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How to Use Visual Storytelling in Your Sales Calls

 
 

Humans love visuals. Why do you think feature-length films and video streaming services are so popular? When storytelling is presented in a visual medium, something changes in the human brain that fires on all cylinders and activates areas deep within our brain that allow us to deeply process information.

 

Storytelling in sales and marketing is no different.

 

In this episode, Jeff discusses:

 

-The power of visual storytelling techniques and their direct connection with influence

 

-The use of illustrations, analogies, metaphors, and visual aids in storytelling

 

-A familiar narrative pattern that is used in stories and how using a story to influence the customer is going to be much more effective when building that relationship and using your influence

 

 

Sound like something you and your team could learn from?

 

Check out the podcast!

3 Reasons Sales Leaders Are Losing Their Jobs

When I was back in corporate America, I remember moving from one role to the next in order to learn as much as possible and “climb” my way up the corporate ladder. I’d move from the field to marketing, to sales management, back to marketing, then to a higher level of sales leadership, all the while keeping my eye on the dream prize, Executive Vice President of Sales. One might think that a position of such importance and stature would be filled by the greatest minds in our industry and would very seldom come open. To my encouragement, and at the time naivety, that position seemed to open up every couple of years. As I got closer to the top of the pyramid, I began to notice the revolving trend. I began to ask what was causing the consistent turnover in that position. The answers I received were clouded and cloaked in politics, but always came down to the same three reasons:

 

1.  Not enough revenue growth

2. Not enough revenue growth

3. Not enough revenue growth

 

Were there other reasons, like managing budgets and developing better leaders? Yes, of course. But, ultimately, it always came down to one thing: not enough revenue growth.

 

In today’s landscape, CEOs and Boards of Directors are increasingly impatient for sales performance and results. The proverbial hatchet seems to fall most easily on the head of sales, regardless of the environment or extenuating circumstances.

 

As a result of this pressure to succeed, disparate and desperate attempts to solve the sales problem lead to cobbled-together solutions.

 

If we only had better leads…

 

If we only had a better CRM…

 

If we only had a more competitive pricing strategy…

 

If we only had better technology in the hands of our salespeople…

 

If we only had better product training…

 

If we only had better frontline managers who knew how to hold people accountable…

 

And on and on…

 

 

While these issues may be real and need solving, they aren’t the primary problem.

 

The real problem lies in your sales team’s inability to create true connection, differentiate themselves and your company, and bring industry-relevant insight into the customer conversation.

 

In other words, the problem is communication. Period. If your salespeople could create trust, educate the buyer around their unrecognized needs, and articulate a buying vision focused on a differentiated solution, you would never miss quota again. Yet…

 

Only 13% of buyers believe a typical sales rep understands their business issues and can articulate how to solve them. And…

 

89% of meetings between your salespeople and prospects are deemed failures (Forrester Research).

 

As you can see, there is no CRM, product training, pricing strategy change, or enhanced technology solution that can help your sales reps have a more productive conversation with your prospects. The harsh reality is that your sales reps’ ability to communicate effectively will help you hit your corporate growth number, or their inability to communicate will force you to hit the executive recruiter’s website with a fresh resume.

The “My Why” Story

 

Everyone likes a good storyteller, right? As humans, we are drawn into a great narrative, and if executed correctly, great things can happen. What about in sales? Why not tell your customer a great story about someone other than yourself, in order to build trust along the sales journey?

 

 

In this episode, Jeff discusses:

 

-The science behind the art and effectiveness of storytelling to help build a genuine connection and trust with your potential customer

 

-The importance of having and sharing a “My Why” story

 

-Using analogies, similes and metaphors to become a great communicator who helps customers solve their problems and see the world a bit differently

 

-How to dig deeper into fostering relationships in your sales calls and meetings in order to have more effective customer conversations

 

 

Think about your “My Why” story for a second. Why do you do what you do? What beliefs have helped shape who you are personally and professionally? Give our fifth episode a listen to find out more and how you can apply these concepts today!

3 Reasons Your Sales Reps Miss Quota

Recently, I was filling my truck up with gas and went into the Shell station convenience store to get something to drink. There I was, standing in front of the open cooler door staring at seven rows of various brands of bottled water. Instinctively, I reached down and grabbed the 2 for $2 generic brand and headed for the door. As I was driving away, I glanced over in the cup holder of the passenger door of my truck and noticed an old bottle of Fiji water left there by my wife, and I remembered her comment about not liking the generic water compared to Fiji. But why? Water is water, right? It struck me how analogous salespeople are to bottles of water in today’s B2B sales landscape and the challenges that sales leaders face in helping them differentiate.

