn:                

Well you know what, this is where the stories drop off.

In many ways, once you get to the point of asking for the sale, you don’t want to add too many extra things. You don’t want to add more thoughts to the process. The only sort of story that you might want to tell here is a future story. And you may have already told this in your demonstrating value, but sometimes it’s useful to also do it right at the end.

The sort of story we like to talk about in the future is, and you can come up with these made up stories of the future, but I’ve heard few people really believe them. So I tend to try to do a thing which was inspired by a quote I got from a quite a well-known guy, William Gibson, the sci-fi writer. He said, “The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed”.

I like this idea in these big organisations somewhere where they’re already doing the future. You know, it’s already happening and if you can only find those stories and then share them and say, “This is where you want to engage your imagination a bit”.

You tell the stories and say, “And imagine if we could do that” or “Imagine if we could scale that across your entire organisation”. You want the ability for people to go, “That’s the end point I want to get to”. But when you’re asking, when you’re really asking for the business, I think it’s the time to be a bit quiet, to sit there and wait. I think it’s a key thing.

Lianne:                 

And it’s a thing that’s very hard for people because what happens is, and I’ve seen people do it and I did it myself, when you’re in that moment, like I said, the anxiety is coming up and you’re like, “Is this going to happen?  Is this not going to happen?,” and so then what I’ve seen people do is they start telling stories. It’s really funny because they’ve got a real sales process set out, and then they start and I have this client who did this, and I have another client who did that, and they’re confusing the prospect at this stage. But the stories are coming from anxiety rather than strategy and that’s the bit that I wanted I love about how you set out this sales structure – you stay silent, you wait, no more story. Because otherwise you’re just baffling them.

Shawn:                

That’s right. Exactly and I think it’s something that salespeople have known for some time. It’s interesting, I was chatting to a sales manager in IBM just recently and he was saying that he reckons about 20% of his salesforce are natural story tellers. They just know how to do it and by the way, they’re his 20 top people, it’s the top of the crop. He said, if you could only get another 20% of this salesforce doing this, it would just make an enormous difference to his business.

Lianne:                 

Right.

Shawn:                

So that’s the sort of level of capability that you’re trying to change in an organisation, in a sales driven organisation, and taking them through these four parts. Of course, every big organisation has their own sales process, I mean this sort of reflects those types of sales processes but it’s actually working out, okay, where do you use the story types and approaches in each step?

Lianne:                 

Yep.

Shawn:                

So it’s interesting, once you get to ask business, most salespeople know, the good ones, that’s the time to be quiet.

Lianne:

Yeah, absolutely.  Okay, so now, in terms of what I described earlier, this kind of the nervousness etcetera, I’ve also experienced salespeople who go in for the kill and start pressuring. So I like the idea of just staying quiet and silent because it’s respectful and that’s when your listening is probably most important too, because you’re about to deal with an objection with a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’ and let’s get moving, right?

Shawn:

Yeah, that’s right.  I mean, there’s so many different sales styles and people have their own ways of doing things and they’ve developed an approach if you like. But I guess what we’re saying, is that if you can take that triumvirate of storytelling and story listening and story triggering, and know when to use those three things at different parts of the sales process, the result is a better outcome for both the prospect and also the seller.

Lianne:                 

Nice, nice.

Shawn:                                

So it’s that classic win/win.

Lianne:                 

Absolutely.

Shawn:                                

And that’s what you’re aiming for.

You do not want to make up the story

Lianne:                 

Yeah. Absolutely. Now I wanted to touch on …at the very beginning when you introduced yourself, you were talking about the fact that you didn’t want to do story telling because it can be used for good or evil. So the sales conversation is one of the most, I’m going to say. delicate conversations potentially in terms of how you use story and whether you use it, how you’re using it to influence your prospect and so I’m wondering whether you can give us your thoughts about what do we need to bear in mind?  Like, if we’re using, telling stories, it does bring up emotions and we use them to influence another person. So how do we tell stories with authenticity and integrity without manipulating do you think?  In this sales piece particularly?

Shawn:                

It’s a very important part of using this technique because you know, I’m amazed actually, that when I introduce the idea I will often get  questions – one of the first questions people ask, their hands will shoot up and they’ll say, “Can we make up the story?”

Lianne:                 

Yes.

Shawn:                

And I have to say to them, “Look, guys, you just do not want to make up the story because, a) that’s where your credibility gets shot down when they discover that the story was not a true story”.

You may as well not use the technique at all if you’re not actually drawing from real life experiences. Now the thing that salespeople are up against is usually time pressure. So that’s why they need a good marketing department who are feeding them good old stories to tell. But this is the thing that they don’t have in most cases.

Lianne:                 

Yeah.

