Selling Stories, Not Products



Most early-stage sales teams lead with their products. They are typically so excited about their new products that they get bogged down in selling the minutia of their product’s features and functionality. They think that is what their clients will care about, and that is what is going to drive a sale. A common rookie mistake. As clients don’t really care about you or your products (at this preliminary stage), they care about themselves, and how you are going to help them to solve their problems.

The best sales teams are masters in storytelling. They artistically layout a big picture problem in the industry, that the client is dealing with, and slowly rope them in with their elegant solution to this problem. It is not until several meetings in does the salesperson even talk about their products. They only detail them once the client has taken the bait, and they need to set the hook.

Let me give you a example. Let’s say your business has built a social media amplification tool (e.g., it helps clients virally spread their message through social sharing). The wrong pitch would be talking about how great your technology is and all the “bells and whistles” you have built into the product. A client really doesn’t care, especially since you are one of a hundred other companies peddling similar products to them. Creating a lot of confusion for them on who to trust. Which often means them doing nothing, to not make a bad decision and waiting for the dust to settle in the industry.

But, what would they care about? They would want to hear that instead of communicating to the 1MM fans the client has on their Facebook page, you have a product that will help them communicate with the 100MM followers of those fans, increasing their reach by 100x. Better yet, they would want to hear how you have cracked the code on driving an ROI on their social media spend, as their bosses have been all over them to prove ROI or risk having their budgets cut. And, how your last ten customers have averaged a 10x return on their investment with you, turning their social media marketing into a driver of clearly attributable sales. If they buy your product, they are going to look smart to their boss and see their budgets increase.

Did you notice the difference? In the first example, it was all about YOU. In the second example it was all about THEM! And, more importantly, it got their attention with clear metrics about their business, and helped to paint the picture on how this was going to be a big financial win for them. Hence, minimizing the risk they look foolish by buying your product. But, to the contrary, you will help them to get bonus points with their management, and get more budgets and internal credit for the success.

This is a key point. In this case, the THEM is them personally, not the company!! The more you can speak to them, the individual, the higher odds you will close the sale. So, do your homework on your clients before you even approach them. Figure out the company’s painpoints, and then figure out how you are going to make your individual contact look smart to their boss.

At the end of the day, a good sales person is like William Shakespeare weaving an intricate story line or Leonardo Da Vinci painting brushstrokes on a canvas. Artisans of their craft. Because the truth is, nobody wants to be feel like they are being sold something. They want the personal win of making a smart decision that helps solve big problems. The better you craft a story that speaks to them and their pain points, the better your sales success will follow.

This article was originally published on Red Rocket VC, a consulting and financial advisory firm with expertise in serving the startup, digital and venture community.


Image credit: CC by umjanedoan


About the author: George Deeb

George Deeb is a managing partner at Red Rocket Ventures, a Chicago-based startup consulting and fundraising firm with expertise in advising Internet-related businesses. More of George’s startup lessons can be read at “101 Startup Lessons — An Entrepreneur’s Handbook.”

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