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INSIDER: Unique Sales Stories

Sept. 1, 2011

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By Steven Bell, MBA Candidate

Any salesperson will tell you that the ideal method for generating new clients is through word-of-mouth and referrals. No advertising or cold calling is necessary with this strategy; the clients actually come to you. In his book Unique Sales Stories, Mark Satterfield discusses an innovative theory about how to create more business through referrals, separate yourself from competitors, and close more sales. Simply put, Satterfield's strategy inspires you to stop telling people what you do and start telling them what you've done through stories that communicate the effectiveness of your work. Satterfield provides this helpful guide with two goals in mind:

  1. Convincing you that sales stories are the most effective way to capture the attention of prospects and communicate what you can do for them.
  2. Equipping you with a structure for developing great sales stories.

Real estate agents can yield impressive results by employing these ideas to craft their own unique sales stories.

THINK POINT #1: Stories Work, Facts Don't

To encourage others to refer you business, they need to know you and have a clear understanding of what you do. Unfortunately, facts and superfluous data bombard us each day and we seldom remember anything significant from information shared with us. On the other hand, captivating, relevant stories demand our attention and stick with us. Incorporating a unique sales story into your sales conversation will help you communicate what you do in an understandable and memorable way. As problems or issues arise with your clients' professional and social networks, the memorable stories of your sales-successes will surface much more easily than facts or data in their search for reliable solutions. Through these informal interactions, your personal brand is strengthened, positive word-of-mouth is generated and trust is built. Trust is an essential element in the closing of a sale, as the client must trust that you and your solutions will solve their problems. Use stories to your advantage in lieu of sharing facts, and connect to your clients in a way that builds trust and reliability.

Identify Your Best Sales Story

THINK POINT #2: Identify Your Best Sales Story

You may already be convinced to incorporate a unique sales story into your next sales conversation, however it is important to distinguish between good and best sales stories before taking action. A good story may reveal potential results to the client, but the best stories take a step further and empower listeners to visualize desired outcomes. The more your product or services resonate with the client's true desires, the more meaningful and effective your story will be. Before you begin crafting your best sales story, consider these proven techniques to focus your thoughts:

  1. Target your story for a specific audience.
  2. Prepare to write your story in a narrative style through the use of characters. Remember, the best character to develop a story around is you!
  3. Identify failures and successes to include in your story to create a deeper bond with the prospective client.
  4. Find your authentic voice.

Although you may use Satterfield's general techniques to develop your story, do not forget that your story is your own. Replicating someone else's successful story telling style does not guarantee success for your own story. Your best sales story will emerge as you develop your unique, authentic voice and discover what works most effectively for you. Don't be afraid to be genuine!

THINK POINT #3: Craft Your Story - Three Key Elements

After you have identified your unique sales story, it is important to organize your ideas and craft your story in a way that will capture the listener's attention, keeping her engaged. Satterfield suggests that a good story focuses around three key elements: a problem, characters, and context. Your story's problem and characters should be introduced early, and should resonate with your current client's situation. For example, if your client has been searching for a house unsuccessfully for the past six months on her own or with a different realtor, perhaps you could identify the story of a similar person/family that you helped to find their dream home in just a month's time. To tie the story's problem and characters together effectively, the story's setting must be developed through colorful, contextual descriptions. Use specific locations, genuine emotions, and descriptive adjectives to add effective context to your story. Include internal thoughts and external dialogue between the characters to make the characters relatable, and to ultimately illuminate how the story's conflict was resolved. Use these three elements - problem, characters and context - to organize your ideas and bring your story to life. Don't be afraid to be creative and expressive!

THINK POINT #4: Tie It Together And Take Action

You've bought into the idea of unique sales stories, you've identified your best sales story, and you've begun to craft your story, now it's time to tie it all together. As you bring all of the story's elements together, make sure that the point you want to make is clear and defined. With your end-goal in mind, you can develop an effective framework to build the rest of your story on.

Once you have captured the listener's attention and have reached the climax of your story, communicate the consequences of leaving the problem unresolved and share the story's solution - why the character chose you. Communicating the consequences will allow the prospect to visualize the effects of a decision not to act. Sharing the resolution of the story will emphasize your ability to provide effective solutions and that you have a proven track record of success.

Your story has been shared, and now you want to motivate your client to take action. To move him in this direction, the client must weigh the different options he has to resolve his issue and choose the best alternative: he can use your services, use a competitor's services, or do nothing. Providing an option-analysis offers a great opportunity for you to reinforce the benefits of your services and to communicate why you are equipped to help your client achieve his goals more effectively than any alternative can. However, be careful not to be too self-serving, to lecture the client, or include too much jargon, as it would be easy to come across as arrogant or cause him to lose interest.

Unique sales stories provide an effective way to create more business through referrals, separate yourself from competitors, and close more sales. Using Satterfield's proven techniques, you can effectively transform the way you do business. Harness the power of your stories: stop telling people what you do and start telling them what you've done!

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Recommended Reading

Satterfield, Mark (2010). Unique Sales Stories. Atlanta: Mandalay Press.

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About the Author

Steven Bell, MBA Candidate, December 2011, Baylor University

Graduate Assistant, Keller Center for Research

Steven is a graduate student from Cuero, TX, currently pursuing an MBA degree with a concentration in entrepreneurship. He earned his BBA in general business from Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi.

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