Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with sales expert, Mike Adams @MikeAdamsSales. He taught himself storytelling ‘on the job’ while selling and managing sales teams for international corporations including Siemens, Nokia, and Halliburton. Since 2014, he has been helping companies win more business through his storytelling consulting practice. He is the author of Seven Stories Every Salesperson Must Tell. Mike is based in Melbourne, Australia. For more information: www.thestoryleader.com
SmallBizLady: What is the biggest challenge small businesses have with sales?
Mike Adams: Small businesses don’t have the advantage of being a well-known brand, so they must grow organically via the stories their clients, partners, and friends tell about them. We call that referral-selling, and it can (and must) be managed as a process.
SmallBizLady: How can leveraging stories enable a salesperson to shorten their sales cycle?
Mike Adams: Sales cycle times reduce as trust increases. The right story at the right time in the buying cycle dramatically increases trust and speeds up the process. “Connection stories, such as your personal story and company story, position you as relatable and as an authority in your field. Values stories teach your buyer how your company will behave if things go wrong – which reduces your buyer’s perception of risk. Success stories allow your buyer to ‘experience’ your products and services before they buy – again, reducing risk and increasing buyer comfort.
SmallBizLady: You wrote the book ‘Seven Stories Every Salesperson Must Tell.’ What are the seven stories?
Mike Adams: There are 3 story types: HOOK, FIGHT, and LAND. HOOK stories are stories that connect: (1) your personal story, (2) your key staff story, and (3) your company creation story. FIGHT stories are stories to differentiate: (4) insight stories, and (5) success stories. LAND stories are stories to close the deal: (6) values stories and (7) teaching stories. The different story types are characterized by the choice of the central character and the story purpose.
SmallBizLady: Why must salespeople tell these seven stories?
Mike Adams: Stories are the natural language for our minds. We learn, make sense of our world, remember, and plan with stories. Well-delivered stories create connection, differentiate your offering, help land the deal, and foster better partnerships.
SmallBizLady: How is Seven Stories different from other business storytelling books?
Mike Adams: Most business storytelling books are written for business leaders or change management. Seven Stories is written for salespeople by a professional salesperson who has sold and used storytelling in many industries all over the world. The stories in the book go to the heart of the sales experience. The story framework described in Seven Stories has been created specifically for salespeople.
SmallBizLady: How hard is it to learn business storytelling?
Mike Adams: Storytelling is something most of us do easily in private conversations. Business storytelling needs to be tighter and focused on a relevant business point. In my book, I share more than 50 examples to demonstrate how to tell business stories. Becoming a story master is a life-long journey, but everyone can improve their sales conversations with this guide.
SmallBizLady: Why did you write a whole book on a single conversation technique?
Mike Adams: Seven Stories corrects an omission in sales instruction. The best salespeople have always been storytellers, but the effects of good storytelling go mostly unnoticed. Even iconic sales authors, like Zig Ziglar, failed to notice how persuasive their stories were. By carefully teaching storytelling techniques, I wanted to provide a path to sales mastery for everyone.
SmallBizLady: What is the science behind why it works?
Mike Adams: We are finally starting to understand the wiring of the human brain. New neuroscience imaging techniques and staggering advances in artificial intelligence based on brain analogs have provided new insights into the mechanisms of intelligence, memory, and creativity. We now understand that the mammalian cortex (neocortex) is a sequence memory prediction organ. The cortex memorizes patterns (sequences) in our environment that repeat so that it can predict future events – that is how we learn to survive in any environment. The cortex predicts patterns in both the external and internal (body) environment. It’s continuously predicting how we will feel and how people around us will feel – that is the basis of empathy. We are wired to pay attention to sequences that are difficult to predict. Stories, by definition, are difficult-to-predict sequences – they are brain food. Stories are the mechanism our brain uses to remember, understand, predict, and plan.
SmallBizLady: How can storytelling help the average business person?
Mike Adams: Many business people struggle to connect with new customers. Sharing stories is a direct path to building rapport and trust. Many business people confuse their customers with technical language. Delivering your business insights with stories is a great way to teach and help your customers understand your value.
SmallBizLady: Does this concept of storytelling work on any audience? Are there people that don’t like stories? Can stories go wrong?
Mike Adams: Storytelling can work on any audience. However, you need to know the right time to tell the right type of story. That takes practice. There are five fundamental aspects of a business story. Miss any one and your story can go wrong.
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