Stories are powerful. Good stories engage us. Great stories win Oscars. As parents, we read stories to our children and for the most part most kids sit attentively and use the stories we tell to make up stories of their own. Storytelling and story listening are part of our DNA. We don’t lose our thirst for story telling or listening as we get older. We do, however, lose the ability to relate compelling content.
Too many kitchen and bath sales professionals don’t tell good stories because they have been taught to hammer home features and benefits. Most prospects visiting a showroom don’t really care if a cabinet comes in 22 different finishes. Those looking for a white shaker kitchen (about 50% of all customers) won’t give a hoot about different paint options.
How can sales professionals tell better stories? Start by capturing a prospect’s attention. Avoid lots of extraneous details and minutiae. The best stories are action focused. Think about James Bond movies. They almost always begin with a chase, a bomb exploding, parachuting, gambling, etc. Don’t start with “I want to tell you a story about one of our customers who…” Instead begin with “We just completed a project that when our client first saw the finished project, she shed tears of joy. Would you like to know why?
Another key to great story telling is the ability to whet a prospect’s appetite without serving an entire meal. Provide just enough detail. Here’s an example. Ask a prospect if they can imagine how much they would enjoy coming home and spending 15 to 20 minutes of time just to themselves, relaxing, recharging their batteries and washing away the stresses of the day. Want to know how we can make that happen?” That may have more of an impact then going into the health benefits of steam showers.
Use the power of imagery to make points. That’s what poets do with as few words as possible. Develop stories that help prospects to visualize what experience they will receive after renovating their kitchens. Some of your clients may look at a kitchen as a place to prepare meals. Others may envision the kitchen as a place where lasting memories are made and the most important room in the home for connecting with family and friends. Instead of describing the features of different cabinets and appliances, ask your clients this question, “If you were to host a dinner party, what would it look like?
Many of the products featured in your showroom and those at your competitor’s are similar. They all offer state-of-the-art cabinetry, countertops and appliances. The experiences that their products deliver are what is important to emphasize and use in your story telling.
Good stories have a compelling message. In order to better tell the story of your showroom, ask who is the audience that you want to reach and what is the message that you want to communicate.
Make your stories personal. Relate actual examples of exceptional customer service and the amazing results that you have achieved for clients. Focus on the lessons that your stories teach. Relate anecdotes that highlight problems solved and barriers that you overcame.
There’s a need to have a plot to your stories. Think about the great stories that you have read or heard, everything from Homer to Homer Simpson. There’s always a conflict. This is where you can create realistic expectations. “We know that renovating your home is an emotional decision that causes considerable stress. Here’s how we work with you and your family to minimize the potential for unpleasantness.”
You don’t need a complicated, twisting and turning plot. Avoid the minutia. Less is more. Focus on the more interesting details that help capture your prospect’s attention. Relate feelings and emotions that are part of the story.
Practice makes perfect. If you are going to tell stories, don’t do it off the cuff. Rehearse with your team to find out the key points they believe will resonate best with your clients and prospects. Stories can be viral. That’s why they are passed down from generation to generation if they are sticky.
Use silence as a tool to determine if your story is resonating and to emphasize points. Using a pause, can helps to emphasize the point that you just made and gives your prospects opportunities to respond to your points with their own interpretation of what was said.
Great storytelling engages us all. In telling the story of why Dr. Martin Luther King became the leader of the civil rights movement in the 1960s as opposed to others who had the same mission, Simon Sinek points out in his book Start With Why that King did not start his March on Washington speech in 1963 with I have a 10 point plan to achieve racial equality in America. King began with, “I have a dream.” Is it not our job as professional showroom designers to help our clients realize their dreams instead of simply providing a room to cook in?