To lead a sales team, you must manage the stories they tell and hear

In early 2020, just as COVID-19 was shutting businesses down all over the world, Rachel* started her dream sales leadership job. She had been working in Malaysia for a global insurance company, but when her son got a university place in the United States, she thought, ‘Now I can work anywhere in the world!’

She applied for and won a role with a global firm in Hong Kong. And like new sales leaders everywhere, Rachel’s priority was to get to know her team and assess their competence.

“So I got everyone together and had them present their account and opportunity plans. My heart sank. They sounded like talking brochures! Salesy and pushy.”

Rachel knew she couldn’t succeed unless she changed her team. She also knew the power of stories, so she set about collecting great stories and training her team in story work with our help.

A few months later, Rachel heard her team chatting through facemasks in their open sales office. As one salesperson started an old-fashioned, pushy spiel on the phone, his colleague at an adjacent desk leaned in and whispered, “No! Tell a story!”

And Rachel’s plan started to work. Throughout her company, business was dropping, but Rachel’s team made their numbers by changing the conversation.

Colleagues high-fiving

In 2021, Rachel hired new salespeople. Their first task was to watch and learn the team’s best stories—stories they’d collected in the team story bank as part of their story training: success stories, product stories, values stories and influence stories.

Rachel had built a system for changing and improving her team. And by the way, she has just been promoted to CEO for another Asian country.

Here’s the point: you cannot succeed in sales leadership without managing and leveraging your team’s stories.

Of course, you can be lucky and have short-term success with any number of sales leadership tactics and tricks. But if you are not managing your team’s stories, there will be no enduring success.

At this point, a number of objections might be running through your mind like:

  • Stories are not business-like. We should stick to the facts;
  • My clients don’t have time for stories. They are too busy;
  • My salespeople should know what they are doing. I shouldn’t have to help them with stories; or
  • I’m way too busy to introduce something new to the team.

I will only address that last objection now. And I’ll use the objection handling method we teach in our Story-Powered Sales program.

I understand. I’ve been there. Sales leaders are pulled in multiple directions: bosses demanding forecasts, hiring needing attention, salespeople underperforming and new products or a new strategy requiring support.

But not giving time to the most important things reminds me of when I ran sales teams across Asia in the telecommunications industry. I met with a telecommunications CTO in New Delhi, let’s call him Ganesh, to discuss software that would radically improve the efficiency of his mobile network rollout.

At the time, Ganesh’s company installed 5,000 new mobile base stations per month. He listened to my proposal for a few minutes and then stopped me with a raised hand.

“Mike,” he said, “You have to understand. Our business is like a man running down the street carrying a bicycle! He doesn’t have time to stop, put the bicycle down, and start riding!” And that was the end of the meeting.

That company went bankrupt. They were out of business a year later. So, we need to be careful when we say, “I don’t have time.”

How about putting your bike down and taking the time to evaluate Story-Powered Sales for your team? In four two-hour sessions, you will experience a different, more profitable and enduring way to lead a sales team. You will have all your objections and questions answered, and you’ll learn a skill you can use immediately! You can email us at people@anecdote.com for more information.

*Name has been changed.

Mike Adams 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:

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