The rule that governs creative writing also governs sales: showing is more powerful than telling.
Entrepreneurs like telling because it is the most efficient way to deliver the myriad facts they have accumulated about their products. And buyers do care about those things. But we are inundated with facts to the point where they have become just noise. Buyers buy on emotion. Facts are devoid of emotion.
You convey emotion with stories. Stories don’t tell: they show. As such, they are your most powerful selling tools.
There are two kinds of stories. One kind is about you and your company. The spark of an idea that led you to create the business. A near-death experience and what it taught you. These stories won’t come up in every sales conversation. But when introduced as background they communicate values and build trust.
The other type of story provides context. Sometimes buyers need help defining their own challenges–the reasons why they might buy. Stories describe real people to whom buyers can relate, which evokes emotion. The buyers follow those people on their journeys to to the buying decision. That is a more immersive experience than simply reading testimonials. It’s the difference between watching a game on TV and checking the score the next morning.
Here is a facts-only pitch for a business-to-business product. It incorporates features and metrics but no emotion.
When there’s a lot on the line, you need a solution that works. Our services are designed with that in mind. We have developed a 5-stage model for tackling process efficiencies. Our people bring years of experience helping large organizations diagnose process issues, establish action plans, and measure results. Our clients experience up to 65 percent efficiency improvements over three to six months. That’s a substantial ROI.
Here is a story-based pitch for the same product:
One of our clients, Sam, was put in charge of a high-profile project, and he needed help. The problem was, he wasn’t sure what type of help. He knew that if he didn’t move quickly, the project would be in trouble. He consulted us: we diagnosed the situation and determined we could help. Sam had never heard of our company before, so he was understandably hesitant. But he brought us onboard and our team went right to work, using the first parts of our 5-stage model to get some early wins for Sam. We were delighted because Sam was a fantastic partner, and using our approach he was able to deliver significant results quickly.
Notice that this story both starts and ends with Sam, whose travails and triumphs the buyer will relate to. Sam’s “early wins” are much more evocative than those “65 percent efficiency improvements” in the facts-only pitch. And the story shows not only the product doing its job in context but also a believable and satisfying human relationship developing between the company and its client.
As you work with clients, be alert for stories. Ask for testimonials or references: but ask also “what was this experience like for you?” You also need stories about things that didn’t go quite right, because those build trust. Your credibility hinges on confessions of vulnerability.
For every set of facts that underpins your business, distill a story or two that give context and connect to emotions. Buyers don’t remember facts. They remember stories.