Sales Storytelling – Who’s the Hero?

Sales presentations are stories about the dangerous and exciting world of business, but where the obstacles, villains and treasures are straight out of a SWOT analysis instead of a fairy tale.

But who is the hero of a sales presentation?

The most common answer and the most frequently made mistake is to think of the salesperson as the hero. He or she is the one who is showing up to free the prospect from inefficiency, slay the fierce competitors and recover the gleaming goblet of profit. The salesperson is armed with glorious weapons of power in the form of various products and services that can be used in the employ of the prospect for a nominal tithe to the salesperson’s guild.

The problem with making the salesperson the hero of this story is it leaves the prospect out of the action. In today’s sales marketplace, you need your prospect to be a vigorous proponent of your product or service to sell through the organization. Encouraging them to just sit back and leave it all to you is no longer an effective way of getting the buy-in you need from multiple levels of stakeholders. In this scenario, the Call-to-Action for the prospect is to just cry out “Help Me!” and wait for someone to come save them.

The next likeliest contender for the hero role is the product or service itself. Giving the power to save the day to your software platform or consulting services is a tempting way to make your prospect see that without it they’re doomed. Like the mysterious knight clad in shining armor, your product is the hero who appears in the second chapter and saves the day.

Like the first scenario, this also leaves your prospect in the role of damsel in distress or hapless villagers waiting to be saved. By telling your prospect that only your product or service can save the day, you’re telling them their role is a passive one. Let someone else, or something else, come in and save the day.

The hero of every sales presentation story needs to be the prospect. They’re the glorious knight who will single-handedly save the corporate village from the dragon competitors. They are the superhero flying out of her fortress of marketing to avert catastrophe. And all they need to finish the job and save the day is that one piece – the magic sword, the secret map, the jaunty sidekick – to fully unleash their powers of strategic planning, team leadership and market analysis.

Everyone likes being the center of attention and hearing stories about them. More importantly, making them the hero of the story puts them in an active relationship with the problems and your solution instead of a passive one. Now that they know that they’re the hero, they’re much more likely to champion your solution to other stakeholders and the powers that be and help you win the day.

So how do you make your prospect the hero of the story?

Know what your prospect’s personal obstacles and goals are. While your product or service’s primary purpose is to help the prospect’s company solve a problem or achieve an outcome, your prospect is still an individual with their own dragons to slay and treasure to find. Make sure that as you tell your story that you focus as much on slaying their dragons and finding their treasure as on the company’s.

Highlight your prospect’s role in the process. Purchasing a product or solution is just part of a complex process of solving a business problem. Even before purchase, there’s corralling of stakeholders, creating consensus and validating value. After purchase, there’s implementation, measurement, and return on investment. And while each of these steps can be a lot of work, they’re each also an opportunity for recognition and reward. As you tell your story, showing your prospect overcoming obstacles along the road to success reinforces the need to be an active participant in the process.

Connect company successes to your prospect’s personal success. Whatever the success metrics of your product or service are for the company, make sure you tie them back to the personal success metrics of your prospect. Whatever positive outcomes result from purchasing your product or service, make sure that you draw the connection between those outcomes and positive results for your prospect. Whether it’s recognition, free-up resources for new initiatives, profit-sharing bonuses or the satisfaction of making a difference for people and organizations your prospect cares about, showing your prospect that a hero’s welcome awaits them at the end of the story is the best way to engage, energize and activate.

Every prospect has a hero inside them waiting to come out and save the day. Use your next sales presentation to show them how.

Paul

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