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Six Reasons Why Success Stories Fail at Selling

Insight Selling, Story Selling Dec 17, 2014 No Comments

Story SuccessSuccess stories are effective to use as proof and reinforcement late in the buying cycle once a customer has already formed a complete buying vision that fully recognizes “why change?” and “why you?”

These stories are easy to tell because you’re providing proof to a customer who has already recognized that he or she has a problem that your solution can solve. Success stories are effective because they gloss over the problem so that they can focus on the solution as proof.

The problem is that the vast majority of customers at any stage of the sales cycle are not yet sold on why they should change or why they should change through you. These customers are not looking for proof of a solution to a problem they don’t yet think they have. Without a full appreciation of the value of your product, your salespeople will be forced to follow the customer down the road of commoditization and discounting when the customer decides to buy, or no decision when he or she does not decide to buy.

With 60-70% of enterprise sales opportunities ending in no decision, there is a huge opportunity for salespeople to learn to tell a more effective story that not only provides proof, but also inspires customers to change.

To inspire change, salespeople must learn to tell a new type of story, one that shines a light of insight on customers so they realize they aren’t ankle-deep in problems but are, in fact, drowning in problems before salespeople step forward to rescue these customers with their solution. We call this new type of story an Insight Scenario.

Success stories fail to inspire customers to change and buy your product for the following six reasons:

1. Sells Solution vs. Sells the Problem

Success stories gloss over the problem so they can focus on the solution as proof. As a result, they provide only a superficial reason to change, such as the customer’s current system lacks ‘timeliness’ or  is ‘prone to error.’ The reasons do little to inspire customers to change. Insight Scenarios, on the other hand, flip the problem-solution ratio upside-down because salespeople must open before they can close. By increasing the time spent developing the problem from 25% to 75%, Insight Scenarios allow the salesperson to sell the problem before the solution.

2. Abstract vs. Concrete

Success stories are about companies solving abstract problems, so they leave it to customers to figure out how they could use the seller’s product to solve their problem. Insight Scenarios, on the other hand, provide context by asking “So then what happens?” until they tell the story of a real person solving a real problem by using the seller’s product.

3. Sameness vs. Contrast

Success stories are vague about the problem and specific about the solution. Insight Scenarios, on the other hand, create a clear contrast between “hell” if customers don’t buy your product and “heaven” if they do. As a result, customers are inspired to change because the risk to the status quo now feels greater than the cost of the seller’s solution along with the risk of change.

4. Monologue vs. Dialogue

Success stories are sales conversation-killing monologues that flood customers with far too much information. Insight Scenarios, on the other hand, are limited to addressing only one point per story. They are designed to deliver short bursts of insight in less than two minutes to start a dialogue in which customers start to tell themselves a new story in which new choices make more sense.

5. Repels vs. Attracts

Success stories are usually about a seller who rides in on a white horse and rescues the poor hapless customer. But customers don’t want to see themselves as the loser in your story. Insight Scenarios, on the other hand, always make buyers or their employees the heroes of the story and make an outside force, such as changes in technology or regulations, the villain. As a result, Insight Scenarios attract rather than repel customers.

6. Irrelevant vs. Relevant

Success stories are about how the seller rescued the customer. But if the customer doesn’t yet fully recognize his or her problem, the story will have little relevance. The purpose of an Insight Scenario, on the other hand, is to shine a light on unrecognized customer value so that the Insight Scenario closes the value gap.

So it’s easy to learn how to tell a success story, but it’s challenging to tell a relevant story that inspires a customer to change. Did you know, for example, that 7 out of 10 Hollywood films lose money, 1 breaks-even, and only 2 out of 10 make money? Even though Hollywood has more money than God to hire the best script writers and other creative thinkers, most films fail. However, in sales, unlike Hollywood, our stories can’t just entertain. They must inspire customers to change, and we do that by delivering an Insight Scenario.

Salespeople need to know how to convert their success stories into Insight Scenarios that are unique to the specific company, title, and gap they are trying to fill. They must first sell the idea conversationally through a series of insight scenarios before they can leave behind the success story as proof.


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Example of a story that Flops vs. Pops

Business Storytelling Dec 02, 2014 No Comments

Win vs FailBy recognizing the difference between an insight scenario (i.e. an insight based story) that “pops” versus one that “flops,” you can see for yourself how your own insight scenarios can be changed so that they inspire prospective customers to buy, instead of providing them with no reason to change.

