How much homework do executives do on their own before they engage with a supplier? Probably more than most people realize. By one recent estimate, these C-level business people are 70% along in a typical B2B purchasing decision before they have a conversation with a supplier.
It makes sense that these decision-makers are self-educating before engaging with a vendor. There is more information and more ways to consume information than ever before. As a result of buyers doing so much upfront legwork, the buying window is shorter. With less time to execute a sales campaign, creating value-based stories makes the most of what little time sales professionals now have with executives.
That’s right. Often it is better to forgo the standard pitch and instead use success stories that align with someone’s similar business issues to gain a prospect’s attention.
Being able to articulate a compelling value proposition by telling a succinct story of a past success is a great way to gain the confidence of executives. It shows that you and your company have dealt with such problems in the past and you have proof of good results from a partnership.
How, though, do you craft captivating stories in 30 seconds?
It all starts with the right research … and references. In addition to doing due diligence by consuming business and trade information, or gaining insight from social media, one of the best sources to serve as the basis for a quick story are your own customers or clients. They can discuss what life was like before or after purchasing your solution, which you then convey in your own way. These reference stories build credibility. Also, having this conversation with happy clients helps to remind them of how far they’ve come since partnering with you, thereby helping secure a long-term relationship.
Make the content relate to them, not you. Make sure that the successes you tout align with the business objectives that a specific executive needs to achieve. (And you’ll know what that need is based on having done your homework in the previous step.) They will relate to a similar company that had a similar issue. Also, make sure your story focuses on a top-level business issue, versus an operational one, since this is the realm executives work within.
The more measurable it is, the better the story will be. Stories that stand out don’t just use clever wordsmithing; they include compelling statistics that support a point. For instance, rather than telling a hospital executive that another healthcare client raised patient satisfaction scores after using your software, put those scores in more concrete terms. “This hospital wanted to raise their patient satisfaction scores by 10% year over year and within the first eight months of implementing our solution they’d raised those scores by 15%!”
The more you can articulate the problem, the more likely it will land well with an executive. This also includes showing some of the math it took to get there, if asked. Remember that you are not just focusing on the problem and solution but the value that came from that solution. Be prepared to back up your data. This also helps tamp down any propensity to hype or, worse, fabricate, which should never be done.
End with a question, rather than a statement. As you end your story, make sure you bring it back to the executive you’re conversing with. An easy and effective way is to end with a question, such as, “So that was what happened with that customer. What are some of your business drivers preventing you from experiencing something similar?”
Showing value through storytelling takes practice, especially if you are used to pitching the products in a different way. Just remember: Some of the best salespeople have good game not just because they know how to pitch but because they understand the power of telling a story. So take the time to dissect the research, develop compelling content and deliver it confidently. When executed well, there’s another benefit: Over time you’ll have many more success stories to tell.
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