Shawn:                

They’ve got their own experiences, sure, but when you’re selling large solutions and you don’t have all those stories in your own experience, you need to draw from what happens in the organisation. But they don’t have them in the format so that’s part of the challenge that organisations are facing.

But, here’s the thing, it’s a lot to do with sales managers. Sales managers have these moments in time where they can reinforce a culture one way or another. For example, if they hear a sales guy come in and he’s going, “Yeah I’ve just won the big sale and I told them…and then they may reveal that they have just told a lie essentially in the story…and at that moment, if the sales manager goes, “Hey well done”, pats them on the back and says, “Great sale”, you’ve just reinforced the culture of pulling porky pies rather than actually being active in integrity.

Lianne:                 

Yeah, yep.

Shawn:                

So it’s those moments that sales managers have to say, “No hang in there guys, the sales not worth it if we don’t do it well”. It’s tough because you’re up against quotas, you’re up against all sorts of pressures to bring in the numbers. But it’s at those very specific moments you’re reinforcing one culture versus another.

Lianne:                 

And that’s where I think you raise a good point around time and around the pressure to deliver and like you say, targets. But that’s the piece in organisations that if they create a culture of story, then they really could be building the stories before the urgent need arises. For me, it’s the marketing department, the sales department, the service delivery department and the customer service department – if they could all somehow get together. Because the marketing department needs it from service delivery or you’re not going to get client stories. You’re not going to get any of those unless you go and do some story listening. But my thing is, they don’t need to make it up, right? Almost never does an organisation need to make it up. The stories are there, they just have to go find them!

Shawn:                                

Yeah.

Lianne:                 

Before the pressured sales conversation occurs, right? They need to be equipped

Shawn:

That’s right, exactly. So, yeah, I have a little test for whether your credibility is maintained. Say for example you use a story to persuade someone and after you’ve done that, you tell the person, “Hey by the way, one of the things I did was I told you this story ’cause I knew that that was going to persuade you and engage you emotionally”. If they turn around and go, “That was a terrible move and how dare you?”, you know you’ve gone too far. If they turn around and go, “You know what, that was really good. That was a great story, that helped me really understand”, then you know you’re on the right track. And so you’re sort of testing to see what your reputation would be if the whole curtain was raised and you could see the Wizard of Oz there doing what he needs to do to make the world work, right?  If they could see it and they’re happy with it, well then you’ve got the right process.

Should you use fear to close a sale?

Lianne:                 

Right, nice, nice.So a quick question though around the emotional stuff. Do you think it’s ever okay, maybe not ever, we have about three minutes til we need to close but I really wanted to hit on something because the use of fear in advertising is, it seems, growing bigger and there’s a lot of conversations about pinpoints and focusing on the customer’s fear. What do you think about that and creating stories that really are focussed on the fear rather than on the positive outcome that they could have?

Shawn:                

Well I think you have to do both. You have to share stories. If you really believe that if they take a particular course of action, it’s going to cause them pain, and you’ve seen it happen in other instances, you need to tell them that story. Right?

Lianne:                 

Yep.

Shawn:                

So it comes from, not from the basis of “Gee I need to tell a fear story now because I know that’s going to work”. You don’t want it to come from that basis, you want it to come from the basis of, “I’ve seen people do this and it’s caused them pain, I need to tell them this story so these guys don’t do that”.

Lianne:                 

So you’re doing it in the interests of being helpful rather than in the interest of scaring them into buying?

Shawn:

That’s right. Exactly. I mean you don’t want to get them, you don’t want to create a fictitious fear story just to get them to buy your product. I mean, that would be a terrible way to grow your business. I think what you need to do is be very mindful of the stories that are emerging which are failures, because we know that fear has a phenomenal impact. People want to avoid pain so if you do see a story of someone failing, rather than just sweeping it under the carpet, we’ll never talk about that again, they go, “Oh no, that’s a great story that we need to bring into our repertoire so that we can stop the next guy making that mistake”.

Lianne:                 

Yeah, to me though that brings it up again. It’s like being helpful and helping them go to a different place ’cause I have seen people use fear in advertising particularly, or leadership using the fear story, or creating a story and using it for fear and then not helping people understand the better outcome stories. So that’s a really great point and thank you Shawn because I think these are all such important parts of the sales process and I do think that as we talked about the ways of utilising story skills, as well as your four parts of sales conversations, building rapport, establishing credibility, demonstrating value and asking for business, I think we can elevate the sales story overall for companies and for entrepreneurs so thank you so much for being here today, really appreciate it.

Shawn:                                

Oh it was a pleasure, it was great chatting to you.

We hope you enjoyed this podcast series of ‘Selling with Story, brought to you by the Voice America Business Channel show ‘Story Powered’ hosted by Lianne Picot.

You can listen to the full podcast below:

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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