Director of the Kellogg Sales Institute Craig Wortmann

The Power of Storytelling in Sales

Over the past 12 years, we have been proud of many things that we have created at Acquirent. Our sales training program sits at the top of this list. We wholeheartedly believe that great sales organizations must continue to train their sales professionals in a wide variety of topics in an effort to achieve consistent sales success. This is why we created our 12-week Acquirent Sales Fundamentals series. In addition to our Sales Fundamentals series, we often have the great fortune of bringing in amazing speakers from our networks for the team to learn from. Last week we were thrilled to listen to Craig Wortmann (Entrepreneur, Author, Professor, Consultant and all around great guy) talk on the power of storytelling in sales.

As Craig started his talk, he made a very profound statement. He said, as sales professionals we have “too much knowledge”. Coming from a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, I found that statement very odd. Craig went on to infer that most sales professionals rely more on using logic (facts and figures) to sell instead of trying to connect with their prospects on an emotional level. This is where he introduced how leveraging the power of story will increase your ability to sell.

To demonstrate the power of story, he obviously told us a story! The story was about a study that was conducted by Deborah Small at Carnegie Mellon University. In this study, the group asked students to fill out a survey regarding their use of technology and at the end of the survey each were given 5 dollars. Included with the five $1 dollar bills, was a Save the Children donation pledge form used to raise money to prevent hunger in Africa. The interesting part of the study was that half of the participants were given staggering facts around the problem many African children faced. The other half read a story of how hunger affected a girl named Rokia. The group that read about Rokia donated more than twice the amount of the group that read the facts. That study demonstrates that power of story!

There four types of stories that individuals can tell (both in business and pleasure):

4 Types of Stories:

Success – Stories of achievement and winning. These stories are great to use to display your capabilities, but using too many of them can make you seem arrogant and cocky.

Failure – The opposite of success…. These are stories that document times in which you or your company have failed. Failure stories are tremendously powerful when told well as it displays your human side and exhibits vulnerability. Just be care not to use too many of them as they could be interrupted poorly (i.e. incompetency).

Fun – These stories are meant to lighten the mode and get people to understand your personality. Too many can be perceived as being flippant or a clown.

Legends – Think Steve Jobs! Legends are full of great information and can be tremendously impactful. Just be sure you have listener’s attention and that you don’t go to long as you can quickly lose folks.

After listening to Craig, I realize that sales people tell stories for a living. The good ones know the right ones to use at the appropriate times. They continue to work on their stories and their ability to tell them in a clear, concise manner. The following is a good link in which Craig talks about his “Story Matrix“ which should help you continue to work on this important skill.

Happy selling…. Or should I say Storytelling!