 

 

Why? Well, it takes us back to the Shell station. By and large, B2B salespeople today are perceived in their respective marketplaces as no different than bottles of water. A commodity. Is there anything less differentiated than water? The result? Your buyers, when they do choose to make a change, will reach in and pick the cheapest “solution” or continually challenge your sales team to a lower, more competitive price.

Typically, the reasons your sales reps are missing their sales quota has very little to do with poorly qualified leads, an outdated pricing strategy, poor sales collateral or an unattainable plan, yet most sales reps say that’s why they miss quota. The real reason is simple. When a sales rep misses quota, it’s directly due to their ineffective communication within the customer conversation. Period.

The term “Trusted Advisor” may be a bit cliché, but it’s still the goal of every salesperson, and it’s what executive buyers are asking for. Let’s take a look at the following equation we use to define a Trusted Advisor: 

Let’s break down each of the three into the behaviors needed to achieve Trusted Advisor status.

Personal Connection is the ability to demonstrate HONESTY, HUMILITY, AUTHENTICITY and appropriate VULNERABILITY to the prospect or customer. Professional Credibility is the ability to demonstrate KNOWLEDGE, SKILL, CAPABILITY and RELIABILITY.

Add the two of these abilities or characteristics together and divide them by the amount of Personal Agenda on display instead of the customer or prospect’s agenda. Forrester Research also found that executive buyers believe 80% of their time with salespeople is spent talking about the salesperson’s products, services and capabilities, with little to no effort in educating the buyer around insights relevant to their objectives and challenges to those objectives. This behavior scores very high on the Personal Agenda denominator.

As an example, if a salesperson is fantastic, they will score 4 out of 5 on personal connection, 4 on professional credibility and a very low 1 on personal agenda (meaning they stayed focused on the customer’s needs more often.)

If they are the opposite:

Essentially, Trusted Advisors earn both personal trust and professional trust through connection and credibility, and they have a low personal agenda rating because they focus the conversation around the buyer and their needs, not just their own products or solutions. That style earns them the right to be an “advisor” to the buyer.

When a salesperson fails to gain business and ultimately misses quota, it specifically comes down to three areas.

 

  • The buyer doesn’t trust the salesperson (a “bad gut” feeling).
  • The buyer doesn’t find the salesperson or the company they represent capable or reliable for some reason.
  • The buyer doesn’t see enough value in the solution, relative to the price you are asking.

 

All three of these areas can be corrected by changing the way the salesperson communicates to the buyer within the customer conversation.

Isn’t it ironic that we ask our salespeople to convince our prospective buyers to change, but we aren’t giving our salespeople a reason for them to actually change the way they have those conversations?

“Your buyers want to work with salespeople who have empathy for them, who understand their roles and challenges, and who can be prescriptive in helping them.” –Mark Lindwall, senior analyst, Forrester Research

The Barriers to Change

 

Everyone likes change, right?  Not so fast.  Humans may adapt well to change but when change is forced upon them, things don’t go as smoothly.  Since we are self-preserving beings, forced change can be terrifying, and it also kicks our survival instincts into gear.

 

In our fourth episode, Jeff gets into:

 

-The concept of change and the challenges our customers must overcome throughout this process

 

-Our need to control our environment and specific situations around us to feel safe

 

-The amount of risk that humans try to limit when change is forced upon them, and why they do this

 

In the Science of Sales Podcast, we look at the science behind customer decision making, and how you can directly earn and build trust with your future clients.

Great Leadership: Connection or Credibility?

We have all worked with leaders that are on different parts of the “greatness scale.” Some landed on the high side and inspired us to work better, harder and faster. Those on the low side had us brushing up our resume. What was it that made the great leaders so great and the others not-so-great?

 

Recently, I sat in the back of the room during the national meeting of one of our new clients, while the CEO delivered the opening keynote. He kicked off the meeting by welcoming everyone and laying out the next three days. He then immediately segued over and navigated smoothly through the company’s results, calling out several people in the audience who had contributed to the success of the company. He moved from topic to topic with relative ease, but something was missing. As I looked around the room, I noticed that a large majority of the 500+ people were essentially tuned out. Some were sneaking peeks at their phones while others were literally sneaking in a nap.  Nothing the CEO said was off point. He was very commanding, articulate and statesman-like. Toward the end, he gave the “call to arms” and attempted to motivate the crowd with a rousing video of customer testimonials, followed by a few last comments on how they need to be even better in the coming year. Everyone cheered and the next presenter took the stage.

