How To Use Your Story To Design A Successful Sales Meeting
Your story is a key tool to prepare for a successful sales meeting or call; as it should already describe the elements that make up your business offering, the problems you are solving and the gifts you can give to your Hero – the customer.
You already have all the answers at your fingertips, you now just need to focus on the order you tell them in. So make sure you have your canvas in front of you as you read this blog, to help you plan out a sales meeting that is more likely to result in success.
Before we get started, it’s important to remember that one-sided conversations are more likely to result in a closed door than a sale. If you’re speaking more than you’re listening, it’s a sign that you might need to take a step back.
To effectively use our Canvas sales method, you need to be responsive. You should use your lean story canvas as a guide for your initial questions, and then listen to your Hero’s answers and choose your subsequent questions accordingly. A good sales meeting or call should be a conversation, not a one-way pitch. Entrepreneurs are naturally agile and curious, so bring these skills to the table – it’s not about trying to batter the customer into submission!
Remember a successful sales meeting isn’t just about selling a product or service, it’s about building the trust needed for a customer to take the next step.
Sales Step 1: Meeting Your Hero
For a successful meeting, you should already have a good understanding of your customer –the Hero of your story – the person you have designed your product or service around.
However, it’s very different talking to a ‘persona’ than it is talking to a person! If you jump straight into a sales pitch, without understanding your customer’s current circumstances, you’ll be selling blind. Your focus will be on your product, rather than their needs.
The key in the first part of a sales meeting or call is to ask the potential customer questions that clarify their needs and wants:
- What are the business needs and wants they think you might be able to help with?
- What needs and wants do they have that are specific to their job role?
- What bigger challenges is the business facing currently? – E.g. from competitors, regulatory changes or frustrations with ‘business as usual’.
Asking clarifying questions like these has three benefits:
- You can confirm the needs and wants you outlined in your Story Canvas.
- You can focus the conversation on the needs and wants that are most important to them and reflect their own language and examples about these needs and wants back to them.
- Getting them to acknowledge their needs and wants aloud has an important ‘priming effect’ – research shows our decisions are affected by context. Using their wants and needs as the context for the conversation makes it more likely they will seek a solution.
People also like talking about themselves, so focus on the customer – keep your own introduction short and focused on building trust not selling.
Sales Step 2: Introducing Their Villain
You can’t sell a solution to someone if they are happy to continue as normal. Build on their wants and needs by introducing their Compelling Villain – an urgent problem that is:
- Preventing them from growing faster
- Causing the business trouble right now
- Exposing them to disruption from competitors
No one wants their biggest problem thrust in their face. Again, exploratory questions can help to agree on the problem and prime them for your solution.
- Am I right in thinking this is the real problem that is preventing you from growing faster?
- Am I right in thinking this is the real problem that is reducing your profit right now?
- Am I right in thinking this exposes you to disruption/innovation from competitors?
Doing this should help to nudge them out of being relatively happy with the status quo, encourage them to seek an immediate solution. You can’t sell to someone who is still happy with ‘business as usual’, so make sure you’ve agreed on an urgent problem that needs solving before you move on.
Sales Step 3: Remind Them of Their Ordinary World and show them their Better World
Once your hero has called out their Villain, the next step is designed to explore the implications that come along with it. By illustrating the risks of not finding a solution to this Villain (returning to their frustrating Ordinary World) and rewards of tackling this Villain (the Better World) you are moving them towards the decision to buy your solution.
Once again, avoid mentioning your product at this stage. This is all about framing the decision to try something different.
Again questions can be useful:
- What are the business implications of continuing to live with the frustrations you currently have? What would the implications be for you and your personal objectives?
- How would it benefit the business if this problem was solved? How would it improve your job and help you hit your personal objectives?
Sales Step 4: Call them to Adventure and Help them Overcome their Challenges
Now you have outlined the reasons why your solution exists; you need to offer your hero a chance to join you on the journey, by using your product or service. Your Call To Adventure box can help you here.
This invitation needs to be simple – it makes you seem more intelligent and credible; using complex jargon often has the opposite effect.
When you issue your Call To Adventure you also need to acknowledge that to adopt your solution they will have to overcome Three Challenges. For B2B sales this usually involves them having to convince other people in their organisation to buy into your solution.
There are usually three other decision-makers in an organisation, that represent their Three Challenges
- The User Buyer – Is this easy or better for our people to use?
- The Systems Buyer – How well does this integration with how we do things currently?
- The Economic Buyer – How will this solution provide a return on our investment?
Think of ways that you can offer solutions to these barriers and make your Hero’s journey that much easier:
- Would a quick demo of the product explain how simple it is to use?
- Do you have a case study that illustrates how easy your solution is to integrate? Or could you offer a free follow-up meeting with their colleagues to discuss integration with their current systems?
- Have you reassured them of the ROI? Would a simple leave-behind help them explains this business case to others?
The more you can help them overcome their Challenges, the more they’ll sell you to the rest of their organisation.
Remember they might not need to know how your solution works, only what it can do for them. Only get into the detail of your technology if they ask.
Sales Step 5: Position Yourself as the Right Mentor
Now you’ve proven what your solution can do, you need to explain why you’re the right Mentor to help them on their journey. This is the point where you need to talk about your company to help them trust you.
Here are some helpful things to focus on to build trust:
Scarcity – People want things more when they feel scarce. Do you have a view point on the Hero’s problem that is unique to your company?
Credibility – People will only come on a journey of change with you if they trust you. Is there one piece of life experience, research or an ‘aha moment’ that will add credibility to your unique take on the problem? Can you prove others already trust you? (This is where awards, customer endorsements and expert partners from the Allies section of your Story Canvas can help).
Liking – People prefer to say ‘yes’ to people they like. How can you show similarities or shared values?
Sales Step 6: Asking Them to Cross the Threshold
If you’ve got this far the final step is to confirm what you want your customer to do next. This is the sales objective for your meeting. It doesn’t have to be placing an order (although that would be great!) but it should be a step forward in your sales funnel – signing up for a demo, booking a meeting with their colleagues, or agreeing on the deadline for a formal proposal.
Whatever the next step the key is to make it as concrete as possible in the meeting – get your diaries out and agree on a date or fill out the online request a demo or order form with them.
It’s helpful to think in advance about how you can make Crossing The Threshold as easy for them as possible.
To help them Cross The Threshold the following might be useful:
- Incentives – We are more motivated by potential loses than potential gains. Can you offer a discount or other incentive that they will miss out on if they don’t sign up today?
- Norms – We are strongly influenced by what others do. Can you reference other reputable companies who have signed up for demos or placed orders recently?
- Defaults – We ‘go with the flow’ when presented with pre-set options. Do you want to book a demo, set up follow-up meeting or pace an order? The chances are they will choose one of the options you present them with rather than do nothing.
- Commitments – We like to be consistent with our public promises and reciprocate acts. Can you offer them something of value for free so they feel like they have to say yes? (E.g. a consultation or an evaluation). Can you remind them of public sustainability pledges their company has made that they will want to appear consistent with?
- Ego – We act in ways that make us feel better about ourselves. Can you reiterate the benefits they will be delivering to colleagues by moving forwards?
Using the Story Canvas to plan an effective sales meeting, won’t guarantee a purchase; but taking the time to plan, will increase your odds of success.