Sales, Strategy

Tell me about it: 91% of consumers value ‘honest communication’ so salespeople must prioritise storytelling

Sue Barrett /

We all grew up hearing and sharing stories through childhood and adulthood — they help us learn, develop and, above all, they entertain and inspire us. Brands today are increasingly incorporating storytelling into their sales and marketing strategies in order to resonate with their customers.

We must not overlook the increasing importance of storytelling in sales and marketing, as it takes our sales teams beyond presenting features and benefits.

What is brand storytelling?

While the terms ‘storytelling’ and ‘narratives’ are often used interchangeably, Deb Lavoy, chief executive of Narrative Builders, believes “if you have a really good narrative, you can tell a thousand stories with it”.

Storytelling may involve illustrating the reasons your company was created, what inspires the products and services you offer, or perhaps giving your customers a behind-the-scenes insight into your company.

The first step of brand storytelling is to succinctly summarise any or all of the above into a brand narrative — a strategic statement that conveys to customers what your brand is all about (this can include your purpose, core values, vision or mission).

Brand storytelling goes deeper than the product qualities, price points, facts and figures to connect with customers in an emotional way. While facts and figures can usually do the job, there’s nothing quite like a meaningful story to capture people’s hearts and minds.

Salespeople need to know how to share these stories.

Why it works

Captivating our audiences through brand storytelling is both an art and a science. The ‘art’ of storytelling is a brand’s ability to connect with people on an emotional level, while the ‘science’ is how our data and understanding of our audience contributes to the story’s appeal.

1. It appeals to our emotions

Customers are naturally drawn to stories because good stories elicit emotion. Advertising research reveals people rely on emotions more than information to make decisions. For brands, this means emotional responses to marketing content are often more influential on a person’s intent to buy than the content itself.

According to scientist Dr Paul Zak, emotional and character-driven stories boost the brain’s levels of oxytocin, often referred to as the ‘trust hormone’. When released, oxytocin produces powerful feelings of empathy, which in turn helps build trust in a brand.

2. It brings authenticity to the brand

A whopping 91% of consumers rate ‘honest communication’ about products and services as the most important criterion for brand marketing. For millennials, ‘trustworthiness’ and ‘authenticity’ are two of the top five brand attributes.

Evidently, customers love brands they perceive as ‘authentic’. This intangible value can even lead consumers to overlook minor flaws in the brand.

Customer testimonials are a great example of this. Testimonials are one of the most effective forms of content as they appeal to people and personify your brand in a way that is only brought about through peer-to-peer recommendations or word-of-mouth.

Now take this one step further with storytelling. A written testimonial of a few sentences may be unremarkable, but what about a brand story that draws on the customer’s personal life and challenges and chronicles their positive experiences with your brand? That stands out!

3. It leverages video as a key channel

Brands are trying to discover how to share content in a format that provides a visual and interactive mechanism to engage customers and get its message across.

With a minute of video worth a million words, videos are one format that can really extend audience reach and help tell a brand’s story in a compelling way.

The value of video lies in its ability to convey a lot succinctly, which is crucial in a digital age where the human attention span has shrunk to approximately eight seconds, compared to 12 seconds in 2000.

4. The sale is subtle but effective

As mentioned above, storytelling has to be authentic. It is about connecting with our audiences.

Similar to a fairytale, an appealing story must have three components: setting the scene, chronicling the conflict and offering a resolution. However, brand stories are unique because they require a fourth element: the sale or call to action.

The sale must be carefully crafted. It must be creative, yet subtle — it will often be indirect.

How we use it

1. Sales

Brand storytelling is a new trend in sales, with salespeople finding new ways to infuse storytelling into the way they sell.

Good storytelling offers the customer more than just a product or service, but an experience that inspires people by appealing to both logic and emotion.

Unlike traditional advertising messages and slogans, stories work on the subconscious mind. They allow the customer to truly ‘get’ and see the value of the product or service in a way a direct sale could never accomplish.

2. Marketing

Brand storytelling has become a progressive marketing strategy with the potential to increase revenue and cultivate customer loyalty.

Marketing content can be our most powerful weapon if executed in the right way. For a story to be appealing, it must be relevant. To be relevant to our audiences, we need to understand our audience’s interests, challenges and motivations.

Tools such as Google Analytics are helping people find out more about website visitors and clearly define customer profiles and preferences.

These profiles will help make the most of our storytelling capabilities and ensure we tell the right story to the right people at the right time.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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Sue Barrett

Sue is a selling better strategist and advisor, sales philosopher and speaker, sales trainer and coach, writer and activist. Sue is chief executive of forward thinking sales advisory Barrett and online sales education and resource platform www.salesessentials.com. Barrett develops sales strategies, standards and education that help people and businesses sell better.

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