It’s an obvious strategy to talk to your customers about the successes your product or service has enabled. It’s equally important that you are sharing your customer success stories with marketing so that they can use them to develop new content. But are you also making sure you share your customer success stories with your sales colleagues – and are they sharing theirs with you? Rather than wait for marketing to roll out new case studies, you could be using all these stories immediately as you work to impress on new customers the benefits of your products/services.
What qualifies as a story worth sharing?
When sharing stories with your customers, you might be tempted to skip straight to a happy ending: Customer X saved 80% on costs by switching to us, or Company B increased sales by 45% thanks to Product Y. Don’t forget that the best stories have a beginning, a middle and an end and that your new customers are just at the beginning of theirs.
The beginning of the story is the part you need them to be able to relate to; the end is what you want them to aspire to. So the stories worth sharing are those with a good, meaty plot – one where you fully appreciate the customer’s journey.
This article from CustomerThink calls these ‘Change Stories’. The article posits that these kinds of stories make the customer the hero, whereas straightforward success stories make the vendor the hero – a less appealing option. With change stories, you’re showing all the reasons the customer needed to change, emphasizing the problem over the solution. (The article summarizes this as drown the customer before you rescue them. Gosh, salespeople are a friendly bunch.)
Crucially, the stories worth sharing highlight difficulties that other customers will be able to identify with, helping them to see the need for change.
With whom should you share it?
But here is what often happens: Marketing emails round asking for a good case study. The salesperson emails back with some details and marketing does their thing, creating a lovely piece of content for use in a trade magazine or on the website. Then everyone moves on to the next project.
Case studies, as we’ve said before, are really too long to share in the course of a sales pitch, so though the resource is available to other salespeople in your team – and to customers doing their research before they come to you – there’s also a chance it will pass them all by.
The people that really need to know are your colleagues in the sales department. They’re the frontline storytellers, constantly building an argument for the customer to make a change. They need all the help they can get.
The benefits of telling stories to your sales team
Humans are born storytellers. Before the written word, that’s how we passed on our histories, warned against dangers, and learned about good and bad. In many cultures, that’s still the case. Reading a story is fine, and if it’s well written and the reader is receptive, it might just do the trick. Telling a story, though, is a better way of ensuring your audience’s attention. You can add drama and emphasis. You can watch their reactions to see how they are responding and adjust your presentation accordingly. In short, it has all the benefits of a face-to-face meeting over email. So why not encourage your sales team to share their customer stories in the same way? Here are just a few things everyone would get out of that scenario:
- An opportunity to practice storytelling
- Team bonding (and a chance to compete over who has the best story)
- A new story to add to your sales conversation
- The opportunity to observe the storytelling skills of others
It isn’t rocket science. It doesn’t even need to be that time-consuming. You might prefer to do it in small groups, or big groups, or put the storyteller up on a stage in front of hundreds, or all of the above. The important thing is that the story is shared among your sales team so that they can put it to use out in the field.
Sharing with the customer
We’ve established that a 1500 word case study is too long to ask your customer to read during a meeting. Instead, why not tell the story with the aid of a good testimonial video and send the case study on as part of your follow-up? You might have a number of similar stories that lend themselves to graphical representation, or a simple list of statistics that make for impressive bullet points or an infographic.
The key is to know the story well enough that you don’t have to refer back to notes or figures and you can devote your energies to telling it properly. The visual aids are to help your customer process what they’re hearing.
The benefit of having a Sales Enablement Tool with an app for your mobile device is to take care of the visual stuff so that you can concentrate on doing the story justice. And of course, the visuals will provide a cue should you veer off course – and make sure that everyone in your sales team is telling the same story.
Do you have any tips for sharing stories internally? We’d love to hear from you!