Olsen on Sales: Telling Stories, Selling Stories


There are a lot of uninteresting and uninspired sales calls. Examples:

Quotron“Hello, Bob, I have a load of 2×4 16s that I can buy from you for $800/MBF. What do you think?”

Quotron: “Hello, Susan, I can offer you a load of 2×6 12 at $700/MBF….” Then silently waits for an answer.

Quotron: “Hello, Jean. Are you short of anything at the moment?”

Quotron: “Hello Sarah. I have a bunch of studs looking for a home. Can you give me a business?”

These “salespeople” push the “Kick Me” button. And they get kicked and abused. They invite and deserve bad treatment because they waste the customer’s time and provide little value. Plus, and in some ways more importantly, these calls are just plain annoying. Customers don’t want to be bored.

Storytelling & Listening in our DNA

Humans have been around for 1.4 to 4 million years depending on who you talk to. The written word has been around for about 5,500 years, the Guttenberg press was invented in 1440, and even in the 1950s in America only 53% of the population was literate. Radio transmission for the masses began in the 1920s and exploded after World War II. Television became mainstream in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

All this to say that we tell and listen to stories long before storytelling becomes a product that feeds us.

The stories engage

When our clients are engaged, we are not assured of a sale, but we are guaranteed of strong listening and consideration. A lot of sellers don’t get it either. Telling a story is interesting. It drives customers and that’s what the Master Seller does. Customers want to deal with an expert who guides them to the right deals in an interesting and exciting way. That’s what storytelling does.

Similar Item Close

The “similar story” fence is a classic. We take a sale or situation that has already happened that applies to our client’s needs and use it to tell a story about how a similar product or proposition will also help our client. Our customers want and deserve proof. What is the first thing we do before buying something online? We have read the reviews. Our customers want the same. We use the closed “similar story” to give them the proof they are looking for.

Master seller: “Hello, Maria. We just bought a 2×4 Euro block from a mill you like. We picked up 10 truckloads and five of them were picked up immediately by a national account that buys directly from from everyone on the planet, so I know it’s a bargain. How much do you want to put in?

The beauty of this closeness is that it doesn’t have to be our story. If someone on our team sells a good deal, we say, “We just moved five.” We are part of our team so we can say that honestly. (Note: This is called a “similar story” not a “similar lie”. We use true stories. Lying is bad sales karma.)

Last time

If our client missed a deal during the last sales cycle, we could relaunch it in case of objections.

Customer“I think I’ll wait for now.”

master seller“Of course. We can wait. No pressure. I just want to remind you, Tom, that six weeks ago we waited and it cost us $150/MBF when the market moved. I ensures that the market goes up. Let’s put at least two loads for insurance.

To research

Master Sellers use historical data to tell a story that makes sense and brings value to the customer.

master seller: “Pete, I have a lot on five loads of 2×8 #2. The market is sloppy on some items but 2×8 has found a level. How many can you use?”

Customer: “I’ll wait for now.”

master seller“Okay. But think about it. Six weeks ago we were paying twice that amount, so the market really came back to us and bottomed out, so why not buy some?”

Customer“Wow. That’s a big step forward. Let’s make one.

A similar story sells.


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