 

Juxtapose that with the CEO of a different client of ours. This client has been with us for two years. He took the stage at his national meeting with a slightly different approach. He launched into an incredible story about his father. He showed pictures of he and his dad when he was young and how his dad would take him along to work and teach him about problem-solving and how to treat others. He told very specific stories with visual examples of how his dad literally gave the coat off his back to someone on the street and how his dad was known all over town because of the goofy hat he always wore.  

 

He then shifted and told the story of his father’s funeral this past summer. You could see people in the audience begin to shift in their seats. Every eye was glued on the stage. He went on to tell how he and his siblings were tasked with organizing the memorial service for their father and how the family had asked him to give the final tribute to their father. Everyone always said he looked the most like their dad. This CEO went on to tell the story of the funeral and how he tried to do his father justice with everything he had learned from him. At the end of the story, the CEO pulled out his father’s old coat and hat from under the podium and put them on. He then looked over the audience and said, “We run a company that makes a difference. It makes a difference in the lives of our customers and it makes a difference in the lives of all of our families. This company embodies the characteristics of my father. We solve problems. We work hard. We care deeply for our clients and for each other. At the end of the day, to each and every one of us in this room, our family means more to us than anything. I consider each one of you my family and I’m honored to be your CEO.”

 

After the five-minute standing ovation, guess what he did? He navigated smoothly over the numbers and results, called out several people who had made significant contributions and then told them where the results were lacking, and what they were going to do to turn those things around. What he did was the exact same thing as the first CEO, but the response to his “call to arms” was significantly different. He had the entire room ready to run through a wall for him.

 

 

Connection vs. Credibility

Most leaders have bought into the myth that credibility trumps all. They’ve gotten into the same routine day after day of keeping their chin held high and making sure everyone is accountable to results. I’m certainly not suggesting those are negative leadership traits. What I am suggesting is that if results are what you’re looking for as a leader, you must understand that when you combine the power of connection with your credibility, magic happens. What’s really satisfying for me is that the second CEO I mentioned earlier wasn’t previously known as a “connector” in his organization. He was more reserved and a bit intimidating. He was known as a very intellectual guy who could unintentionally intimidate his team just by talking. After being part of the “Braintrust family” for a couple of years, he absolutely understood his “connection deficit” and took intentional steps to change.

 

Every one of you out there has a LEADERSHIP WHY. When you can dig deep and craft it into a compelling narrative, people respond differently to you. They feel differently about you than they used to. When we ask employees of clients what difference they’ve seen in their leader, we frequently get, “I’m not sure what it is, but it just seems like he gets it now.”

 

People follow people they trust. They trust people they like and connect with. Their respect will become even greater in the presence of connection. They’ve likely always found you credible, but when they know that you know your leadership why and have taken the time to communicate it to them, everything changes.

The Brain Chemistry of Trust

 

Get ready. This episode of the Science of Sales podcast will explain some things you instinctively felt, but never knew why, and can help you tap into the science behind creating authentic, deep relationships.

 

In this episode, Jeff discusses:

 

-How connection takes an old adage to a whole new level

 

-What chemicals like oxytocin and cortisol have to do with sales conversations

 

-Why focusing on trust before credibility is an important element to making a sale

 

-The difference between “building rapport” and creating true connection

 

 

We have seen our clients time and time again start to use these simple elements in their sales engagements and produce dramatic results. Put these strategies in place and we know they will have a massive impact on your sales!

How Adopting From India Reinforced My “Why”

To my normal audience out there who might be used to articles and information on sales and marketing, I am taking a bit of a detour to share something a little more personal. My hope is that by the end, you will have found something in this article that inspires the “inner you” as well.

 

Not too long ago, I spent a couple of weeks in the country of India where my wife and I adopted Priya, our beautiful little girl. If you’ve never traveled to India, it is a country of great contrasts. So much beauty and such amazing people, surrounded often by so much hurt and poverty. I was moved to tears a couple of different times on our journey and humbled to my core at how much we take for granted.

 

As someone who leads a company that specializes in messaging and communication, I’m continually coaching clients on developing and communicating their “why” story. As part of this story, I ask them to dig in and uncover what it is that they believe. You know, those universal, fundamental human beliefs that unite us, not divide us.

