The best salespeople are good at many things, especially storytelling.  They understand the environment they are in, the audience they are addressing, and that audiences’ specific needs. 

And they intuitively communicate using all of the best storytelling principles — sharing cases that have emotional relevance to the audience, delivered with simplicity, and focusing on making their customer (or their customer’s customer) the hero instead of their product. 

Wouldn’t it be great if the entire salesforce could become storytellers of this magnitude?  Well, the good news is that the marketing team can play a central role in radically raising the storytelling acumen of the rest of the sales team.  This short article highlights three ways that we’ve seen marketers do just that.

1. Marketers Can Codify How the Best Salespeople Do It So That Effective Storytelling is Repeatable

Sales managers spend a lot of time trying to help their new and/or struggling reps learn what high performers do very well and adopt those practices.  When it comes to storytelling, the marketing team can be extremely helpful. 

We’ve helped marketing teams take on the role of observing and interviewing high performers about the stories and cases these reps tell effectively.  Marketers then created a “story playbook” that helped all sales reps understand which stories to tell in which situations, with certain variations.

For example, the story playbook should address a range of stakeholders (e.g., economic buyers, professional buyers, end-user-focused buyers, etc.), and the environment of the sales presentation (e.g., more formal presentation environments vs. hallway conversations, etc.)  It’s critical that the marketing team balance the comprehensiveness of the playbook with a simplicity that makes execution possible for reps of all experience levels.  This is achievable, and when it’s done right, highly effective. 

2. Marketers Can Help Fill Gaps That Current Stories Being Told Don’t Address Through Story Building

In our experience, the process of developing a story playbook will highlight some gaps in the case study library of even the most accomplished companies.  This is not a problem, it’s an opportunity.

We’ve seen marketing teams raise their value to the sales organization significantly by taking on the role of story building to fill these gaps.  Story building is the straightforward process of segmenting the client base, identifying the attractive segment(s) for which a powerful case history (e.g. a “story”) doesn’t yet exist, and discovering the key point of difference the company’s solution provides for this segment.

Then, in the best – and shortest – scenario, marketing and sales work together to find a client that has already realized this differentiator.  In this case, that client’s experience becomes the gap-filling story in the playbook.

In a longer – but still beneficial – scenario, marketing and sales help the organization discover a product or service enhancement that needs to be created to fill a target segment need.  The good news is that there will be a willing and eager audience for the improved offer when it is developed. 

3. Marketers Can Use All of This to Create a Storytelling “Decoder Ring” That Helps Less Experienced Reps Immensely

Steps 1 and 2 combine to create a powerful, simple, elegant story playbook that can be especially useful to new and lesser-experienced reps.  And while we advocate that marketing teams play a leading and proactive role in developing this, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention one thing that can undermine the entire works.

The sales team must have significant participation in the project, or it will likely be under-utilized –  if not rejected outright.  After all, it’s just human nature to mistrust “outside solutions”, especially when it potentially affects the way we go about making money!

In our projects, we insist that the sales team be represented by several of its more respected members.  Frankly, these are usually the most open-minded reps anyway, and they are often extremely willing to help the organization out in any way.  You know who they are.

Involve these reps deeply in the process – including asking them to present prototypes and preliminary results at sales forums.  You will be glad you did.  When this happens, we have observed immediate momentum and uptake at an entirely different level. 

Using the approach outlined above, we’ve seen good sales reps become great, and marginal performers become good.  Everyone moves up a level.  Maybe most importantly, everyone makes more money!  And the best sales reps feel valued because it’s their intuitive storytelling skills that are being modeled.  Better yet, the marketing team enhances its relationship with the sales team and to the entire organization because they helped design a simple-yet-powerful approach to leveraging storytelling principles effectively. 

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