The mistakes made in the story that flops are common. Because the effects of not having the seller’s capabilities are abstract, the story fails to make the buyer want to change, because the risks do not feel real. Read more »

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Selling Value With Insight Storytelling

Insight Selling, Storytelling Oct 27, 2014 No Comments

Whiteboard_A_02Imagine if your salespeople could shine a light of insight on today’s empowered customers so that they no longer underestimate the cost of the status quo and the benefits of change.

Your salespeople would no longer have to chase these empowered buyers down the road of commoditization and discounting, because they would know how to sell value and differentiate your product.

As your customers discovered the unique value of your product on their own terms, your company would achieve higher win rates, shorter sales cycles, and higher margins. Read more »

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Six reasons why Insight StorySelling trumps Verbal Persuasion

Insight Scenario, Insight Selling Sep 24, 2014 No Comments

1- Puts the customer’s ego to sleep

With an insight scenario, you can deliver insights that will only challenge the customer’s thinking, and not the customer. Because insight scenarios are about someone else, the customer does not feel under attack. A story simply presents a scenario that allows the customer to draw their own conclusions. Without feeling pressured, the customer can now relax and listen to your message, and possibly gain enough insight that they start to tell themselves a new story, where new choices make more sense. Read more »

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Why buyers push-back on insight selling & what you can do about it.

Business Storytelling, Insight Selling Sep 09, 2014 No Comments

No InsightEven though insight is what buyers need, it may not be what they initially want. By the time buyers engage with a salesperson, they may already have an idea of their needs, the solution they believe they want, and what they are willing to pay. So how does the seller use insight to challenge the customer’s thinking without challenging the customer?  Read more »

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It’s amazing that 10-20% of salespeople can actually sell value

Business Storytelling, Insight Selling Sep 09, 2014 No Comments

Love-Salespeople2x2While many companies complain that 80-90% of their salespeople can’t sell value, they are spraying their sales force with product presentations, and praying that their salespeople will be able to figure out why customers should buy their product. But instead of complaining, these companies should feel blessed that they can increase sales by capturing and sharing this valuable tribal knowledge with the rest of their sales force. Read more »

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Gartner study- buyers rate sales conversations dead last, but there’s hope- share customer stories

Business Storytelling, Insight Selling Sep 09, 2014 No Comments


No SalesmanImagine running a sales team where the last person that your customers want to speak with is one of your salespeople? That’s the conclusion of a recent Gartner survey where Salespeople came in last place after technical and industrial experts, services and support, and senior executives as “the most influential personal interactions across the entire buying cycle.” (click) 

So what’s the problem? Read more »

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Telling A Story That Hooks Audiences

Business Storytelling Jul 19, 2014 No Comments

“Colleague Michael Harris wrote this blog post recently, and I couldn’t stop cracking up! I laughed so hard I had to read the story to my husband Tim. He laughed just as hard.

Michael uses storytelling in his sales training, and he uses this story to demonstrate why it works. Just imagine telling this story in corporate language. We’d be bored to tears.

But here’s another way to think about this story. We all have at least one story like this. A story when we screwed up big time. A story about a time we failed. A story about a near miss. A story about good friends who stick around even after misadventures. Read more »

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InsightSelling through StorySelling

Insight Selling May 12, 2014 No Comments

300x300True story. Before a meeting, a potential customer downloads, and then watches 11-videos on SAP’s CRM. So by the time the meeting rolls around, the last thing the potential customer wanted was more information, because they’re drowning in it. All they wanted from the salesperson was insight into three key areas.

So how do you sell value and differentiate your product to these empowered buyers? Read more »

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How to sell complexity beyond the customer’s capacity to understand

Insight Selling May 12, 2014 No Comments


How can you persuade someone to buy your complex product when 90% of your presentation is forgotten within 72-hours[i]?

The short answer is you can’t. Unless you dramatically change how you engage with customers, they won’t understand why they should buy your complex product, because of the limitation of our short-term working memory. Read more »

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Insight Selling- How to sell value & differentiate your product with Insight Scenarios.

Insight Selling Jan 17, 2014 No Comments

Buy on Amazon click or download Chapter One click

300x300Book Description

Selling value to B2B buyers today can feel like trying to stop a freight train that’s hurtling towards the sales graveyard of commoditization and discounting.

