Tell with facts, sell through stories

Watching the movie tends to kill your expectations from reading the gripping novel. Now you know why.

Facts tell, stories sell.  Facts appeal to logic; stories, emotion.  Facts keep us going because they trigger the emotion, that initially moved us, when it wanes.

Expert sellers fuse both into one. Like this hawker once did in a bus I was in. He made a statement, announcing to us passengers, “You see this pen.” (He held it up) “A composition that your child is required to write in forty minutes, he will write in ten.” The entire bus burst out laughing; more importantly, we bought. Being blue, slim and writing smoothly were facts. He didn’t even mention them. The story is what moved us.  To date, I’m not sure whether it’s the laughter of the absurdity, or the love for children that moved us.  Maybe it’s both. It doesn’t matter. It only matters that we were moved to buy.

“Our fuel has additives that clean the piping as it flows in them, meaning you don’t have to shut down your factory for maintenance,” is stating a fact. And such facts, unless being made in jest, must be true. “As such, we can reduce your manufacturing costs by 9 per cent and increase your efficiency by twenty,” is still fact but it is begging for a story, because the executive is likely to ask, “How?”  You have his attention now. The facts serve another purpose. The improved efficiency will trigger his emotion (when it wanes long after you’ve shared a story), further justifying the purchase.

Stories can be an anecdote, experience, example, a testimony, statement or any brief account of things that vividly brings to life, the buyer’s problem or your solution to it.  For instance, “Our two-door lift allows exit from both sides,” tells a fact. Now here is the accompanying story; a testimony: “One of our clients, a warehouse manager like you, told us that accidents in his warehouse dropped from nine a year to zero, to date, ever since they installed this lift. He told of the heightened safety because the forklift driver’s movements this way and that across floors were now limited; and, there was no need for a ramp for him to climb. All the driver does nowadays, the warehouse manager said, is drive into the lift, move to the necessary floor, and exit from the desired side. Is this improvement in safety something you can relate to?” Now you are selling.

Facts fire the intellect; stories fire the imagination.  As an auditor and subscriber, once shared, “Instead of fighting with causal labourers about accepting National Health Insurance Fund deductions, I paint for them a picture of their children upcountry falling sick and the resulting disruption to their erratic wages. They usually queue to sign up thereafter.” Watching a movie (fact, because you take it as it is) tends to splash cold water over your heightened expectations of it, born of an animated imagination from reading the gripping novel. (A story). Now you know why.

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