Customer Experience News & Trends

How to use stories to captivate, convince and inspire customers

Nothing opens relationships or creates bonds with a customer faster than engaging stories. The most effective stories connect with the customer’s emotions and needs. They are told in a conversational speaking style, using short sentences and language that is easy to understand. 

Basic story components

The basic components of a story are expressed by the mnemonic CAR: Context, Action and Results. Context is the story’s environment and plot. Context explains:

  1. Background: What is the story’s setting, location and time frame?
  2. Subject: Who is the primary person in the plot?
  3. Treasure: What is that person’s quest or goal?
  4. Obstacle: What impediments does that person face?

The action is what happens in the story up to the outcome. The message — the reason you told the story or the lesson it shows — lies in the plot’s outcome.

Storytelling style

It’s a good idea to avoid jargon and opt for a conversational speaking style when telling stories. Short sentences with simple language are effective. Repeat and emphasize words or phrases that capture the story’s essence.

Make a connection

Prospects want to know one thing when they’re listening to a story: “What’s in it for me?” Try to personalize your story to meet the listener’s personal needs and wants. The best stories create a climate for the prospect to become highly involved with what’s being said.

Focus on results

Storytelling is most effective when it focuses on solving problems for the prospect. Try to come up with success stories where other customers have benefited from your products or services. Salespeople create stories in many ways. The possibilities are virtually limitless. Faster service, educating prospects on unique features, better delivery, more information, differentiating your products or services from the competition are a few examples of sources of good stories.

Tell problem-solving stories

You can solve problems by looking for successes from other customers. The element of surprise is effective when the story takes an unforeseen twist or result that has pertinence to your prospect.

Stories about failure

Stories about failure may teach customers what not to do. Being able to detail how a prospect suffered monetary losses or a drop in quality by not purchasing your product or service can be effective.

Common barriers

You will become a better storyteller the more you practice. Don’t let these barriers get in the way:

  • “I don’t know where to find good stories.” Make a note when you have a particularly good experience with a customer. Be sure to spell out the details. Consider how you can use it in future presentations.
  • Failed closings. Come up with estimates of what the prospect lost by not buying your product or service. Translate these losses into future presentations.

Adapted from: Lead with a Story, by Paul Smith, a public speaker, leadership coach and director of Consumer & Communication Research at Procter & Gamble.

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