 

I was lucky enough to be raised on a farm and my Papaw taught me several of those beliefs. He taught me about the value of hard work, as he’d let me drive our old, green John Deere tractor, standing between his knees, all around our 100-acre farm. He taught me that people who can help other people solve problems will always live a fulfilling life. He taught me that treating other people better than they expect should simply be the norm (we call it the platinum rule around my house).  Whether it was filling up a neighbors truck anonymously or literally giving the shirt off his back, he actively lived this rule. But the one thing he taught me that I cherish the most was that family matters more than anything else. Long after your peers and colleagues are gone, it will be your family that remains, so treat them accordingly.

 

If you’re like me, your personal “why” is a part of you, but can sometimes get drowned out by the noise and demands of life. It’s easy to get bogged down in the daily grind of simply trying to grow a business or meet a quota, all in the name of “provision.” The reality is, most of us would be OK if our livelihood were suddenly taken away. For some of you, that’s happened…maybe more than once. The older I get, the more I appreciate perspective. Why do we work all those hours and chase all those leads and make all those phone calls? Because, as Papaw taught me so many years ago, family matters most. I have always believed this, but my trip to India brought it to a whole new level.

 

As I walked through the orphanage in Assam, India and played soccer with the orphans that we, unfortunately, wouldn’t be able to take home, I was overwhelmed with a large dose of perspective. After about an hour of playing with the kids, several of them began calling me “Papa” and hanging tightly to my legs. Perspective. As I took a tour of the hospice center in the back of the compound and saw 87 frail and dejected TB- and HIV-patients just laying in cots in the middle of a large concrete room, waiting on a nun to come by and help them, I was hit with it once again. Perspective.

 

People repeatedly tell us what a noble and selfless thing we have done by adopting Priya, but the reality is that it’s nowhere near enough. We pulled one beautiful, helpless orphan from a sea of desperate need. Will we change her life forever? Of course. Will she change ours as well? Absolutely. But my heart breaks nonetheless for those kids, the ones wrapped around my legs calling me “Papa,”  that we had to walk away from.

 

As human beings, we are all family. It’s a shame that we don’t live that way. There are over 30 million orphans in the country of India alone, all looking for someone to call “Papa.” Family matters most.

 

Our careers don’t define us. Our beliefs do. When you live out your beliefs, that’s when you really make a difference in this world. It doesn’t mean you have to travel to the other side of the world to live out those beliefs. It simply means that you have figured out a way to allow your beliefs to manifest themselves every day and in every interaction. I am thankful that I had a “sage” like my Papaw, who poured into me and taught me what really matters. I try to run our company with the same beliefs. Do we always get it right? Probably not. But in a world that has become increasingly transactional, we have developed some of the best personal relationships with our clients because the relationship is built upon the rock of common beliefs.

 

Why are we so afraid in our business culture to let our guard down a bit, letting those we work with and for really know who we are? What are we afraid of? Getting taken advantage of? Being fired? Having a prospect look at us like we have two heads? So what? Let them look. Nine of the other ten prospects are going to see something different in your eyes. Something that connects.

 

What are your beliefs? Who had the biggest influence in your life, teaching you those beliefs? How do those beliefs help you make a difference in the world today, both personally and professionally?

 

Sure, we can continue to try the traditional approach to business (and to life), but that generally leaves us feeling a bit empty at the end of the day, doesn’t it? I’d much rather people know the real me. The guy they can trust personally. The old farm boy from Ohio who’d travel across the world to live out the beliefs his Papaw taught him thirty years ago, not for his own accolades and glory, but out of humility for all that he’s been given and what’s been done for him. That’s the guy I want them to know. If they know that guy, then the business will take care of itself. Perspective.

Cognitive Biases in the Sales Conversation

 

In the second episode of the Science of Sales podcast, we dive into some of the biases that your customers are predisposed to before you ever engage with them. These are important to understand because they will better inform what can feel like illogical responses to a seemingly perfect sales pitch.

 

In this episode, we will dive into:

 

  • Six of the cognitive biases that might be affecting your customers’ decision-making
  • How understanding the Risk of Loss bias can help you understand some of our most natural tendencies as human beings
  • What the Anchor Effect is and how to overcome it in a sales conversation
  • How we experience Confirmation Bias in our everyday lives and why your prospects are likely influenced by it when presented with new information

 

And so much more! This episode is PACKED full of awesome strategies and tools that will have a significant impact on your business when leveraged in your sales conversations. Hope you enjoy it, and let us know if you have any questions!

https://braintrust101.wpengine.com/resources/#podcast

Are You Getting Left Behind? The B2B Social Selling Wave

In 2002, Reid Hoffman and a few of his buddies came over from Paypal and SocialNet to start a networking site called LinkedIn. They knew people had extensive networks of people with whom they had built trust over several decades. After all, people buy from people they trust. What started with just 6,000 users the first month grew to 37,000 after six months and now sits at over 500,000,000 members today.

