The Three Key Attributes of an Impactful Sales Story

By Rod Griffith
June 30, 2016

Most B2B marketers understand that gaining customer attention and mindshare can be significantly improved by shifting away from “pitching products”—and instead—telling your story. Compelling sales stories can serve to better educate your potential customers, illustrate your key strategic value and differentiation, provide important credibility and proof points, or simply help you be more memorable.

It’s no surprise that when it comes to creating good sales stories, content is still king. [See my article, “Content is King,” from 2014.]

Here, we define three key attributes of an effective, impactful sales story:

  • Engaging—Good content marketing isn’t about pitching your company or solutions; it’s about telling an engaging story that your customers can relate to. And telling an engaging story requires some attention and thought. A good technique to gain immediate attention to your story is to start off by contradicting a long-held assumption, or contesting common thoughts and approaches that are perhaps no longer valid. Say something bold and unexpected. For the story content, don’t be afraid to discuss an interesting aspect of your history or experiences—or discuss a customer’s path to solve a critical strategic challenge (with their permission, of course). Prospective customers actively seek insights and viewpoints from experienced companies in their industry. Define your story as a compelling journey your customer will want to go on with you.
  • Relevant—Make sure your story is relevant to your customers: both their business environment and pain points. If you’re not addressing one of the major challenges that keeps them awake at night, you’re not going to maintain their attention. High-priority needs get high-priority attention.Generally speaking, the issues and challenges that are typically most relevant to B2B decision makers often deal with either a) business performance, b) business risk or threats, or c) personal professional performance (e.g., “Is my job in jeopardy?” or “Will I get that promotion?”) As you develop your own story, continually ask yourself, “Why does this matter to the target decision maker?” If you can’t answer that, it’s probably worth considering removing that element. And keep asking this question throughout your content planning process.
  • Actionable—Engaging and relevant sales stories should be designed to support specific, desired customer actions. So, the first thing you need to do is define your desired customer action. With that completed, you need to create content that organically leads customers to your desired next-step action. You can be successful in creating content that is engaging and relevant, but it doesn’t serve your goals if customers aren’t left with a desire to DO something (e.g., learn more, visit your website, attend your webinar, view your video, sign up for your newsletter, talk to one of your experts, etc.)

Keep your story concise and purposeful

There is a tendency to develop messaging and content by committee. At larger companies, there can be two dozen or more people trying to influence content to include their specific product, industry, or area of focus. In an effort to please everyone, content developers often include much more material than originally intended. And the resulting sales tools are often far too lengthy and too detailed.

It’s important to keep your stories concise and purposeful. Your audience doesn’t want to spend all day consuming your content. Find a way to tell your story with fewer words. “When in doubt, take it out” is a smart rule.

In addition, look for opportunities to replace text with an infographic, illustration, or photo. (“A picture is worth a thousand words,” right?)

Make the commitment to content marketing

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s report on 2016 B2B Content Marketing Trends—North America, B2B marketers indicated their biggest content marketing challenge was producing engaging content. It’s easy to simply write about the features and benefits of your products or services—but that’s not what typically gets customers to first engage with you. You need to tell a story—not pitch a product. And that takes a commitment of time and resources—and the talent to make it engaging, relevant, and actionable.