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Sales 101: Become a Story-Seller (Part One)

Posted by Steven Kelley on Oct 15, 2019 7:00:00 AM
Steven Kelley
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Contrary to all my friends who throughout my life told me otherwise, I'm not a salesperson. So how can “not a salesperson” advise on how to sell?  The answer is, I'm a customer.

As a customer, I know the reason for my purchase. I know what I need to solve my issue -or- I know what would be beneficial to have to solve my issue. The first reflects an awareness of my choices – fulfillment options I can purchase based on cost, quality etc. The second implies my knowledge of the problem and in the absence of a solution, an idea of what would be effective in solving it. As the saying goes, necessity of the mother of invention and this fulfillment gap becomes the workbench for new ideas and motivations. In selling something new, the ability to articulate its value is paramount and story-selling is the answer.

We are all aware of the power of advertising. While effective, its claims are not benevolent. Advertising's self-serving nature has a muting effect on the totality of its efficacy. This is not to imply deception; just that logically, the sales narrative must fit the sales objective. Therefore, as the saying goes, buyer beware.

Truth in Numbers

Everyone knows that endorsements are the best forms of promotion – especially from trusted sources like friends or family with whom your best interests lie. Scaled to markets, it takes on new significance becoming a monolith of influence. This is supported by the law of averages[1], which states that as testimonials and endorsements increase, the closer to “truth” they become. These independent, unrehearsed, aggregated and statistically-valid accounts become effective story-selling on steroids. By aligning application with need at the micro level, product value is legitimized at the macro level and your brand's reputation goes viral.

One and Done is Dead and Gone

Digital transformation continues to raise the bar. Products fueling next-gen growth are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated, elevating markets and educating consumers. Similarly, the strategies used to promote must be equally complex and sophisticated as unsubstantiated pronouncements of quality (i.e., “the best,” etc.), no longer suffice.

Effective selling requires situational awareness as defined by: Understanding (problem definition); Context (solution set); Differentiation (value prop); Application (use cases).

  • Understanding involves a profound awareness of the issue and its causal agents.
  • Context considers the advantages/disadvantages of the issue in determining the proper solution.
  • Differentiation is the unique value of your solution.
  • Application is the clearly-articulated, real-world demonstration of how your product/service can facilitate a successful outcome for the client.

I recently came across a story in Business 2 Community explaining how effective story-telling results in audience members envisioning themselves within the story and performing the action along with the story protagonist. This means that concrete details increase understanding and use cases provide this detail.

Sales cycles are evolving from independent and transactional to interdependent and relational. Today's social-tell-all-marketplace is unforgiving; communicating value through example helps consumers sift through the melee of competitive noise, creating product advocates along the way.

Consider the impact story-telling had on our early development. Our first grasp of social values derived from implied learning which occurred from being read to as a child. Aesop's Fables, the Boy Who Cried Wolf, the Ant and the Grasshopper, etc. all used stories to connect, teach and inform. Influencing the sales process as story-seller is no different than that of childhood story-teller. The value lay not in the tactical elements of the story; but in the strategic culmination of those tactical elements -collectively- to illustrate a larger, more important message.

In part two of my discussion of story-selling, I have a little fun by simplifying this concept, using an adaptation of the Three Little Pigs. In it, I illustrate how story-selling facilitates strategic value; establishes trust through a customer-first orientation; generates new business from accounts and testimonials; and creates business and interpersonal relationships that foster advocacy and long-standing customer loyalty.

Stay tuned for part two.

In the meantime, contact us directly at techdata.com. Our vast network of resources can help you identify your customers' challenges and solve them through an array of customized solutions. Reach out to one of our solutions specialists today. We'll help you tell your story so you can help solve theirs.

About the Author
Steven Kelley is a senior marketing specialist for Tech Data in Tempe, Arizona. In his role, Steve authors and contributes articles about next-gen technologies and market trends to Tech Data’s corporate blog, Authority, as well as the company’s partner newsletter, The Power of Partnership. Prior to joining Tech Data, Steve managed the marketing, communication and PR duties for a range of businesses in the aviation, defense, energy, hi-tech, and healthcare industries. Steve’s background and profile can found on LinkedIn.


[1] The law of large numbers (law of averages) states that the average of the results [opinions] obtained from a large number of trials [reviews] should be close to the expected value [product claims], and will tend to become closer as more trials [reviews] are performed [provided].

Tags: Sales Strategy, Selling, Storytelling, Transactional Sales, Relationship-Based Sales, Strategic Selling, Storyselling