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The Importance of Storytelling in B2B Sales & Marketing

Written by Rockannand on February 2, 2012 – 12:01 pm -

 

So let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, I started a BLOG and started writing about my views and experiences as a B2B sales and marketing junkie. After 30+ years in the field, first 20+ working with a number of software companies in every aspect of field operations and then 10+ as a consultant, I felt I had something to say so I did what every warm blooded marketer feels they need to do and started cranking out CONTENT. First a web site, then BLOG posts with a few choice podcasts and webinars. A couple of plum conferences in front of live audiences; interviews for trade pub articles and some articles and white papers of my own. Lots of arguments and opinions supported by facts and stats and use cases.

But what is the end game of all this content creation and publication? Followers? Likes? Retweets? In my case, it’s all about building trust with my audience and to find buyers and influencers who believe what I believe. God knows we have created mountains of content and information to supposedly make it easier for buyers to buy. Buyers should be able to defend their decisions as intelligent and authoritative, but are they?

But Are We Telling Good Stories?

It depends on how you measure and from whose perspective … yours or your buyer? My head, or my “thinking brain” says yes, but my gut, or my “emotional brain” says no. I had been feeling this way for a while, then I read a fascinating new book and attended the author’s workshop last week. It was a “eureka” moment for me.

The author is Mike Bosworth, legendary creator of Solution Selling and Customer-Centric Selling. The book is entitled, “What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story”. Now the importance of storytelling is not new for sellers and marketers. But when we look at how it influences buyer behavior and why it works, we see more clearly that there is a right way and wrong way to tell stories.

What’s the Secret to Good Storytelling?

The secret lies in making an emotional connection with buyers. Why? Because as Bosworth and co-author Ben Zoldan (Customer-Centric Selling) so expertly explain, “breakthroughs in neuroscience have determined that people don’t make decision solely on the basis of logic … in fact, emotions play the dominant role in most decision-making processes.”

I’ve always known this point to be true – it probably has been one of the keys to my success in B2B sales and marketing. However, reading the book and going through the Story Leaders workshop last week provided a field-tested framework for how to construct and deliver stories to build trust and rapport with buyers. I like frameworks. I use them all the time in my practice and have relied on them throughout my career. They feed my (sometimes overly) analytical personality … thirsting for information, facts and figures, logic, process-driven. Very left-brain though … the “thinking” brain.

But frameworks must be based on beliefs and points-of-view that prove out to be true. And ignoring the importance of establishing rapport may help explain why all of the sales enablement training and methodology programs have not raised the performance of those it was targeted to improve – the 80% of the sales force that only delivered 20% of the sales. Bosworth and Zoldan point out that recent research shows that the old 80/20 rule – where 20% of salespeople deliver 80% of the sales – is more like 87-13. The gap has gotten worse between the best and the rest of the pack. Ouch!

Marketers Need to Apply the Story Telling Teachings to Build Trust

I believe that successful content marketing strategies are about quality, not quantity. We need to tell our stories with authenticity and real passion in order to cut through the information overload that buyers are experiencing. Most company stories on web sites lack characters and people to make them real and believable – they don’t draw me in emotionally. What I like about Bosworth and Zoldan’s approach is that they actually teach you how to make your ideas, beliefs and experiences “storiable” using a proven story structure. Their approach shows marketers, as well as salespeople how to develop stories that overcomes buyer skepticism to connect with the emotional brain where trust is formed.

So that’s my story today. What’s yours?


Posted in B2B Marketing, Content Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Thought Leadership, Training Programs | 2 Comments »

2 Comments to “The Importance of Storytelling in B2B Sales & Marketing”

  1. John Says:

    Henry. Great story on your Eureka moment. I recently read this book and itnhad a offline impact on me. Anyone who wants to take their game to a newnlevel should buy the book and attend their seminar. Jg

  2. Cathy Bishop Says:

    Long post–but it’s worth the reading. Story telling also helps entertain the buyers, aside from building that emotional bond with them. You want to prolong the interest, the suspense, so to speak so that you keep them really on their toes.

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