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 »

Marketing Automation Monday Comes to Boston January 31st

Written by Rockannand on January 23, 2011 – 1:57 pm -

I am pleased to announce that Marketing Automation Monday for Boston is no longer “TBA”. The date is set for January 31st from 6 to 8:30 pm and will take place in downtown Boston across the street from the Museum of Fine Arts. Here is the registration link to reserve your spot.

What is Marketing Automation Monday?
What is Marketing Automation Monday you say? You can get caught up by reading these prior posts last month on the one I led in NYC:

Marketing Automation Monday Comes to NYC
Lead Nurturing: Tips from Marketing Automation Monday in NYC

These meet-ups are the brain child of Jep Castelein and the LinkedIn Group, Marketing Automation Association, he co-founded last year with Saad Hameed. These face-to-face gatherings are addressing a big need for B2B marketers – providing a networking forum where practices, experiences and stories can be shared among the vast community of professionals striving to execute winning demand generation programs and processes.

Background for Boston Meet-up
What has me excited about this one is I found several other passionate marketers like me who have signed on for the Marketing Automation Monday cause. They come from very different backgrounds, representing constituents and followers that span numerous industries as well as the Boston-based academia. They are Ann Grackin of Chain Link Research and Dean Larry Carr of the College of Professional and Continuing Education at Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Ann is a longtime colleague I first met back in the mid-90’s when she worked for the industry research firm Benchmarking Partners, founded by another analyst veteran, Ted Rybeck. I was running marketing at the time for the Swedish Supply Chain software company Industri-Matematik Int’l (IMI) when we met. What I will always remember of our first encounter was that Ann was the only person I knew who had implemented SAP R-3 AND i2 and lived to talk about it!! The best part of that story was how she laughed with each anecdote she shared of the experience. At IMI, SAP was our #1 competitor and i2 was fast becoming another rival, so you can imagine what I did with those anecdotes in our active deals. ‘Nuff said.

On the academia side, WIT recently retooled their continuing education program with the hiring in 2010 of Dean Larry Carr. Dean Carr has collaborated with ChainLink Research and recently announced a new professional certificate program called 21st Century Demand and Supply Chain Management. I have just started to dig into the details of this program, but know from experience that anything involving Ann Grackin will be high quality and worth considering. In the interest of creating stronger connections with the business community and professionals in the greater Boston area, Dean Carr has agreed to host the Boston meet-ups to be a part of the networking and the learning process that is the driver for Marketing Automation Monday across the country

Focus on Lead Nurturing
Our topic next Monday is Lead Nurturing and with the enthusiasm of our hosts and many Beantown marketing colleagues, we expect a large turnout and lively conversation. You can register at this link now.  Our downtown location at 550 Huntington Avenue, in the Faculty Dining Room at WIT’s Beatty Hall, makes attending convenient via public transportation or by car (parking will be available I’m told).

Who should attend? We encourage all marketing professionals from executive level to those hands-on with program execution to attend. We also encourage sales professionals that want to learn more about how marketing automation drives better opportunities into their pipelines to attend as well. We can handle 40-50 people so bring a colleague on Monday the 31st starting at 6pm. We will have refreshments and snacks.

We hope to see you there.

Related posts:

Marketing Automation Monday Comes to NYC

Lead nurturing: Tips form Marketing Automation Monday in NYC

Marketing Automation Association LinkedIn Group


Posted in B2B Marketing, Lead Management, Lead Nurturing, Lead Quality, Marketing Automation, Marketing Automation Monday, Marketing Strategy | 1 Comment »

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