The Importance of Metaphors & Stories in B2B Sales

February 29, 2016 Jamie Kornblum

Importance of metaphors in sales and selling

In B2B sales, it’s often tough to cut through the clutter in order to get our point across to our prospects. It’s even more difficult to be remembered, stay relevant in our prospects minds, and make things happen if we are unable to deliver our message effectively.

We often forget that as much as we know what we do as a business, it might be difficult to paint a picture for the individual on the other end of the conversation. So you might sometimes ask yourself, “How do I deliver a really complex message in a simple way? Why is this person not understanding what I’m saying?”

One way that salespeople can really differentiate themselves and add value is by using metaphors in the sales process; or better yet, telling stories.

What makes for a good metaphor?

There isn’t one distinct rule or idea that comes along with a “good metaphor”. However, I do think that a good metaphor needs a few different characteristics.

It makes an emotional connection

One way that your message can have a profound impact is if you’re able to inspire your listener and build an emotional connection with them. Make your brand or product synonymous with something that might inspire or resonate with your prospect in everyday life. (Hint: this might take a little research on your end).

It uses visuals

Visuals give people the ability to really capture your message. Since people hear words but think in pictures, visual metaphors are one of the best ways to control the sales process. Get creative and put together some visual examples that will keep your prospects engaged while you are pitching to them. Visual metaphors allow the message to be compelling and memorable.

It is simple and concrete

Do your best to paint a quick picture rather than telling a long, drawn-out story. You will lose your listener if you need to do a lot of explaining. The idea is to tell a quick story that’s simple and concrete to effectively get your point across.

There are many other ways that metaphors can effectively deliver a complex message in a simple way, but these are the ones I felt were the most relevant. That being said, why don’t we take a look at a few ways salespeople can lose their prospects by using metaphors ineffectively.

What makes a metaphor fail?

One way that a metaphor can really fall flat is if it's a cliché. It's unoriginal, dried up, and, most importantly, everyone has heard it before. When using a cliché not only will your message get lost among the hundreds of other people using it, but it will likely turn your consumer off.

Another way a metaphor can flop is if it completely fails to tell a story that’s relevant in the minds of your audience. A metaphor is designed to bring two diverse ideas together; however, there should be an intrinsic connection between the two.

Turning metaphors into stories that help us sell

This brings me to my last, and probably most important, point of the day. Stories sell.

Stories have a profound impact on our brains and on our behavior. They give us the ability to think outside the box and look at the bigger picture.

At Uberflip, we use stories to help illustrate the idea that Uberflip is the Ferrari of content experiences. We describe that having great content without a great experience is similar to a professional racecar driver using a Toyota Prius to compete. We continue to explain that using Uberflip to power your content experience is like that same racecar driver using a Ferrari to compete. See the connect there?

Here’s another story we like to tell here at Uberflip:

Content marketing is typically like cable TV – marketers put up content on their site chronologically in silos and let people come consume it (kind of like the different channels). No recommendation for other content, no journey – just the hope that your audience doesn't bounce.

We are like Netflix. Content is segmented in a way that makes sense for your audience (like action, drama, comedy). Once a piece of content is being consumed your audience is being offered up more relevant content to keep the journey going. Everything we do, like Netflix, is to keep users on site. Before you know it, you're 12 episodes (or blog posts) in and it's 4am!

Even if our audience knows what we do and why we do it, telling a story can have a memorable and lasting effect on our pitch. After all, who wouldn’t want to drive a Ferrari or watch 10 episodes of Breaking Bad?

Used strategically, stories and metaphors give B2B salespeople the opportunity to make presentations memorable and more persuasive, and get their audience to see real value before they’ve really seen anything at all.

We all know that a good salesperson can talk, but it’s a great salesperson who looks at the bigger picture and can tell an unforgettable story.

Learn how to better leverage your company's content for better sales enablement in our eBook, Content is for Closers.

About the Author

Jamie Kornblum

Jamie is a Content Strategist at Uberflip. He empowers marketers to create killer content experiences that convert. Prior to joining Uberflip, Jamie studied at the University of Guelph in the Commerce Co-op program with a focus in Marketing Management. When not in the office, Jamie is playing pickup hockey with his friends, planning his next big ski trip to the Rockies, or watching his Toronto sports teams compete.

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