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How to Use Business Storytelling in Prospecting for Sales

Everywhere you go, you have the opportunity to connect with possible prospects. There are many ways you can leverage these situations through story. Here are some of your options:

Use story when meeting face-to-face

Where do you go to meet new contacts face-to-face in ways that you know will pay off for you? Chamber of Commerce meetings or local networking and charity events? Trade shows? Industry gatherings? When you attend, how do you use story when meeting others? Here are several ways you can do so:

  • Someone asks you what you do. One option is to offer a story trigger phrase, which you can do by answering this question with, “It depends on the day of the week and what month it is.” After laughing, almost everyone responds by saying something to the effect of, “How about Tuesday next week? What are you doing then?” That opens a door for her to share a story.

    Your second option is to share the first few sentences associated with a story about what you did recently that is really compelling. If the other person shows interest, tell the entire story.

  • Wear a unique item that has a story attached to it. Maybe you have a pocket watch that was handed down to you from your father. Maybe you have a colorful piece of jewelry that you saw being made while on vacation in Peru. Perhaps it’s a scarf that you made yourself. All of these can function as story triggers.

    If you’re asked about the item, tell the story. If you can, link it to your work. It may encourage a story to be told to you in return.

  • You’re introduced to someone for the first time. Your job is to get the other person to start telling you about themselves. What story prompts might you use? Consider using one related to the event itself, something the person is wearing, their name, or something you may have heard them say as you were being introduced.

  • When reconnecting with a person you haven’t seen in a while. Here’s another opportunity for a story prompt. Use one that relates to something you already know about the person. For example, “The last time I saw you, you were training for a half marathon. Tell me about a memorable moment during that experience.”

If you have the chance to participate in a golf outing or another situation where you’ll be spending several hours with a few people, it’s the perfect time to get to know more about them. Do your research in advance. Learn about them personally and professionally through LinkedIn or other social media sites. Scope out their organization — review media articles, annual reports, and the website.

Use this information to craft several story prompts. Remember, these events are social; it’s not exactly the opportune time to press for a sale, but to build a relationship instead.

Capitalize on online opportunities

What about connecting to new prospects online? How can you use story?

  • A prospect reaches out to you via e-mail or a contact form. When responding via e-mail or a phone call, add in a story prompt or two to learn more about their request. One great prompt, if they’ve not shared it in their first correspondence, is to say, “Tell me about that moment that triggered you to reach out for help/assistance/information.”

  • You’re involved in a listserv, a discussion forum on a site like LinkedIn or Quorum, or want to respond to a blog posting. Observe the conversation. Add in a story that provides an idea or information that no one else has offered so far.

  • You write blog postings, e-newsletter articles, or posts on social networks like Facebook business pages. What a perfect place for a story. You have all sorts of choices here: one you own, one from a client, one sparked from a news article, or one from the latest research in an area where you’re an expert.

    If the story is lengthy, use the first paragraph or a teaser and provide a link to the full version.

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