Messages from the Masters
Selling Meets Story-Tellling to Become Story-Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer

Mom, tell me a story -- pleeeeaase! Remember those days when you couldn't wait to hear a story? Everyone loves to hear stories. 

Paul Homoly is business development expert and a master storyteller, who, upon realizing the importance between story telling and selling, coined and trademarked the word – StorySelling™. It's a concept by which you turn the selling situation into an atmosphere where a prospect identifies with you -- because you (through story telling) relate to their situation -- and then buys. 

"StorySelling™ blends the images and appeal of storytelling with the logic and intention of selling," says Homoly. "You take the benefits and features of your product and tell a story about them. The value of telling a story is that it projects images and appeal onto the critical selling dialogues of:

  • building rapport
  • presenting benefits
  • showing successful use
  • overcoming doubt (creating confidence and trust)
  • using testimonials
  • describing similar situations
  • (and) creating a compelling reason to buy now."
Stories make sales presentations memorable, fun and persuasive. Pretty powerful. StorySelling™ is the sex appeal of selling -- it's sales appeal.

"The concept is simple but powerful -- facts and benefits are forgotten, but stories are retold. StorySelling™," says Homoly, "is the art of selling happily ever after."

Sounds great! Lets look at in the real world.

Traditional selling would go this way...For example -- let's say you're selling cellular phones:

The salesperson says, "Mr. Johnson, ABC Cellular has been in business for twenty years. Our customers are some of the biggest businesses in town. Cellular phones are no longer a luxury -- low monthly cost makes phones an affordable necessity to stay ahead of your competition. It reduces the average response time from your salespeople to your prospects and customers when they call needing information or wanting to place orders. The phones we use are the latest technology, and have a 5 year warranty." 

(Pretty boring, huh? -- No one cares how long you've been in business or how affordable your product is until they can relate to its use and benefit. Even if the salesperson asked a few questions, there is still no tie in (buy in) to use and benefit on the part of the prospect.

Here's the StorySelling™ version (remember stories are told with enthusiasm and passion): 

"Mr. Prospect, five years ago, I was selling with Paper International. My oldest son Adam was two at the time, Jessica was three months old, and my wife Susan was up to her ears taking care of all of us.

"Within 2 months I was fighting for the biggest account of my life -- Duosouce - the largest paper distributor in America. A demanding prospect - And I was up against fierce-as-a-bulldog competition. My boss was tough but fair -- and at the time had a lot of "upstairs" pressure. 

"During the fight, I still had to go out and make other sales calls. The next Monday -- a frantic one, (ever had one of those?) I neglected to call the office for four hours. Duosource called me just five minutes after I'd left, and said they needed to meet with all the vendors in two hours. The competition showed up on time, and, when the buying decision was made, I wasn't even in the room. My boss and I found out about that phone call the hard way -- after the business was lost. Anything like that ever happen to you?" (Take some time here, and let the prospect tell you a story of woe.)

(Now you continue) "Mr. Prospect, if you were my boss, what would you have done?" (The answer to that question confirms the validity of your story, and gives you permission to proceed -- or better yet, the prospect might suggest buying your product as the solution -- hooray!)

(You continue) "Losing the sale was bad, losing my job was worse, but the worst -- was the angry look on my wife's face. (You continue) I had learned the value of immediate communication the hard way. A cellular phone was the missing link between me and my prospect. If I'd have had one that day, I may have not seen that look on my wife's face.

"You know, Mr. Prospect, we're competing in a minute-by-minute market. Sales are made or lost based on a company's ability to respond in an instant." (Now you can ask power questions that have real, understandable and relatable impact, but the story's not over yet) -- What is the average response time from your salespeople to your prospects and customers when they call needing information or wanting to place an order? Do your prospects only call you -- or do they call the competition as well? What are you doing to ensure that your field salespeople are on top of their selling opportunities?

(Now you end the story with a close) "For the last five years I've been helping customers like you prevent the financial loss and anger of lost sales due to poor communication or slow response. I've helped more than 1,250 businesses communicate faster -- and today I'd like to add your name to that list. (continue to close) How many salespeople do you have?"

Wow! Look at the benefits you conveyed, the common ground you established, the emotions you triggered, and the sales appeal you created. In the two minutes it took tell a story the prospect will remember -- it would have taken 15 minutes to tell about features and benefits he'd forget. 

The difference in StorySelling™ is more than 13 minutes of time -- the difference is between selling and buying. With a story, the prospect will relate -- and buy.

Well that's the story -- but it's only the beginning. In future columns we'll talk about the elements that make up a great sales story, and how you can incorporate this powerful (and overlooked) method of StorySelling™. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, Knock Your Socks Off Selling and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless; Customer Loyalty is Priceless. To order Jeffrey's many books and/or audios and videos, go to  (c) 1999 All Rights Reserved.

Provided courtesy of  Jim Rohn International