In 2015, I left corporate life and, with a couple of partners, started a consulting business teaching salespeople how to have better client conversations.
I had managed sales teams all over the world for large corporations like Schlumberger, Halliburton, Siemens, Nokia, Spotless, and Motorola, and I felt a crying need to help my salespeople ‘say the right thing’. I had suffered in so many client meetings, trying to kick my salespeople under the table as they routinely said the wrong thing.
Invariably, they were too focused on our products and services and jumped too quickly to a possible solution—a behaviour we call ‘premature elaboration’ (as coined by Mike Bosworth).
I started alone in my home office on a base salary of zero, calling business leaders, trialling training programs, and recording sales conversations for analysis.
Our early programs adapted techniques from the classic sales training textbooks, including questioning techniques which I now consider misguided or incomplete.
Those techniques assume you can control a client conversation with a specific sequence of questions. Such as, “How many employees do you have?”, “What issues and challenges do you face?” and “If I could show you how to improve your productivity by 10%, would you be interested?” Candid answers to these questions are rarely forthcoming, however, because the salespeople fail to build a trusting connection.
We included some story techniques in our programs because I recalled the impact stories had in my sales career. But, we were mostly teaching classic questioning techniques.
After 18 months, out of curiosity, I decided to call some of the salespeople we had trained and test them to see what they remembered. It was a demoralising exercise.
They were uniformly enthusiastic and positive about our training, but hardly remembered anything. I even remember a couple of them saying, “Mike, I really liked the way you taught us [this thing]” and proceed to tell me about something I had not taught them!
The retention of our training was terrible.
But I was surprised by how many retold stories from our training. I wondered whether stories might be the only thing salespeople would remember. So, we converted all our training content into stories and story techniques.
In mid-2018, I published Seven Stories Every Salesperson Must Tell. It has sold all over the world to great acclaim.
In August 2019, I joined Anecdote. Three months later, we released Story-Powered Sales, an intensive training program that combines techniques from my book and Anecdote’s fifteen years of story practice.
Now, we teach and use storytelling from prospecting to closing. We teach salespeople and business developers from all over the world the story types they need to connect at an emotional level and build trust, to make a case for change, and to close a deal.
And, we teach them how to gain a deeper understanding of their client’s situation using story-listening and story collection as the sales discovery method.
Our global partners are excited about Story-Powered Sales, and the dream of getting salespeople to say the right thing is becoming a reality!
About Mike Adams
Mike is an expert facilitator and story consultant who has helped numerous national and international companies, across many industries, to tap into story-powered sales. He is also the author of the international bestseller Seven Stories Every Salesperson Must Tell. Connect with Mike on: