Credibility gets you in the door. These days, as we rely even more heavily on virtual communication, it’s more essential than ever to have a solid, value-based credibility introduction. To establish credibility, you must focus on the other person and their issues. In time, this will let you determine the potential value you can bring to them. Credibility intros are used in prospecting the very first time you reach out, but they are also used throughout the sales cycle.
I can’t emphasize enough not to jump into a sales pitch with zero credibility – it turns people off when a sales rep immediately focuses on their company and product capabilities. Most salespeople would protest they would never do such a thing, yet, according to Business2Community, “71% of salespeople claim they don’t have the knowledge to have these [value-added] conversations, and therefore fall back on what they know: product, features, price.” This approach damages credibility and puts up a barrier in terms of rapport and trust. Your prospect will think: “They don’t know me, they don’t understand me, so why should I be interested in speaking with them?”
There’s a lot that goes into building credibility and you can’t just wing it. That’s why we teach sales leaders how to construct a value-based story, which becomes the critical component of the credibility introduction. It’s all about being knowledgeable and relevant to your prospect or customer, having insight, and actively listening. Be aware that with virtual communication, this may be more difficult. You may have a natural inclination to talk more than usual because it’s hard to read non-verbal cues. Don’t forget to actively listen and ask confirming questions to make sure you’re on the same page. Once you engage authentically, establish trust, and gain rapport, you build the foundation to establish and maintain credibility.
The “Brass Tacks” of Developing a Value-Based Story
Short value-based stories are the linchpin of the credibility introduction. When you open a dialogue with a value-based story, it resonates with the listener that you will potentially bring them similar value. Here’s how to get started:
- First, make sure you’re creating a success story for the right audience. Your story should be created with the person you are trying to meet in mind. A good value story will demonstrate that you understand the individual, their role, the industry, and the issues and challenges facing them. Your story might be about someone in a similar role, a similar industry, or a similar sized organization. You’ll obviously need to do your research here.
- Next, what should be included in the story? The value-based story should address underlying, top-level business issues and problems. It is not about you; it is about someone that your target can relate to and the challenges that are likely experiencing.
- Talk about the outcome of your story, emphasizing the value and the impact to the organization and the individual. Having solid data or measurable impact will make your story even more powerful.
- End your story with a question that transitions to and prompts a discussion to their real-life situation.
A few tips…You don’t need to name the company in your story – in most cases it’s better to keep it unnamed. The value-based story can be shared either verbally or written in a bulleted format, but unlike a case study, it does not talk about your specific capabilities. Remember this critical component – this is not about you. The value-based story is about helping them based on an experience of helping people like them.
A Sample Value-Based Story
Here’s a sample of what a value-based story may sound like:
“Hey, I have worked with other VPs of Sales in the software industry and one company in particular had a problem growing its business due to an inability to scale. Their challenges included a complex portfolio and the inability to differentiate their service – it was a hidden gem, but they didn’t know how to show it off. By partnering with us, this software company saw their revenue increase by 30 percent in one year. How did we help them? We taught their salespeople how to be more confident in communicating value and we walked them step-by-step through how to impactfully differentiate from their competition. They now sell more effectively and are creating long-term relationships with clients, rather than focusing on one-and-done, transactional sales.
In researching your company, I understand you’re facing a similar situation, but I don’t want to assume that. I would really love your feedback. What are some of the top-of-mind business drivers that you’re looking to address?”
In the ValueSelling Framework training we lead exercises where every salesperson creates and refines their stories. Sometimes we have contests and share our value-based stories in the classroom or at a cocktail hour at the end of the session – this gives everyone a chance to practice telling their story and learn from each other.
Embrace your Story
I’m willing to bet that some of the best sales reps you’ve ever met are also the best storytellers. These aren’t made-up stories. They’re sharing a scenario that someone can relate to and internalize. And in doing so, they are creating interest to talk more.
These stories also require research, and the most successful reps spend more time preparing the questions and the stories before they execute. They also practice. Practice in front of a mirror, practice with your co-worker, practice with your manager, practice it on your dog. And the last tip – is to practice under pressure. If you can tell this story with confidence and conviction while running on the treadmill, you can certainly tell it in front of the client!