This article is based on a talk by Ravi Rajani at the London 2023 Sales Enablement Summit, hosted by our sister community, Sales Enablement Collective.

As someone who teaches people how to tell compelling stories to get their prospects to take action, I've discovered a simple truth: feature-focused selling often falls flat, while stories that resonate on a human level are what truly drive sales.

Over the past 18 months, I've trained sales teams at companies like NetSuite, Forbes, CrunchBase, and others on mastering customer storytelling

Through this work, I've analyzed feedback, recordings, and results to identify the most impactful ways to craft stories that convert and accelerate sales cycles. 

So today, I'll share the top five differentiators that have emerged – packaged into what I call the "TRUST checklist."

T - Tastefully insert stories

R - Relive don't retell

U - Use a story arc

S - Solidify your customer as the hero

T - Talk with influence

When you master these five keys to captivating storytelling, you'll earn your prospects' undivided attention and accelerate the trust to drive action and revenue. 

You'll find your teams better able to capture attention, articulate value, and maneuver sales cycles by harnessing the power of narrative.

Let’s get started …

T: The power of social proof

Dr. Cialdini's book "Influence" highlights a fascinating study done in Beijing restaurants. Researchers added asterisks next to certain menu items, indicating they were popular dishes. 

Those items were then purchased 13-20% more frequently.

What's more astounding is that the group most influenced by this social proof were first-time visitors to the restaurants. 

Just like when I went shopping for a stroller before my daughter's birth in 2022, uncertainty about what to buy had me and my wife desperately seeking external validation.

In those uncertain moments, we crave stories of people just like us who have walked the path before. However, not all social proof carries the same weight. 

Case studies overloaded with features won't land nearly as well as an emotive customer story that lets your prospect envision themselves in that narrative.

To capitalize on this, I advise sales teams to use a three-step process before launching into a story:

  1. Ask an open-ended question to prompt the prospect to share their own story first.
  2. Follow up with "What else?" to draw out more context.
  3. Finish with "Tell me more" to make them feel fully heard.

Only once you've allowed the prospect to open up are you positioned to share a relevant customer story that accelerates trust.

R: Relive, don't retell

Many salespeople mistakenly think storytelling is an innate talent rather than a skill. As a result, they tend to drone through case studies in a drab, grocery list-like fashion devoid of emotion.

To counter this, I teach teams to relive stories with their prospects rather than dryly retelling them. Consider this example: