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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?

 

I posted a question on a series of LinkedIn groups.

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!

Thanks!!

Kelly

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

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

Cheers!

John

Kelly Vandever

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!

Kelly

John Zimmer

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.

John

Michael A. Brown

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.

michael@BtoBEngage.com   www.BtoBEngage.com 

Paul Boris

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.

www.sap.com

 

Story Question on LinkedIn

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!!

7 Responses to “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?”

  1. My twitter reply encapsulated a fundamental pillar of successful relationships: ‘give more than you take’.

    In being gracious to your audience:
    Relate stories that lend real value to your audience.

    In being gracious to former clients, friends, etc:
    Ensure your crowd isn’t having an ‘a-ha’ moment as you relate the fall of a local business or person. Seems obvious but sometimes we all have stories that we feel we just HAVE to share. Be selective.

    In being gracious to current clients, friends, etc.
    With just a bit of thought there may be opportunities to recount experiences that you can be transparent about and to the benefit of those you’re currently serving. The execution is key. The context is key.

    In broader terms, when we ‘walk the walk’ of seeking opportunities to share with people, make connections and otherwise reach out to help them before receiving something in return it always come back tenfold in a way that propels your business with a load of forward momentum.

    Thanks for the article!

     
    • Scott – Thanks for the thoughtful and gracious reply. You are clearly practicing what you preach even in your comments!

      Kelly

       
      • kellyvandever
      • Reply
  2. I do sales training and our approach to our content is to constantly tell stories. Stories make your content real and relevant. First off, I find that many audiences today want to hear stories from companies similar to them, so I try and match the type of company to the audience. Secondly, I try and make the story compact so that it doesn’t sound like a sales pitch. I focus on the facts in a hard hitting way: 1. Here is where company x was. 2. Here is what we did with them. 3. Here is the impact they received after working with us. I am big on the word “impact”. I also make sure that the company I refer to would be happy to take a reference call. So, I absolutely have the key company executive name, title, phone and email handy so when someone says, “can I talk to them”, I can offer it quickly.

     
    • Marty – Thanks for sharing your perspective and experience. Do you ever have a challenge when the companies are too similar? As in competitors?
      Kelly

       
      • kellyvandever
      • Reply
      • That could be an issue if you are working with direct competitors. So far, that has not happened much. If you have two clients that are clear, dog eat dog, direct competitors (Think members of the SEC East or SEC West!), then I would bring up stories from non competitive companies, even if they were not similar, as long as the business problem I am solving is similar. The other issue you have to watch out for is size. Big companies want to hear about other big companies, smaller sized firms tend to want to hear about their size as well, so that complicates the story selection process. Bottom line, a large library of stories is very important.

         
  3. Thanks, Marty. That clarification was helpful!

     
    • kellyvandever
    • Reply
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    • kellyvandever
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