Using Conversational Storytelling to Drive the Bottom Line

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One irony of the digital era is that, despite the abundance of channels and tools for extending the reach of marketing messages to target audiences, making meaningful connections with customers only seems to be getting harder.

That’s particularly evident in sales. Sales teams are struggling to close deals, and a key reason is that their sales presentations are falling flat with customers who value relevancy and expect to be engaged in return for giving their time. Consider this finding from a recent Heinz Marketing survey: About two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents who cited ineffective and non-engaging presentations as a primary contributor to lack of growth said they missed their sales goals.

Of course, marketing leaders want to enable sales teams to succeed and help drive the bottom line. Making conversational storytelling a best practice for presenting can help on both fronts. The approach combines visual storytelling with conversational, non-linear presenting, allowing marketers to take sales presentations to an entirely new level and lay the groundwork for building lasting relationships with customers. Conversational storytelling also helps sales professionals make more meaningful connections with their prospects and customers.

A two-way approach to presenting

Conversational storytelling is a nonlinear, highly-visual, and narrative-based approach to presenting information. Instead of the traditional, static, “monologue” model of engagement, content is shared in a way that mirrors dialogue between two or more people. The result is a more natural, immersive, interactive, and effective presentation.

A nonlinear approach to presenting is essential in today’s sales and marketing environment, particularly because consumers have access to so much information about a company before they even meet with a salesperson. They consult review sites, read various publications for general overviews, consult social networks for expert validation, and more. By the time they are ready to talk business, they don’t want to know what they already know or learn about things they don’t care about — they want to ask specific questions and share their opinions.

With conversational storytelling, marketers kick off sales conversations with prospects by asking them, essentially: “What would you like to know?” Customers feel empowered because they can choose the starting point for the discussion and get to the information that interests them faster. And when marketers have clear direction on how to chart the right course for their presentation — which can lead to better outcomes — they feel empowered, too.

A more effective and persuasive format

Conversational storytelling lets sales teams present information in a way that aligns with the purchase decision-making process of the modern consumer. Just think about how you typically consume information when visiting the website of a service you’re thinking about signing up for. You don’t read every bit of copy on every single page and subpage before making a decision, right? Instead, you select and explore the information that is most relevant and interesting to you. That is exactly how conversational storytelling works.

That approach also helps salespeople tailor their pitch, on the fly, to suit different audiences — something they are under great pressure to do (and do well). It also allows marketers to get more mileage out of the content they develop for sales teams — provided it’s designed to support organic, nonlinear, two-way conversations with prospects.

Making the shift to conversational storytelling is valuable because interactive presentations, supported by the right platform, are proven to get results. A Harvard University study found that the nonlinear format resonates more with audiences than traditional presentations. For example, study participants rated interactive presentations as 25 percent more effective and 22 percent more persuasive than one-way presentation formats.

Separate research yielded similar findings: Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they found a flexible presentation with two-way interaction with the presenter more persuasive than a linear presentation. Sixty-nine percent said the nonlinear format was more engaging. And 72 percent said such presentations were more memorable.

A way to make sales magic

Effective, persuasive, engaging and memorable: these are terms that also describe your best salespeople . Examine their tactics and you’ll no doubt find that they are masters at engaging in natural conversations with customers about information most relevant to their business. They make “magic” in sales by making customers feel like they’re not being sold to. Instead, they are invited into a collaborative process that is customized to their needs and interests. And by tailoring the conversation to what the audience wants to hear, its speeds the sales process to uncover what resonates and provides an earlier view to what prospects and customers value .

The conversational storytelling approach can help everyone in your sales and marketing organization make that same magic with customers — and drive the bottom line. And because they will learn a lot about customers through two-way conversations, they will be well-positioned to find ways to continue engaging them long after they close the first deal.