It’s hard to write an entirely unsuccessful sales story. Insert enough features, benefits, facts, stats, and case studies into the mix and someone, somewhere, will probably go for it. It’s like rolling dice – you’ll throw a six eventually.
My training and coaching clients need to minimise the luck element in a competitive pitch. They commit time and budget to get in front of potential customers and, naturally, want to give themselves the best chance to win.
Before a seminar we usually begin by analysing the deck or story they’re currently using. Often the reason they don’t win as frequently as they should is due to one of three factors….
1) What they have isn’t a sales story…
Which I guess begs the question what is a story? Analyse any commercially successful movie and I guarantee you’ll find these components:
– Initial disruption to the everyday world.
– Struggle and consequence.
– Change and growth.
If you want traction with your audience then you need to replicate these in your primary and secondary value propositions.
Disruption is about what changed in the commercial landscape and how you responded to this. In short it’s about why you came into existence.
Struggle and consequence are essential to stories. Illustrating how you successfully adapted to challenges and problems is the essence of a compelling and credible narrative.
Change and growth is where you are now and what you offer. Most sales stories score highly in this area but lack the first two critical elements.
When reviewing your story, try to assess whether each stage connects to the next stage and makes sense of the one preceding.
2) Too slow to get going…
You have a short amount of time to capture attention at the start of your pitch. With some personality types it can be 30 seconds or less. So how do you hook your audience? You generate something called an active question.
In story terms an active question is what keeps you watching, listening or reading. It needs to be set up at the beginning of the narrative in order to grab and maintain attention. It should then percolate through the rest of the story.
There are several ways to generate an active question in a sales story including breaking the timeline, switching point of view and using paradox.
I recently worked with a client who used paradox. The opening line was: “We’re the agency who didn’t want to be an agency… and we still don’t”.
They win many more pitches than they lose.
By which I mean that the two main elements in the pitch fail to combine – the message and the audience. This can be avoided by using a Timeline Story.
Value developed in the core elements of the pitch can be lost at the end when a feature/benefit dump occurs. The client might do the work on your behalf and figure out what it all means to them…. then again they might not.
A Timeline Story immerses the client in a hypothetical relationship by detailing how that relationship might unfold over a fixed period – usually a year. Creating a mutual timeline is a powerful and yet relatively subtle way to build trust, credibility and demonstrate value without being too ‘on the nose’.
Are there other reasons sales pitches fall short of the mark? Absolutely. But if you have a well-honed narrative that gets out of its traps quickly and clearly demonstrates value, then you give yourself the optimal chance for success
For other ideas as to how you can develop your sales story, please visit www.gregkeen.co.uk and download my free book 9 Strategies to Win More Business Through Storytelling.