As a sales consultant, I had the opportunity to work with a company on the West Coast, a multibillion-dollar financial institution.
They were telling me a story about a self-directed IRA program they have and how the program helped a couple acquire a property to retire to. The couple was so excited for their future and grateful to this company for the help they had provided in reaching their dreams.
It was just a fascinating story. I was absolutely intrigued.
I said, “Surely you tell this story to all your prospects because it shows the unique value you bring.”
“No,” they told me. “I don’t think we’ve shared this story before.”
I’m sharing this story with you because it helps illustrate a point I want to make about building an effective sales culture.
There are four essential steps to building an effective sales culture. First, you must define success the right way. Second, you must avoid commoditization. Third, you need to know your personal value.
And, finally, you need to know your company’s value.
This article is about how you find your company’s value. I’m here to tell you that it’s not in your earnings and profits. You won’t find it in your product features, and your marketing language usually falls short.
If you want to know what your company’s value is, it’s simple: It’s in what your customers share about you.
A human approach to sales
We miss opportunities when we don’t share our customers’ great experiences because those are the stories that resonate with prospects.
Your prospects don’t care all that much about your products, and they are rarely excited by its bells and whistles.
Those are all boring details that miss the big point. What they care about is if they can trust your company to help them reach their goals.
So how do you build that trust?
It’s the oldest trick in the book because the human brain is hardwired to relate to stories about other humans. We are social animals, after all.
The best salespeople I know are the best storytellers I know. It’s because stories pull the client in. They identify with the characters.
A not-so-secret formula
Maybe you don’t consider yourself a particularly gifted writer or orator and the idea of being a storyteller sounds daunting. But I am here to tell you that you are already a storyteller. We are all storytellers.
Have you ever shared a funny anecdote from your life with a friend or explained to a new colleague how you met your spouse? Congratulations, you are a storyteller.
You don’t have to be William Shakespeare.
Nonetheless, if you are worried or find yourself struggling, there’s a tried-and-tested formula. It goes like this:
“Our clients were trying to do BLANK because it would help them BLANK. However, they found BLANK to be an obstacle. They like that we offer BLANK and that our approach was better because it would help them overcome BLANK.”
Now, let’s fill in those blanks and put that formula into action. Let’s say you were a real estate agent in Colorado trying to help a client buy land to build on. (This is actually a true story from my own life about the experience my family had relocating to the mountains.)
“Our clients were trying to buy a lot in the mountains to build a house on because it would help them be closer to skiing. However, they found availability to be an obstacle with the realtors they talked to. They liked that we were focused solely on mountain lots and not on mountain houses. They were confident in our ability to find what they were looking for because we had the largest inventory of mountain lots. They liked that we knew the pros and cons of those lots in the area and could help guide them.”
There’s an element of third-party validation in the formula that builds trust. Don’t just tell someone you can help them, share a story about how you’ve helped a similar client in the past. It’s much more powerful. It shows your company’s value.
Be on the lookout
If you need some inspiration–study the masters. I love to listen to Paul Harvey, and his approach is easy to relate with. I studied how he engaged the audience to draw you in but connect you to the point.
In the meanwhile: quit talking about your products. That comes across as “salesy.” Talk about your customers. That comes across as consultative.
So, be on the lookout for great stories when you interact with customers and remember them. Write them down and file them somewhere if you have to. Deposit stories into the file like you would deposit dollars into a savings account.
You can also take a more proactive approach. Sit down with your clients and ask them questions such as:
- What was it that stood out about the way we do business with you?
- What did we do differently compared to other companies you’ve interacted with?
- What did our references tell you about us that resonated with you?
- What was it you were looking for most in a provider that you found to be true with us?
- What have you learned from us?
- How did we earn your confidence and trust?
And by all means, if someone tells you that you helped them live out their retirement dream, share that story with the world because that is where your company’s value is.