May 16, 2013

Storytelling That Sells – Sell it with a Credibility Story

Would you like to learn how to sell without selling?

It’s been said that people buy on emotion and rationalize their decisions with logic.

A 2002 University of Florida study confirms this: “The national study of 23,168 people shows that no matter what people may presume, feelings and emotions, not Spock-like logic, drive consumers to make even big-ticket purchases,” said Jon Morris, an advertising professor in the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications.

By their very nature, stories contain feelings and emotions. If you understand what kind of story to tell in the appropriate situation, you can use emotional triggers in the story to sell your product or service.

The kind of story that I use to sell my speaking, training and coaching services is called a Credibility story. It’s a story that sells without selling. Think of it as referral selling, but the person doing the referring appears in the story, rather than in person.

Do you feel more comfortable buying something on the recommendation of a friend? That’s the principle behind the Credibility story. Instead of trying to sell yourself, you let the story of a past client who has already bought your product or service, do the selling for you. The story also is like giving the prospect a “test-drive” to understand what it’s like working with you or using your product.

To find your credibility stories, first identify the three most common objections or challenges – the ones you hear on a regular basis. Here are a few that I hear often:

  • Your price is too high.
  • We’re happy with the company we’ve been using for years.
  • I’m already a pretty good storyteller.

Do you have a current customer or client who initially had one of those objections or challenges? Did you find a creative way to get past the objection? Are they now one of your “happy camper” clients who sing your praises?

The story of one of your current customers who told you your price was too high, but ended up hiring you anyway, is a perfect Credibility story. However, it has to be carefully constructed in a way that triggers an emotional response. It’s not just a touch- feely story, however. It contains facts, data and percentages.

For instance, one of my coaching clients came to me for help with his stories. He was making presentations to small groups of potential clients to get new business. He’d made five presentations to a total of 200 people. Out of the 200 prospects, he got 2 new clients. That’s a closing percentage of 1%. Pretty lousy, wouldn’t you say?

That’s what he said too. And he admitted that he was telling stories, but they weren’t working. So he drove from Denver to Colorado Springs to work with me on his 30-minute sales presentation. We worked together in my studio for one hour.

I asked him to identify the three most common objections he hears from prospective clients. That took all of 3 minutes. Then we identified stories about “happy camper” clients that had released those objections and ended up working with him for a successful outcome. By the end of one hour, we had designed a new presentation with three new stories.

A couple of weeks later, he came back for another hour of coaching. Before we began, he was ecstatic to share with me that he had made one presentation to a small but important group of 10 prospective clients. Four of them are now his clients.

He went from a closing ratio of 1% to 40% after only one hour of coaching. He said, “Doug, you were right. It’s like you said: emotion is the fast lane to the brain. The difference was the emotion in the stories. I hooked them.”

With a “happy camper” client like that, I don’t have to sell myself. I let that client do it for me with a Credibility story.

Like my client, many people give up on storytelling because they haven’t made it work for them. That’s like giving up on your iPad because you can’t figure out how to download email. The iPad isn’t the problem. Not knowing how to use it is the problem.

Storytelling is a learnable skill. It’s a craft. When I teach my Story Theater Method, I’m teaching storytelling technology. And like the iPad that is capable of doing amazing things, storytelling is likewise capable of doing amazing things. But you need to know how to work a story, just like you learn how to work an iPad.

Would you like to learn how to sell without selling? Contact me for help with your Credibility stories!


Doug Stevenson, president of Story Theater International, is a storytelling in business expert, a professional speaker, trainer and coach and the author of the book, Doug Stevenson’s Story Theater Method.

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Doug can be reached at 1-800-573-6196 or 1-719-573-6195. Learn more about the Story Theater Method, purchase the book, eBook or Story Theater audio six pack, and sign-up for the free Story Theater newsletter at:

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