I’ve just watched a nice keynote presentation from a recent Demandcon marketing event in the US. It was made by Ardath Albee, and is available to watch on her Marketing Interactions blog. Storytelling Turns Prospects Into Buyers discusses how you can apply the principles of storytelling to your sales presentations, whatever form they might take.
It begins with the old idea of there being three characters in every story, a hero, villain and a mentor. The Hero is of course your customer (no, not you!). The Villains are the obstacles in front of them. And the Mentor is your company’s expertise. The second element is the setting. In a business environment, this is the market sector and company culture they’re in, and how that affects the generic problem. Then we can move on to the plot and theme: what do they need to do, and why do they need to do it? Every good story needs conflict, so what is the conflict which will make the story into an interesting one? What are the pitfalls along the way? At that point you can explain how you understand that these problems occur, and show how you’ve overcome the problem for other people.
Now we can move towards the climax of the story, which is where the hero – your customer – decides whether or not to work with your solution. Here you need to know the reasons why they might not want to go with you, and have the answers ready. Your testimonials are a good start here. Finally, once all this is in hand, you need to consider the method of telling your story. Don’t talk at people, try to simulate a conversation.
If you’re ever struggling to write a good piece to promote one of your products or services, or even your entire organisation, this approach can often give you the inspiration you need.