Do you tell stories about working with prospects/clients? What’s your best advice on incorporating “I Was Working with a Client Who…” stories into presentations?
Do you tell stories about working with clients? What’s your best advice on incorporating “I Was Working with a Client Who…” stories into presentations?
I believe telling stories about working with past clients during a presentation is a great way for audiences (prospects) to get an image of what it might be like to work with me (the speaker) too.
Do you agree?
If so, what advice would you give on the best way to use those client stories? What have you done that’s worked? Not worked?
If you disagree, then why?
I’d like to feature the best answers in a blog post. If you’re willing to let me repeat your advice in a blog post, let me know how you’d like me to reference you in the article (name, title, company) and any link back to your website/blog post you’d like me to include!
Here were some of my favorite responses on LinkedIn to the question.
There were tons of great replies to the postings. Overall, the responses affirmed that stories are valuable tools both in relating to prospects and clients and in making us memorable. Here are some posts that summarize several of the replies. I’m in the process of getting a few more OK’s to post below and will keep adding them as I get the approvals.
John Zimmer • Hi Kelly,
Telling stories about your clients and the work that you have done with them is a key way to build credibility with the audience and to help them visualize, in a concrete manner, the point you are trying to make. As for advice, I’ll start the ball rolling with two points:
(a) First and foremost, always respect the confidentiality and privacy of the clients about whom you are speaking. If you want to name them, check with them first. Otherwise, generalize; e.g., “I once worked for a mid-size company in the textiles business and they were getting squeezed on their margins because of the increase in the price of cotton …” It is basic respect for your clients, and demonstrates your integrity to the people in your audience (who will want to feel comfortable that you will not one day be telling stories about them without their permission).
(b) Make sure that the story is relevant to the audience. Talk about experiences with clients where the key issues were the same as, or similar to, those faced by your current audience. A simple, but effective structure is Problem-Assessment-Solution. Easy to follow and gets the audience thinking about how you can help them.
Hope this is helpful. Happy for you to use, as you see fit in a blog post. A link back to my public speaking and presentation skills blog would be nice, thank you:http://mannerofspeaking.org
Kelly Vandever • John – Excellent advice! Thanks for contributing!
I like how in your first example you took out the name of the company but added details that made the example more concrete and therefore more credible. And great point about speaking to your integrity.
Interesting second point. Not sure if I fully agree. I agree that using examples similar to the problems that they have is good in that it connects with the audience and helps them with their problems.
But I think you can also use unrelated examples to make a point without hurting your relationship with the audience. In fact a few unrelated examples can give the impression that it’s not all about selling to the audience, it’s about making a connection and serving the audience. It’s not all about making me the hero of every story but it’s about connecting with an audience.
But I will definitely noodle on that idea for a while too and see if I can be persuaded otherwise!
Thanks again for chiming in!
John Zimmer • Fully agree with you, Kelly, on your point about connecting with the audience and not just selling to them. My point, perhaps unclearly expressed, is that whatever story you are telling about a client, it should have some relevance to the audience (as should all aspects of your presentation). Shared problems are one example, but you rightly note that other possibilities exist. Ultimately, it comes down to: “Why should the audience care?”
Thanks for starting this discussion.
Michael A Brown • Kelly, I was speaking yesterday with the founder of a new business about what “engagement” really means with prospects and customers. We swapped stories of good versus misguided attempts to approach, influence, advance, and sell. Your question has relevance in each of those phases! (Holy cow … I’m telling a story!)
During the approach, marketers and sales people often tell stories too soon, so they sound like pitches rather than empathy-generators. Example: “Our new state-of-the-art zinc-lined heimelbeffer has helped busy executives at other companies just like yours … “ Eyes roll and the conversation is over.
While trying to influence, reps must take care not to over-state their story, especially if it involves specific results with another customer.
When it is time to suggest the next forward step in the consideration (advance), and to actually consummate the sale, story-telling tends to slow things down, so I don’t recommend it.
Net: stories need context, relevance, and timing to be effective.
Paul Boris • A lot of very good comments here.
For my part, I think telling stories is very valuable as along as they are relevant, brief, add value to the discussion, incite conversation and plant the seeds of a message you want to leave behind. Good stories allow executives to retain the key message you wanted to deliver.
Things to avoid
– being verbose and irrelevant
– trying to top your best story, ie, know when to quit
– telling stories at the wrong time, ie, stop selling when the selling is done
– telling others stories as your own or fabricating. Remember, you might be called on to validate, ie, be prepared to hear “I’d really like to talk to that person/company”
– sharing proprietary information. This will destroy your credibility.
The best stories come from your personal experiences, because it is incredibly difficult for people to fake the body language that comes with the retelling of a personal experience. Have you ever heard a really compelling story and it just didn’t click for you ? It was probably a good retelling of a story that person heard elsewhere and did not actually experience.
Finally, stories let you bring yourself down a couple notches without losing credibility, “I remember my first co-op assignment at GM when I literally destroyed a brand new car body on the assembly line”. They also let you agreeably disagree, “I worked with one exec who felt exactly the same way, but let me tell you how that played out for them…”
Doing it well is a lot harder than it looks, but with practice and sincerity, anyone can do it well.
I Tweeted a Series of Similar Questions on Twitter
I also tweeted but with 140 characters, it was harder for people to respond! So I’m tweeting to the people who responded so they can add their comments below.
What’s Your Best Advice?
Please join the conversation? What advice have you received? What have you learned for yourself? Can you share some sample stories?
Love to see them in the comments below!!