Once upon a time, there was a Global B2B Sales Director with growth and profitability problems…13 min read
According to Stanford research, reading this article and story might make you 7-14x more likely to remember, that people’s ability to remember statistics can be increased 7-14x, when coupled with stories?
I read it in an Inc.com article back in April. The importance of using stories and story-telling in B2B, to improve customer engagement in sales & marketing.
Especially during the current war for attention!
What to do
Using storytelling as a way to make B2B buyers remember you and your product and not get deselected in the buyers process.
Build different types of stories through text, video, and pictures for different customer engagement situations. Use for example the six steps illustrated in this article.
Make the B2B buyer 7-14x more likely to remember you and your products or services in the war for attention.
Once upon a time, a Global Sales Director at a big B2B Company…
It reminded me of a global sales director, at a large logistics company, who was once struggling with price pressure from industry commoditisation and negative growth from increased competition.
His premium solution features of more reliable -and frequent transportation times, weren’t translating into ability to command premium pricing and as a result, profits had turned red and so had the previously positive revenue growth trend.
I am not saying he was close to being fired, but it’s fair to assume that he did not sleep well at night and his worries were starting to take a toll both at work and at home.
The reason he was not able to make customers understand the superior value of his service, was that the local sales people in the regional offices did not fully understand how to explain it in a customer conversation, or forgot to do so altogether.
Even when they did tell customers about the potential value of using their solution vs. competitors, it was as if the customer had forgotten all about it when it came to putting in the order, and it all just came down to price again.
They had all gone through basic sales training and knew the underlying mechanics of creating the customer value proposition but somehow it wasn’t translating into daily sales operations, new customer conversations and in the end, a change in sales results.
What he needed was the ability to make customers understand and remember his solution’s value proposition and help sales people in local regional offices remember tell it, in an effective way.
By giving him a Reference Story Framework & Method, delivered through a series of development workshops with his global sales & marketing teams and regional localisation and training sessions, we were able to provide him with exactly those capabilities.
A structure for developing -and operationalising compelling and memorable reference stories, that local sales -and marketing people use to engage customers. A shared framework across the globe, so stories can easily be shared from one region to another. From one sales person to the next.
His commercial organisation had become a story telling and story sharing organisation, even flowing into customer service, who had also started using stories to help better engage with customers during service calls.
As a result of the improved customer engagement, win rates on sales opportunities rose and our global sales director was able to command the price premium his solution justified.
Red had turned black and green.
Whether his customers were 7-14 times more likely to remember his value proposition I do not know for sure. But once again, he rested well at night and was able to approach work -and private life with energy and vigour. Telling the story of how storytelling made his sales organisation more effective and engaged.
How important is it for your business that customers are able to remember your value story and that your sales people are able to tell it engagingly?
Building the foundation for your B2B customer stories…
Developing compelling and memorable customer reference stories starts a structure for your story.
This is the foundation from which you can build many different types of stories (text, video, pictures etc.) for many different customer engagement situations (case studies, customer video interviews, sales stage sales meetings, late stage sales meetings etc.)
Here is the one we use to help our clients, built on the principles of common sales methodologies, using our Global Sales Director example above to illustrate:
1. The protagonist and context: Who is the person or group of people that I want my target audience to empathise with? What is the situation that I want them to be able to relate to? In the example above, it is a global sales director at a B2B company facing commoditisation and increased competitive pressure.
2. The key challenge to overcome and problem components: Why is the current situation not sustainable? What is the protagonist’s ultimate concern and challenge? What are the unaddressed drivers of the pain? In the example above, it is negative sales growth and low profitability, from inability to make customers understand and buy his company’s premium solution, as a result of (a) sales reps inability/unwillingness to explain the value proposition in a compelling way and (b) customers inability to understand it and unwillingness to translate it into new buying behaviour.
3. Capabilities needed to defeat problem components: What organisational capabilities, processes or tools does the protagonist need, to address the underlying drivers of the problem? In our example, this is the ability to make his value proposition more memorable and compelling for sales reps to tell and customers to understand.
4. The solution to give those capabilities: What enabled the protagonist to get those new capabilities (i.e. Solution components)? In our example, these are a reference story creation framework and a process for localising and operationalising. Note that the existing solution (Sales training in traditional, mechanical value proposition building) is being challenged, going instead for a solution that emphasises story-telling.
5. New state: What type of person and organisation are they now, after having acquired the new capabilities to relieve their pain? In our example, this is the story telling and story sharing organisation that engages effectively in customer interactions.
6. The results: What did the protagonist and the organisation get out of the transformation? Did it relieve them of their pain? In our example, higher conversion rates, higher share of sales with premium price commanded, more engage sales people, sharing success stories across markets and borders
Help local sales & marketing organisations with structure, localisation and operationalisation of the customer reference stories
Global sales enablement and marketing can help local sales offices make better use of customer reference stories in 3 ways.
- Share the fundamental structure on which the customer reference story is built. The impact tree: Stakeholder, pain, pain drivers and the solution that can relieve the pain. This is Solution Selling and problem solving 101.
- Run localisation workshops with local sales offices where generic stakeholder stories are translated into real local stories to be used in different situations by sales, marketing, customer service etc.
- Operationalise your stories by training people with customer engagement responsibility in telling the story and engaging their audiences.
If you need help getting your value stories across to customers or want more information on how we help B2B commercial organisations develop and operationalise customer reference stories that engage buyers, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, to learn more.
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