StrategyContentPrepare your story: Laying the groundwork for storytelling success

Prepare your story: Laying the groundwork for storytelling success

In the first of a three-part series, Seismic’s VP of Global Sales Engineering Brian Cotter explains the importance of truly getting to know your buyer.

30-second summary:

  • Every interaction has a 33% chance of moving towards a revenue outcome, making it vital that sellers tell the right story, to the right buyer, at the right time.
  • Telling a story that resonates with buyers long-term has always been a challenge, but is now more difficult than ever with remote working, virtual selling and the need to replicate a successful strategy complicating the matter.
  • That’s why it’s crucial for sellers to lay the groundwork early on in the sales process, in order to develop the most effective stories instead of sending out content that doesn’t make an impact.
  • Sellers must prepare their story by getting to know the buyer and their industry better than the buyer knows themselves. This can help sellers validate or challenge their POV when interacting with them and become a trusted sales advisor.

The hardest part of selling in today’s world is understanding what your target buyer actually needs. From there, sellers need to articulate a story that will resonate with them every time, at every stage of the relationship.

To achieve this, sales teams need to know who they’re aiming at. No matter what the industry, this knowledge is critical to figuring out how to tell a unique, relevant and personalized story that compels buyers to take action – as opposed to sending out generic content that doesn’t make an impact.

Why is this so important? Businesses need every customer-facing employee to be able to tell a story that resonates with their buyers because there is a finite number of possible outcomes to every interaction.

In fact, there are just three: wallet share will either decrease, stay flat, or increase. This means that every interaction has a 33% chance of moving towards a revenue outcome.

Although telling the right story to the right buyer at the right time has long been a challenge for B2B businesses, it is now harder to achieve – and more important to get right – than ever before.

Dealing with disruption

Throughout 2020, several factors have converged to make life particularly tricky for sales teams. Most of these have of course been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted operations for businesses around the world.

For example, the majority of sellers are now working remotely, which can inhibit communication and lead to disjointed processes.

As a result,  sellers and buyers are now interacting online more than ever. Sellers have been forced to rely almost entirely on digital methods such as virtual selling, without the person-to-person relationship building they have traditionally depended on.

The level of competition in these online channels has increased significantly. Buyers are being bombarded by more marketing materials from businesses than ever before, making a story that resonates quickly even more critical.

So, facing all these challenges, how can businesses ensure they are able to tell the right story to the right buyer at scale across every single seller in the organization? The first step, and the foundation for all future activities, is to prepare the story so that they stand out from the crowd.

For sales teams, putting themselves in the best position to tell a story that resonates with buyers all comes down to up-front planning and research. But it isn’t just about the buyer – sellers must look internally as well as externally.

Laying the groundwork

The focus of any seller should be to become Unconsciously Competent with their company’s story, the key product offerings and their buyer’s world. The goal is to have so much understanding and familiarity with these areas that they become “second nature” and can be explained easily. As a result, they can then be seamlessly integrated into content and messaging.

This allows sellers to focus on what the root cause of the buyer’s problem is and start outlining the story they want to articulate, versus having to spend time asking questions that lead back to product features and functions.

It’s very hard to win consistently if sales teams don’t put in this work up front. Sellers need to lay the groundwork and do the due diligence to understand where to aim, so their story will resonate with the buyer. This is the discovery part of the sales cycle and is the most critical to creating a story that appeals to audiences.

Sellers need to get to know the buyer as well as, if not better than, the buyer knows themselves. That way, they will have a clear understanding of the root cause of the problem and will be able to offer a solution that positively impacts the buyer’s business.

Sellers must find ways to politely validate — or challenge  — the buyer’s point of view on what the problem is and what the solution looks like. This is a major step towards becoming the trusted advisor that guides the buyer through the sales cycle – but isn’t possible without the initial background research.

Get in the know

By going through this process, sellers will learn how to tell their story in a way that is easily understandable, addresses real-world pain points and highlights their company’s strengths – the combination of which will compel buyers to act.

It will also show that they understand the challenges buyers are dealing with. These challenges are likely to have shifted over the course of the year, leading to updated priorities and new plans for the future. As such, taking the time to understand the state of play for buyers and connect with them at a deeper level has never been more important.

When it comes to telling the most effective story possible, sales teams can’t afford to overlook the importance of preparation. More so than ever, sellers must dig deep to understand their buyers and the changes they are experiencing.

Truly getting to know the buyer and where they are in the journey will empower sellers to tell the right story at the right time – one that resonates with buyers, drives action and increases revenue.

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