Can you sell and be a storyteller at the same time?

Imagine this scenario. You’re looking at shirts and a salesperson says, “You should definitely buy this shirt. It’s a really great shirt. It’ll keep you cool, and you’ll look so good in it.” Okay, thanks, you know you look good in cotton. But what if that salesperson said, “The other day I was at the Nationals game, and it was 95 degrees outside with zero shade. I wore this shirt and it was so breathable and light. It saved the day.”

The latter approach is relatable, it appeals to your emotions, and it makes you want to buy the shirt without someone telling you to. Bottom line: To be a good salesperson, you must be a good storyteller. While everyone is on the receiving end of selling, no one wants to be sold to.  There’s a difference.

Marketers are often evaluated by total sales and ROI, and when resources are limited, there’s a strong temptation to start ratcheting up the sales pitch. But it’s critical to keep these guideposts top of mind as you market your organization’s product or service.

  • Craft stories that pique your customer’s emotions and/or talk to their pain points. Push these stories out as posts on social media, as blog posts on your website, and if applicable, as pitched or otherwise placed (read: sponsored) articles in other outlets.
  • Imagery and other design components also can shape your story. This ski resort took beautiful images of their grounds and paired them with negative traveler reviews for a print advertising campaign. The way they executed the campaign was smart and created a juxtaposition that intrigued readers.
  • You don’t have to hard sell all the time. Storytelling should be more of a nurturing tactic that may ultimately lead to sales conversions, and as with media relations, it takes time to establish a rapport, build trust and interest and reach a point of motivation where your prospects take action (in your case, a sales transaction).

There are times when traditional advertising, hard sells and straight talk may be the right approach, and it’s likely that you’ll need a mix of hard- and soft-selling tactics in your marketing strategies. No matter how you slice your marketing pie, just remember that decision-making is often driven by either emotion or intellect. If you can appeal to your customer’s hearts and heads, you’re one step closer to making a sale.

Casey Prentice

A self-proclaimed organizational junkie and data geek who confesses to a secret desire to be a professional organizer, Casey enjoys account management, writing, editing and digital content strategy. Her agency work has helped clients like Virginia’s Community Colleges, VCUarts and Swedish Match.

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