Storytelling: The Secret to Captivating B2B Marketers

December 7, 2015 Anna Afshar

Storytelling Sales

In the marketing world, word spreads fast about which tactics work, and which don't. It’s an ever-changing landscape with even faster-changing tastes. Sounds a lot like the typical consumer, doesn't it?

Unlike most consumers, however, marketers are the creativity behind the tactics that are going to engage potential buyers six months from now.

Marketers are smart — especially B2B marketers. They see through typical pushy sales tactics. And, given that their job is inherently creative, they don't respond well to dry, unengaging pitches.

Selling to a marketer can be daunting, to say the least.

However, if you can show a marketer something they haven’t seen before, the likelihood of getting a response (and, ultimately, a sale) goes way up. One way to do this is to adopt a more creative sales approach. Another way is by providing value with content.

While these are both effective tactics, they can both be supplemented by a strategy that is almost as old as humankind: storytelling.  While storytelling has been a sales best practice for some time, it helps to understand why and how it works before jumping into implementation. 

It all starts with a key hormone in the human body called oxytocin, also referred to as “the trust hormone”. The purpose of oxytocin is to release feelings of trust, triggered by empathy. It tells our brain we can let our guard down and cooperate with others.

What does all this have to do with marketing? Neuroscience hack for the day: storytelling releases oxytocin. As such, storytelling is one of the best ways to make people trust you and want to listen to you.

In order to generate these feelings of empathy and participation, the story needs to hold the subject’s attention by using tension. In other words, you need to create a negative or problematic landscape that your product or service can fix, and in which your prospect — the marketer — is the hero.

So, how can you apply this concept in your sales conversations and engage marketers through storytelling? Try these pro tips.

Know your audience

Every story ever told has an audience where it will go over well, and another audience where it will totally flop.

Think of it this way: would you tell the exact same version of some of the stories from your college days to your friends as you would to your boss? Probably not. Same idea goes for pitching to a marketer — make sure you truly understand your prospect's reality, as well as the foundation of why you’re reaching out.

Here are some ways to set that foundation:

  • Learn about your prospect as a person. Check out their LinkedIn and Twitter. Look for things like current and previous work, their specific role, publications in which they're featured, and mutual connections. I also find that many "About Me" descriptions tend to have an interesting line or two that you can use in an initial email (e.g., mention their favorite sports team or hobby). If you can add a little human touch, you’ll show the marketer you’ve done your research and that you’re not just a robot. 

  • Learn about the company. There’s a nifty tool called Datanyze that we love here at Uberflip. It’s a simple Chrome extension that allows you to see a company’s annual revenue, how many employees they have, and most importantly, what software they are using. This provides a high-level glance at where the company stands relative to your ideal customer profile.

  • Predict their pain points and goals. At this point, you should have a few ideas as to  how your product or service can help your prospect. You may be wrong, but that’s okay — once you pick up the phone, your first point of action is to validate. Never just continue to assume. Use the little bit that you know to show you did your research, but use their time to validate your hypothesis.

Now that you know your audience, it's time to get deep into the story's main conflict. Which brings me to my next point...

Name the problem

Start off by describing the reality that exists today, and don’t make it pretty.

There’s always room for improvement, so focus on any industry-wide pain points and why accepting them will keep you at status quo. Be careful here though — you want to make sure to frame the pain points in a way that relates to the company and your prospect specifically. The better your foundational knowledge of the company is, the more likely you are to hit pain points that are specific to the marketer you’re talking to.

Make it clear why these issues aren’t fun to deal with and why they exist in the first place, and even relate their problems to those of other marketers you’ve spoken to. You’re bringing empathy into the game already and building tension — double-whammy!

Create urgency       

This is especially important when selling to marketers. CMOs are starting to outspend CIOs, and the marketing technology landscape is exploding. As such, there’s TONS of products and services a marketer can buy, many with an expanded budget, and it’s all very novel.

So, why should they buy you, and why now? A lot of marketers are used to sitting at the status quo. Dropping lines like, “You don’t have budget? I’m not surprised. Our solution is new — it’s going to take your marketing tactics to the next level, not help you keep status quo.”

Help them understand the importance in being ahead of the game, starting with your solution.

Build excitement

After you narrated a world with tons of problems, and why those problems are only going to get worse and keep their company at status quo, it’s time to finally tell them how your platform is going to solve their pain points and help them achieve their goals.

Give a high-level overview of your product or service as it specifically applies to their interests and pain points, but don’t get into too much detail yet. Ask questions like, “If I could solve problem X, how would it make you feel?” or “If I could help you generate $X in revenue, what would your boss think?” This is going to get them thinking about a future where they not only don’t have the same issues, they’re crushing their goals.

Present the solution

At this point, if your storytelling strategy has worked, they're ready for the final chapter. Start pitching your solution, but make sure it’s contextual to the foundation you built, pain points you’ve discovered, and goals they want to reach. 

Storytelling is really important here, too. Make sure your demo plays out like a day in the life of someone using the platform or implementing the solution. Whatever you do, don’t just present features — let this be an opportunity to bring up case studies and other customers who have had similar issues and overcome them using your solution.

The more contextual you are, the more empathy you’re going to get from your prospect. End off with a picture of a world after implementing your solution, or after using it for six months, a year, etc. The point is to make them see how amazing the world could be.

And they all lived happily ever after

B2B marketers are a tricky breed. They may be wary of your end game, but the right tactics can turn even the most skeptical marketers into believers.

Make a conscious effort to introduce storytelling into your conversations, and I can assure you that plenty of closed deals and happy endings lie ahead.

Forget coffee — content is for closers. Learn how to leverage content for sales enablement in our free eBook.

About the Author

Anna Afshar

Anna is a Content Strategist at Uberflip. When she's not helping to empower marketers to create amazing content experiences, you can find her taking photographs of her favorite spots around Toronto.

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