How to connect brand and sales with oral stories to accelerate growth

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —March 19, 2014
Filed in Business storytelling, Communication, Strategy

Salespeople detest brand gobbledygook.

And it’s no wonder. Have you heard brand lingo lately?

Lovemarks, saliency, brand-defined competitive sets, brand character, brand claims, brand personality, 80-slide PowerPoint presentations sprinkled with made-up words and forgettable catchphrases …

It’s hard for a salesperson to understand this brand bumf, much less translate it into something they can share with a prospect. Good salespeople do convey the brand, but they do it intuitively by sharing stories that illustrate the brand in action. Like most experts, however, they’re mostly unaware of this skill and their story repertoire. They just do it.

The bridge connecting brand and sales

A systematic approach to sales storytelling can bridge the divide between brand and sales and bring the brand to life.

There are 4 steps in building this bridge.

1. Find the stories that are already being told

Story collection is a big part of what we do at Anecdote. It helps our clients discover what’s really happening in their businesses. We use a technique called anecdote circles.

By collecting the stories told by your salespeople, you will understand how they currently illustrate the brand, what problems they deal with, how they differentiate your offerings, and what really works in the field.

Collecting stories also allows you to make the first deposits in the story bank (Anecdote has a story bank solution called Zahmoo) that you will later share with your entire sales force.

2. Identify the stories that are on-brand and those that are off-brand

With a collection of stories at hand, you can now get the brand guys together with the sales folk to discuss which stories are excellent examples of the brand in action and which ones demonstrate where things are off-brand. Both perspectives are equally important.

This conversation between sales and branding is vital, which is why you should use real-life stories to kick things off. By starting with something that’s concrete and specific rather than an abstract description of a brand, a much richer and more useful conversation will result.

3. Teach salespeople and brand people oral storytelling techniques

Your first objective in this step is to transform your sales force’s hit-and-miss, unconscious storytelling competence into one they are fully aware of, so they can effectively employ story techniques.

Your second objective is to create a common language of oral storytelling between sales and branding that’s definitive and meaningful.

Most importantly, by learning oral storytelling methods, your sales and brand personnel will know how to find and tell a story to influence and inspire.

At Anecdote, we deliver and build these capabilities through our 6-month Storytelling for Leaders program.

4. Systematically share on-brand stories and build the story bank

One of the best ways to help any group truly understand a brand (or a value, a culture, an offering) is to find a story that illustrates an important element of the brand, share that story with your sales teams and then get them to talk about the story.

If this is done regularly, say every 2–4 weeks, every salesperson will develop a deep understanding of what the brand stands for, with each story told also adding to the repertoire of stories they can retell.

Oral stories work for connecting brand and sales

To get the most value out of the considerable effort you’ve invested in your brand, you must translate the brand into a language your sales force can understand and speak. Oral stories work because they are simple, concrete, memorable and authentic.

Storytelling is how the very best salespeople make a difference. Of course, this doesn’t mean making up stories to fit the brand. That would be a disaster. It’s vital that you collect real-life experiences that are authentic and compelling.

With these stories at their disposal, and using an oral storytelling approach, your sales force will bring your brand to life. Brand and sales will unite as a force for growth.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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