From The Windshield Diaries: Using Stories to Move the Customer from Concept to Close

Stories Move Customers in their Buying Journey

Every Sales Path has a Puddle

It is the night before Art’s meeting to close a large deal which he has worked on for over six months. He double-checks the contracts for accuracy, reviews the detailed notes he has written during the past eight months - making sure that the client objectives & needs are all addressed. Art knows the competition made a strong run save the account earlier in the day, but the client gave Art the “verbal OK” to move forward before the meeting with the competitor even took place. Art feels great as he and his boss discuss the deal during dinner and he sleeps well knowing that everything is positioned to go smoothly.

Art and his boss arrive 15 minutes early for the meeting the following morning, receiving a big welcome from the receptionist who knows Art as the representative that everyone on her floor raves about regarding professionalism, friendliness and follow through. She escorts him to the conference room where the CFO, President, and Corporate Attorney sat around the long conference table. Phil suddenly gets an uneasy feeling as he shakes their hands as each one seems to be avoiding eye contact with him.

Dale, the Company President, begins by saying, "Art, you are one of the most professional, knowledgeable and patient salespeople I have ever worked with. You have answered many tough questions that I, myself and many others on my team raised during the past 6 or 7 months and your follow through has been extraordinary. That is why it is very hard for us to have to tell you this but yesterday your competitor made a compelling case to us that switching to your company would be a mistake." Despite Art being a seasoned, successful sales representative with numerous national awards for his annual production, and even being named salesperson of the year three times during his career, he was surprised at what he’d just heard.

Sales Sidebar

Has this ever happened to you? If you’ve been in sales or business more than a month, of course, it probably has. So what do you do? The next comment out of your mouth needs to be calm, smooth and professional despite what you are feeling. Thoughts like, “Are You Kidding me? You told me yesterday that you were moving forward with us. I guess you are not a man of your word. Do you realize how much money we spent flying out here today and the many trips myself or team came out here to this dumpy little town that doesn’t even have a good airport”  WON’T help you! Let’s see what happened next in this real life scenario between, Art, His Boss, and his Client.

The only thing Art could say was, "Dick I am shocked. Did you say you signed with them?" The CFO, Rick responded "no we have not Art, but we plan to do so tomorrow once they make a few changes." The Corporate attorney, Tim, also chimed in;" I know, Dale verbally committed to you yesterday and although I wish he had not done so, keep in mind that a verbal agreement over the phone does not hold much water here in our state."

 Art's boss, who could tell that Art was devastated, decided it was time for him to intervene. "Gentlemen, do you mind if I say a few words?" All three of the executives nodded their approval. Phil’s boss began by telling the following story; I grew up on a farm in South Texas, went to a small school. We had 58 in my graduating class and only 18 on the football team. I used to ride the bus to and from school every day. When I was about 12 or 13 years old, one of the riders on the bus was a fellow farm boy named Tommy. He was 17 or 18 years old at the time, played on the varsity football team and was as mean as he was tough. One day during one of those bus rides I listened wide-eyed as Tommy  and a bunch of older boys were talking about the upcoming heavyweight championship fight between Muhammed Ali and Mean Joe Frazier. Right in the middle of this back and forth, Tommy blurted out, " I wish I could fight Muhammed Ali because I would beat him." I remember staring back in awe as my mind replayed back to me – Tommy. Could. Beat. Up. Muhammad Ali! Years later though as I rode the bus as a then 17-year-old lost in thought about that conversation a few years prior, it hit me like a bolt of lightning; Wait a minute! Johnny could NOT have whipped Muhammad Ali. In fact if Tommy had gotten in the ring with the champ Muhammad Ali, Tommy would have been KILLED!"  Phil’s boss paused for effect and then finished his story by saying, "my point is this fellas, you really can’t believe everything you hear, can you? The CEO looked at the smiling President and said to Phil, "this guy is good. Give me those contracts Phil so that I can sign them right now."

Leadership Tip: Art's boss did not speak until it was necessary and when he did talk it had a profound impact on the outcome and tone of the meeting. Always remember to   more than you speak.  As the VP or manager, your job is to help the salesperson grow their skills and perhaps provide a corporate presence to the customer. You are NOT there to show the rep how many skills YOU have.

Sales Tip:  Although Art was an experienced and highly successful sales rep, he was not too proud to ask his boss to be there at the closing. Never be too proud to ask for help or to share the credit.

Sales & Life Lesson: There is a puddle on every path you take in sales and life. The most successful people are those who quickly and correctly design their course of action to either be patient in letting the puddle dry up, boldly jump over it or courageously wade through it.

Growth Exercise

 We all have life stories that we can use in business to personalize the business relationship. Stories from childhood, family, sports, overcoming obstacles and setbacks. What’s your story?

Day 1: Spend 30 minutes thinking about the stories in your life that make you smile, that taught you something, or impacted you in a profound way. If they made you laugh or you learned something or overcame something, chances are your client, customer or prospect will too.

Day 2: Spend 1 hour crafting your personal story from your experience - that would be relatable during a closing meeting, sales negotiations, overcoming objections or deepening a relationship with a customer sales cycle. Write it on paper.

Day 3,4 & 5 Spend 30 minutes verbally practicing this story out loud

Now you have a new story that will personalize your relationship with your customer, make you more relatable to others and most importantly help you to be a more successful closer!