Adviser and author Mike Adams (pictured), who ran global corporate sales teams for 20 years before launching his own consultancy, told My Business that many sales teams and businesses use a push method of communication, which more often than not falls on deaf ears.
He said that most business communications combine facts, opinions and assertions about them and their product or service. But these have considerable limitations.
“Unfortunately, communication of disconnected facts is neither memorable, understandable nor persuasive,” Mr Adams said.
Instead, he is a big advocate of the “storytelling” approach, which he explores in his book Seven Stories Every Salesperson Must Tell.
Storytelling in business is not a new concept. It has been touted as a key to generating cut-though in digital marketing, while Instagram launched a dedicated Stories tool on its platform for businesses.
But Mr Adams admitted that its meaning is commonly misunderstood.
“A story (by definition) is a sequence of related events. Stories are the easiest way for humans to communicate ideas and experiences because of how our human neocortex [part of the brain] works,” he said.
“Business storytelling means putting your facts, ideas and experiences into a story format so they can be understood and accepted.”
According to Mr Adams, a storytelling approach generally solves three core challenges: how to connect with prospective customers, and be accepted as a subject matter expert; how to motivate those prospects to change their behaviour in a mutually beneficial way; and how to help customers overcome any risks in order to close the sale.
It is this approach that he uses with his sales team clients, who may be underperforming, needing to expand the business or struggling with prospecting for new customers.
How to use ‘stories’ to win new customers
There are several key points business leaders should know when embarking on the storytelling approach to marketing and customer communications, Mr Adams suggests. They are:
- Keep it succinct: “Conversational business stories are typically short (two-minute) anecdotes that make a business point.”
- Stories are two-way: The point of stories is to share knowledge, rather than push a particular point. “We tell stories in order to prompt for the buyer’s stories. Listening (tending) to buyers’ stories is how rapport and situational understanding are built.”
- Know your business’ key stories, and share them proudly.
- Re-use a winning approach: “I’ve learnt that it’s possible to change industries, companies and countries and still succeed by using few basic principles, because people are fundamentally the same everywhere.”