“Storytelling” has become quite a buzzword in the last decade or so. Remember when it was just something that your favorite author did in the form of a beautifully written book that you enjoyed over the weekend? But today – everybody is a storyteller or needs to be one! Humans have been telling and engaging with stories forever, and the best ones can transport us into another world and stay with us way beyond the moment in which they were told.
In the B2B marketing world, storytelling has become a top priority. Marketers are using a variety of storytelling formats, be it infographics, ebooks, blogs, podcasts, or videos to communicate more effectively with customers and prospects. Why shouldn’t sales?
Stories are a great way to connect with people, and that’s a big reason why your sales team must master the art of storytelling. Relationships are at the heart of sales, and stories are the bridge that helps build connections.
It’s easier said than done though. Great stories have great characters, are relatable, and easy to remember. In a B2B technology world that is full of jargon and statistics, the general perception is – it is hard to create compelling stories and the product features are the strongest character of the story. While true to some extent, sales and marketing teams, when aligned, have great power to break down the silos and make technology stories fun and relatable. Think “Magic School Bus” – a great science book for the kids. I still love reading it.
So…How sales can collaborate with marketing to tell compelling and authentic stories
No department or team can function in isolation. Each team has its own strength, which is why your sales and marketing teams can learn a lot from each other. Product Marketers have a great understanding of the market trends, product value props, competitive insights and a stronghold over visual storytelling – some great weapons that can be used by sales as well. Sales, on the other hand, are in front of customers all the time and have better exposure to 1) the needs of people in different departments and regions, 2) realistic challenges customers face in adopting new technologies, 3) strategic roadmap of customer’s investment plans, 4) ecosystem of vendors they currently have, 5) decision criteria to procure new products or services, 6) and push backs they receive in pitching a solution – some great real-world insights that can help add strong purpose to the storytelling.
Though product marketing and sales have a lot on their plate, a simple alignment can help both players help articulate compelling stories.
- Understanding the who
Do you know many people who have the same taste in movies and books and music? Would your five-year-old daughter like to watch the same Netflix shows that your teenaged son would? All stories are not for everyone. To begin your story, you need to know who you are talking to and collaboration between sales and product marketing can help you define that well. Can you sound like your customer? Do you use the words they use? Do you understand their pain points?
2. Make it about them
Every story has a hero – and while you want it to be the product you’re selling, the true hero of your story is your customer. Nobody likes to be sold to, but everyone likes to hear how you can help them solve their problems or achieve better results. If you want your prospect to remember your pitch, focus on them, their problems and less on your product’s amazing features.
Pro-tip – Instead of thinking of ‘closing the deal’, think of how you can add value to a customer. This will change your entire approach to customer communication.
3. Storytelling vs storyselling
Stories are a great way to build trust, to convert B2C and B2B into H2H – Human to Human. It is a great way to step into the shoes of the customer and engage with them. Imagine sitting through a dry sales pitch or a boring presentation that you can’t relate to, let alone retain.
After a presentation, 63% of attendees remember stories. Only 5% remember statistics.
A big win for a sales rep is when a prospect feels they’re part of this story as it unfolds in front of them.
Pro-tip – A little preparation before a meeting goes a long way. Contextualize the presentation with customer’s brands, products, and services to help them visualize how your product or services fit in their day to day operations. Also, Customer stories and testimonials about a specific industry or role are a great way to build relatable material for future prospects.
4. Use data to tell stories
Storytelling is a great way for customers to understand data, and data helps create validation and credibility. Consider this: over a thousand retailers use our software vs. In the last 1 month, we have added 1200+ users and 40% of them are small retailers who want to adopt cloud applications but do not have any IT skills. Which one of the two would have a greater impact? Source the right data to position your story and then organize it in a way that your prospect can understand. Infographics or other marketing assets with infographic illustrations are a great leave-behind material to reiterate the story. Sales and product marketing should collaborate to identify such data points that will help tell the story most compellingly.
Pro-tip – In a world gone into data overload, find the most effective ways to communicate the right data to the right audience. This means you need to understand the customer’s data tolerance and communicate what is interesting to your target buyer.
5. Leverage what you have – align content needs with marketing
Marketing may own the message, but sales have a first-hand understanding of changing customer needs and pain points. Bring the two together, and you have a super team geared towards high-quality content that gets results. Research shows that sales don’t use up to 60% of marketing content. This can be attributed to various reasons, but at its core is a lack of alignment – one team is creating assets in isolation for another. A shift in mindset and processes that make it easier to collaborate and communicate, can also help sales use existing, well-crafted content to reach out to prospects.
Pro-tip – Product marketing and sales team should have regular discussions on strategic accounts, learnings from the field, and content needs and roadmap to drive sales and enable sales/ channels.
6. Experiment with formats and channels
As per Forrester Research, 74% of B2B buyers do half their research (or more!) online before they buy; and as per a DemandGen report, almost 82% of buyers viewed 5–8 pieces of content from a vendor before buying. This is one major reason why sales teams must keep track of new ways for outreach and getting their response rates up. Just like your marketing team that’s constantly finding new platforms and formats to integrate into its campaigns, sales too, must embrace the latest trends and create stories accordingly. For instance, do you know that 25% of businesses are already seeing success using video in sales?
Pro-tip – Trying different formats allows you to measure and track what’s the best form of storytelling that works for you and your prospects, so don’t shy away from repurposing your marketing message across email, customized video and even audio.
Stories are a great way to help customers visualize your product in the context of their lives. It is a superpower waiting to be unleashed. And if you think you aren’t a storyteller, just remember we’ve been telling stories since the very beginning of civilization – you are a natural!