October 1, 2010

Telling the “Sales Story” – It’s Not About You

It’s Not About You – #2

How great a sin is it when a self-absorbed salesperson bores a dream prospect to tears talking about his company and offerings?

I’m guessing I’ve been on calls with about 150 different salespeople and have heard the “sales story” botched in countless ways…too long, irrelevant, unclear, wordy, condescending, lacking power or credibility, boring, even simply forgotten (yup, I’ve seen guys freeze up and draw a total blank in the midst of describing their service to a prospect). But without a doubt, the most common and damaging sin is when the story is self-focused.

I am continually amazed what happens when you ask a handful of salespeople and company executives to share their company story. It is incredibly rare to find a situation where everyone in the organization is singing out of the same hymnal. And it’s more rare to find a company that has put forth the energy to build a story everyone can tell that is powerful, succinct, clear and customer-focused. Unfortunately, what’s very common is hearing senior executives and enthusiastic sales folks talk in great detail about what their company does and why they’re best at it.

If there’s ever a time to remember that it’s not about you, it is when we are telling our prospect what we do.

I think there are 4 key ingredients to a great sales story:    

  1. Pains Removed / Problems Solved
  2. Offerings
  3. Differentiators
  4. Case Studies / Success Stories

Even more important than a well-crafted list for each of the above ingredients, is the order in which we use them. When telling our sales story we must lead with the pains we remove and the problems we solve for clients.

When we lead with pain, we engage the prospect. Talking about their likely issues brings them into the conversation right away. It sets us up as professional problem-solvers and sets us apart from the typical pitchmen they’re tired of hearing. Reality is that in most cases, the prospect is not interested in what we do;  they are interested in what we will do for them.

Starting our story with the pains we remove has practical benefits too. We get the opportunity to see how the buyer reacts when we share the reasons companies turn to us. Look for body language as you rattle off the list of likely relevant pains we can take away. You may get a great clue which direction to head with your probing questions. If we hit on something particularly salient, a prospect will even interrupt us and say they’d like to hear more about how we solve that issue.

It’s not about us; it’s always about them. Our sales story is a great vehicle to communicate that message to our potential customers.