How to Use Stories in Sales and Coaching

I love a story don’t you? I love the detail of a good yarn, one that captures my attention.  A thrilling film, a funny report in the newspaper, a snippet from a friend in the pub. But did you know you can use stories really effectively in selling and coaching. Read on and I’ll show you how.

Stories are part of life and very hypnotic. So much so because a good story bypasses the conscious mind, and lets us relax and enjoy the lesson.  That’s why they’re good to use in selling and coaching.  They work and move people.

And if we see a parallel to our current lives, we spot it immediately; at least our sub conscious does and acts accordingly.

You see that’s how we should use stories in selling and coaching.  Carefully craft your story, memory or metaphor to solve the problem of a customer or coachee. Preserve the structure of the problem but change the story.

Here’s a story I use to help salespeople bring up the subject of illness insurance for their customers.  Enjoy the story and then I’ll show you how I crafted it at the end.

“I was on duty so to speak, refereeing a junior rugby match with my Under 12’s one wet and cold Sunday morning.  The northerly wind was swirling in over the playing fields, mums and dads with flasks of hot coffee huddled in their overcoats and onto the field trudged our team.

At age 12 you see all sorts of sizes and shapes in players.  Some lads develop early as testosterone kicks in, some fail to grow at all and that one little lad was Matt. A tiny slender frame of a boy but refreshingly happy and eager to play every Sunday.  Always chatty and excited and often the first to the breakdown on the pitch.

After just 2 minutes the opposition kicked the ball into our half and Matt, as always was the first to the ball. Matt only knew one direction…that was forward and within seconds was surrounded by about 6 of their players and soon after joined by about 6 of ours to form a maul.

Pushing and shoving, yanking and pulling, the maul was going nowhere but just before I blew the whistle, the maul collapsed. When mauls collapse, pounds of human flesh and bones pile on top of each other. Poor Matt, was on the bottom of the pile and couldn’t move. After a short while and a dose of the wet sponge, he was led to the sidelines where he sat bewildered and bruised. He lived to tell the story with no broken bones, but he couldn’t get to school the next day or a few days after that.

The next day his Dad emailed me to explain that Matt didn’t want to play rugby anymore as the bashing and bruising that he got every Sunday was just too much and he was regularly missing school. I hadn’t been aware of this until then and I wholeheartedly agreed with his dad’s wishes.

Matt was affected by physical bumps and bruises which kept him away from school and ultimately the game of rugby. What about you? If you had some major bumps and knocks, something that kept you off work, how might you cope with a loss of income? Have you thought about that before?”

To craft a story, think of something that’s true and has a similar problem within it. Remember the details, the fine points, they make all the difference. Then follow this structure:

  1. Set the scene (remember my cold wet Sunday morning refereeing rugby, wind howling…)
  2. Introduce the character (can you see Matt in your mind’s eye, a slight lad with a big smile)
  3. Go on a journey (Matt caught the ball and headed straight into the group of players
  4. Have an obstacle to overcome (getting through the maul safely and with the ball)
  5. The phrase that pays (how would bashes and bruises affect your ability to earn a living with bills to pay)

So I challenge you to think of a problem or an issue that your customers or coachees might face, an objection you regularly get and then reach into the deep recesses of your memory and develop a short story you can use to tell a customer or coachee. They work, try them and remember to rehearse the story so you get all the detail right everytime.