Before an important business meeting, most people will spend time to prepare answers for likely scenarios and questions. This is useful and can get you prepared for the basics. The trouble is that your counterpart (the buyer) is not looking for answers that are already in your brochure, they want to hear something that adds to it.
You have to realize that a successful sales meeting isn’t a cross examination, it’s a conversation. If you want to break out of the question/answer ping pong match, you should aim to sprinkle in some interesting information about yourself in the shape of stories. People buy from people, and the more you can get the other person to buy into you – the easier it will be to close the deal.
The case for telling stories
If you have ever sat through a competency based job interview, you know how important stories are to convey your message. I say that stories work really well in any sales meeting as they are memorable. Facts can easily be forgotten and mixed up but people tend to remember stories and who told them. The human brain is hard wired to remember stories, not just the words but the visuals that went through the listeners head as well. Marketers make very clever use of stories to sell products and services and so should you.
If you think about it, your whole life you have been told stories in one form or another. Whether it was bed time stories or fairy tales adapted by Disney, whether it’s a French art house film or a detective novel– there is a story there that you will remember. By using stories you will appeal to the human mind, you will create a strong connection with the listener, you will demonstrate your communication skills and finally you will be remembered.
How to tell stories
A story needs to have a clear beginning, middle and end. The punch line will be your result. You don’t want your anecdotes to be too long, aim to be able to deliver the story within 60 seconds if required. There is no need to put more details in there, if it’s an interesting story you can be sure the other person will ask you about it and there is your chance to elaborate.
In order to tell a really memorable story, you will have to make it original. People want to hear about your out-of-the-box way of doing things, your imaginative and clever methods to reach goals. Your meeting counterpart has heard a few stories in their day so make sure yours are special and they will go down a treat.
Make sure you listen first
Another really important aspect to this is to remember to listen to the other person’s questions. Make sure you understand exactly what they are asking and what type of story that would apply. The kiss of death to your meeting would be you going in all guns blazing, churning out story after story when all they asked was whether you wanted coffee or tea. Remember that it’s a sales meeting, you are either selling yourself, a product or a service. You have to put the focus on the buyer and their needs as opposed to your ego.
Call to action
Tap in to the age-old human love of stories, get into story telling mode before your big meeting and you will be interesting, different and memorable. Work on a few different stories that you can fire off at will, making absolutely sure they are relevant to the person listening. The more stories you tell, the better you get – before you know it you'll be the bard of your industry!
More on storytelling in our Personal Branding workshops in London!