As individuals, we love feeling connected. We love sharing updates and information. From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn, the social media space, which was once just a playground for the individual on a personal level, has evolved into a must-have strategy for every organization regardless of size.

Depending on which study you trust, today’s B2B buyer is already at least halfway or more through their buying cycle before they engage the sales rep. If you don’t believe that to be true, I’d encourage you to look at your own buying habits. Where’s the first place you go when you realize you need something? The Internet. There is an endless amount of information available to today’s buyer. The key is to build trust prior to their realization that they need something.

 

 

What Is Social Selling?

 

Social selling is the new normal. In a nutshell, social selling is when a company and their people passively and (eventually) actively engage with their prospects through social media by providing useful insights and content that helps educate their ideal buyer, all while building trust and credibility subconsciously. In other words, social selling is about creating connection and building trust, without necessarily having face-to-face contact.

B2B buyers trust their peers, industry journals and forums far more than the telemarketer attempting to set a first appointment to discuss a product they didn’t even know they needed. When they see a large social network engaging in a discussion around a topic that you and your team are part of, it not only engages them, but it also increases your visibility and credibility. Eventually, the engagement builds to a point in which your sales people can begin to interact directly with interested parties. Ultimately, this leads to a prospect being entered into the active stages of the buying journey. Social Selling, when done properly and purposefully, can be one of the top driving factors in your sales performance.

 

 

The Buyer Journey

 

Let’s take a look at the “Buyer Journey Stages” below.

 

No Need  > Awareness  >  Research  >  Evaluation  >  Decision  >  Execution

 

Social selling is tremendously helpful in the first two stages of the Buyer Journey. When the buyer (a) doesn’t know they have an issue, but sees an article or post highlighting their challenge, it can trigger a question in their minds. Or, (b) the buyer knows they have an issue and is actively looking for content and information from trusted sources. If you and your company do a great job of educating the market around challenges that you are capable of solving, you will become a well-respected source of information for your buyers.

While this may all seem simple, most B2B sales companies are behind the times. They haven’t bought in yet and are losing to the up-and-coming tech-savvy companies who are actively leveraging social selling to grow their reputation as a trusted resource.

 

 

The Barriers to Successful Social Selling

 

1. Not enough content

One of the critical components of being a social seller and thought leader is to provide content. For many, this seems to be a monumental task. Do I have the ability to write enough content and have enough things to say to really drive interest in my posts? After all, we have learned that a steady stream of content is critical to the success of social media. Is the reality that you have to create a steady stream (weekly or even daily) of brand new content? In a word, no. Fresh content created by you or thought leaders within your organization is great but curating content written by others can also have a powerful impact.

2. Not having a documented social strategy

Like most things, a lack of preparation will doom a plan to failure before it even begins. There are a lot of nuances to Social Selling that, at the surface, may not seem to be major items. But when taken in the overall context, these nuances can really hurt the effectiveness of your campaign. A documented strategy for adoption across your entire organization (more on that in the next bullet point) is critical. To suddenly decide one day that your salespeople are going to stop cold-calling and concentrate on Social Selling might well result in your termination rather than phenomenal revenue growth. You have to put in place executive sponsorship, training, organizational adoption, alignment of goals, and, possibly most importantly, measurements of success. There is a great video by Mario Martinez, Jr., a recognized Social Selling leader, that speaks to having a plan in place for Social Selling. I encourage all of you to take a look at that here: Webinar: Social Selling

3. Not leveraging the entire organization

As I mentioned before, organizational adoption is critical to the success of a Social Selling plan. Ideally, your entire company is aware of the Social Selling goals and participates at some level. At a minimum, your Sales and Marketing organizations must be involved. Why is this so critical? One of the mains areas of power in Social Selling is connection. If Social Selling is only adopted by a few in the organization, the network of connections is relatively small. When the entire organization is involved, the network is virtually infinite. Your team could be looking to work with an executive buyer and find out that someone in your operations team is a friend of his or hers. That is power that can only be unlocked with strong organizational adoption.

Social Selling is not a fad. It’s here and it’s here to stay. It gives early adopting B2B companies a huge competitive advantage.