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How to Create a Business-Story-Based Sales Presentation

For over 40 years (yes — a long time) 90% of my selling technique was “story telling” and 10% was closing the sale. I had already done my “prospecting” to find the client and now it was time for my “presentation” (prior to the close) and while my competition would try to sell the “we are great” concept, I sold “the story.” The sad part (for many small businesses), many people today that are reading this don’t understand what I just said.
— Jerry X Shea, author/inspirational speaker/small business consultant

There are many different types of presentation structures that also apply to sales. Here are a few nuances that apply to the use of story in short list or introductory sales presentations.

While you’re reviewing the visuals you plan to use, take a look at this blog post called “How to Add Stories to Your Presentations.” It’ll help you storify your PowerPoint presentations. Here is Michael Harris’s approach here and provide our own commentary:

  1. Begin with no more than four value assumptions based on research you’ve conducted.

    These are pain points or problems that you perceive prospects have. Do so to establish credibility. Tell the stories.

  2. Share relevant customer stories that reveal pain points. Harris says “before and after” drawings can be helpful here.

    You should switch the order to “opportunity/problem” to shift the conversation toward what’s possible in the future. Any visual that helps depict this will be helpful. Consider using a whiteboard versus a slide. Why? Keep reading.

  3. Listen to the customer’s story.

    Frankly, you should already know this. Hone in on co-creating a future story with the prospect, or getting the prospect to enhance the one you’ve previously discussed.

  4. Provide proof.

    Although Harris suggests showing proof, from your perspective, of how your product or service has solved problems, you’d be better off inverting this. Make customers the hero by showing how they achieved success.

Does using lots of sensory words in a conversation with prospects, when you tell a story, mean people will pay more for an item? The answer is yes, according to research cited by Steve W. Martin, who teaches sales strategy at USC Marshall School of Business, in his blog article “Research: How Sensory Information Influences Price Decisions.”

When groups were asked to give the price of several items, those given both visual images and descriptions, with dramatic emphasis and inflection about a product/service, priced them the highest. Surprisingly, lengthy product evaluations were found to lower the perception of its value. Martin also discusses why both what you say and how you say it are important. Tone, tempo, and demeanor appear to have more impact than your words.

Well, here’s a sad statistic: Only 13 percent of salespeople use an interactive writing surface such as a whiteboard to support their customer conversations. Yet, December 2012 research by the Aberdeen Group found “conducting an interactive whiteboard conversation (as opposed to a static presentation) leads to a 50 percent higher lead conversion rate, 29 percent shorter time-to-productivity, and 15 percent average shorter sales cycle.”

When and how are you going to include this visual storytelling technique in your presentations?

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