Today, an empowered buyer has done research, has a clear idea of his or her firm’s needs, and how much the firm is willing to pay. This type of buyer does not want a salesperson to talk about features and deliver a series of open-ended questions that delivers no value. What this buyer wants is insight. So, how does a salesperson deliver insight so that it challenges the customer’s thinking without challenging the customer? Read more »

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Insight selling- How Microsoft & SAP do it better

Insight Scenario, Insight Selling Dec 27, 2013 No Comments

300x300With the rise of the empowered buyer, it is no wonder that Microsoft, and SAP have embraced insight selling. But these companies have also learned that there is a gap between theory and the practical application, because insight selling is more than just using data, facts, and brilliance to shock and awe buyers about the error of their ways. Read more »

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Details could increase the impact of your argument by 34.9%

Business Storytelling, Insight Scenario, Insight Selling Nov 26, 2013 No Comments

In business, time is money, so the last thing you want is to waste time sitting through a dull detail laden presentation. And as you wonder where it’s heading, you ask yourself why they couldn’t have just giving you the top five bullet points so that you could get on with the rest of your day. Read more »

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Why customers get stuck in analysis paralysis & how to avoid it

Insight Scenario, Insight Selling Nov 07, 2013 No Comments

After working on Wall Street for 14 years, I’ve always presented facts and figures to B2B buyers, because that’s how I felt serious business people made decisions. This belief was backed by 2500-years of conditioning. It started when Plato said that man is rational, and that it’s our emotions that interfere with rational decisions. But recently I had an experience that called this belief into question. And then shortly thereafter, I was presented with a compelling study from neuroscience that also refuted this belief. So when these two events collided, the myth that buying decisions were strictly rational was busted. I now understood why customers get stuck in analysis paralysis, and what I could do to help then to avoid it. Read more »

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Insight Selling- what is insight, and why do it?

Insight Selling Oct 23, 2013 No Comments

3d-150Everyone is talking about how salespeople must now learn how to deliver insights to their customers, because the internet has changed how people buy. So by the time a customer now engages a salesperson, they’re already 60% of the way through their buying cycle, because they’ve done most of their research online. So they don’t need more information from a salesperson. What they need is insight into what the information means.

But what is insight, why is it important, and how do you deliver it? Read more »

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Insight Selling- Challenger Sale or Fail?

Business Storytelling, Insight Selling, Storytelling Oct 14, 2013 No Comments

Challenger Sale PlainHow do you deliver insight to your customers so that it challenges the status quo without challenging the customer?

Well, when you get sick, do you ever go onto WebMD before you visit the Doctor? So when you show up at the doctor’s office, all you want him to do is to write you a prescription for what you feel you need? And if the market for buying prescription medicine was truly competitive, wouldn’t you also be looking for a better price? Read more »

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Sales are 20X stickier with a story

Business Storytelling Oct 01, 2013 No Comments

salesthatstickIf I told you that a fact, wrapped in an emotional story, is 20-times more memorable[i], would you believe it?

I didn’t at first. So we continued to throw facts against the customer’s wall, and they continued to stick as if they were coated with Teflon.

I wanted to believe that our value propositions could stick like Velcro, but I couldn’t until I personally experienced the power of an emotional story to make a dull fact unforgettable. And this story took place a few years ago at my son’s soccer game (see video of story live below). Read more »

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CEO of SAP recruits a Chief Storyteller- why?

Business Storytelling, Corporate Storytelling, Insight Selling, Story Selling, Storytelling Sep 12, 2013 No Comments

SAPWhen the world’s largest business software company hires a Chief Storyteller, its news, because it’s a first for the industry.

And when the decision was made by SAP’s CEO, Bill McDermott, it becomes a great story.

  • Why, for instance, did Bill feel that the role of Chief Storyteller was so important that he personally recruited Julie Roehm 18-months ago for the role?
  • Why did he hire a B2C candidate for a B2B role?
  • And with all of Bill’s experience (Sales Xerox, President Gartner, Exec VP of WW Sales & Operations Siebel, and CEO SAP), what insights can we gain from his decision? Read more »
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Salesman conquers his fear of rejection with the latest tools

Business Storytelling, Corporate Storytelling, Insight Selling, Stories that sell, Story Selling, Storytelling Aug 14, 2013 No Comments

No FearJoel needed new customers. But he found that he wasn’t 100% committed when he picked-up the phone, because his fear of rejection made him apprehensive. It felt like he had one foot on gas, and the other on the brake. And because customers sensed that Joel wasn’t completely sold, they weren’t interested in what he was selling, because no one wants to be rescued by a drowning man.

So Joel’s turned to his VP of Sales for advice, but he didn’t find being told to ‘just suck it up and make the calls’ particularly helpful.

Fortunately Joel loved to read, and he was shocked to discover that his fear of calling new clients was due to an overactive instinct of survival. Read more »

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Pipeline up 3X largely due to StorySelling.

Business Storytelling, Corporate Storytelling, Insight Selling, Story Selling, Storytelling Jul 05, 2013 No Comments

MicrosoftOne of Microsoft’s largest partners “…increased their pipeline by exactly 3-times in under 18-months largely due to StorySelling.

Two years ago Gord Smith, a Partner at Ideaca (one of Microsoft’s largest partner in Canada), hired a bunch of new salespeople to hunt for new business, because he knew the partners were too busy servicing clients (click for video). Read more »

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“You’re in sales, you’re too stupid to understand.”

Business Storytelling, Corporate Storytelling, Insight Selling, Stories that sell, Story Selling, Storytelling Jun 12, 2013 No Comments

ArrogantWhen I asked for more details on how a customer could use our product, Tim, our Managing Director, joked: “Michael, you’re in sales, you’re too stupid to understand.” But the sad thing was that this was what he, and his delivery team really believed. And when I wanted customer stories, I only got the watered down versions from marketing. Because marketing didn’t trust sales to properly share these stories with customers, they had the executive team sand off the rough corners that made the stories interesting- to the point that they were useless. So there I was standing outside the walls of customer knowledge, trying to prepare for a potential customer meeting with the few scraps of information management decided to throw down to sales. Read more »

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Selling blind- turn the lights on with customer knowledge story coaching

Business Storytelling, Story Selling, Storytelling May 24, 2013 No Comments

Salespeople are selling blind, because they are not being coached on customer knowledge. Without an accurate customer map, they can’t link their capabilities to their customer’s pain points. This results in lost sales, because customers are left to try to figure out why it makes sense for them to buy, or even worse, why they should care.

We’ll show you how simple it is to find, and then fill customer knowledge gaps. And your sales team will do it in as little as 10-minutes a week.

Simply have one of your salespeople share a relevant customer 2-min. story each week, and then have their peers provide feed-back. Read more »

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One customer story sells, and another doesn’t. Why?

Business Storytelling, Stories that sell, Story Selling, Storytelling Feb 15, 2013 No Comments

By recognizing the difference between a customer story that “Sells” vs. a story that “Doesn’t Sell,” you can see for yourself how your own customer stories can be changed so that they inspire prospective customers to buy, instead of providing them with no reason to change.

The mistakes made in the story that “Doesn’t Sell” are common. Because the effects of not having the Seller’s capabilities are abstract, the story doesn’t make the Buyer want to change, because the risks don’t feel real.

Without making the risks of not having the Sellers capabilities feel more real than the risk of change, the Buyer will stick with the status quo. Read more »

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Do poor sales figures alone tell the whole story about who to fire?

Stories that sell, Story Selling, Storytelling Dec 05, 2012 No Comments

The results are in, and it’s time to fire 15% of your sales team. But do the numbers tell the whole story?
You know, for example, that a rep’s sales can also be negatively influenced by: a) a competitor in the rep’s territory who is a star salesperson; b) a string of bad luck that may turn around, and; c) some salespeople take a little longer to turn around.

You also know that buyers today buy differently, so instead of just letting go of the poor performers, wouldn’t it be better to go through your sales team to see who is capable of prospering in this new sales environment, and who isn’t? Read more »

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32% of salespeople won’t achieve quota in 2012, but will a new sales methodology really help?

Business Storytelling, Stories that sell, Story Selling, Storytelling Nov 26, 2012 No Comments

32% of salespeople won’t achieve quota in 2012, according to a survey of 197-B2B technology companies in 2012 (source: The Bridge Group).

But will another sales process or sales methodology really help?

Most companies have tried 2-3 of them, but have they helped salespeople sell more? A sales methodology or process may provide better reports to management, and improve the sale team’s efficiency; but right now, do you really need to better forecast poor sales, or does your sales team really need to be more efficient at doing the wrong things? Read more »

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