Who is Paul Smith?

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts in organizational storytelling. He’s a popular keynote speaker and corporate trainer in leadership and sales storytelling techniques, a former executive and 20-year veteran of The Procter & Gamble Company, and the bestselling author of three books: Lead with a Story, Sell with a Story, and Parenting with a Story. 





People often make subconscious, irrational and emotional decisions, sales people try and fight these logical battles. They go in with very factual based information because of release of technology and innovation, how do you stop that urge to do it?


Both are needed. People should not get rid of the facts and figures and features and benefits and logical, rational reasons to buy something.


Paul advocates adding a story. Storytelling resonates on a more human, visceral, emotional, subconscious level because human beings don’t make these logical, rational decisions by themselves. They make these decisions more subconsciously, often more emotionally in one place in the brain and tend to rationalize those consciously and rationally in a different place in the brain so they leave the decision, thinking it was very rational and logical, but the truth is it was fairly emotional and subconscious. But if a salesperson do not speak to both parts of the brain and when the brain shifts from subconsciously emotional to evaluating it rationally, and logically, there’ll be a breakdown. But it starts in that emotional subconscious part. Both are needed. Cognitive science is clear that human beings make decisions quickly, subconsciously and emotionally. The use of storytelling makes a great salesperson.


How do you sound authentic, genuine and make real connection as a sales person?


While doing the research for his book, Paul asked some buyers what it is that makes a sales pitch sound like a sales pitch. Many said it’s when the tone of the conversation shifts from conversational and extemporaneous to scripted and memorized. At that moment, they knew it was no longer just chit chat but a sales pitch. And that’s when their defenses go up, they go into a mental evaluative mode, sales people have to avoid that. The change in tone of voice, the high energy makes the pitch so fake. When talking about products and what it’s going to do for the client, the tone of the voice, the speed and energy level should absolutely not change. The moment a sales person change from talking to somebody about whatever, to the product, if all that stuff changes, it just makes it so obvious that now they’re trying to sell something. And that just backfires.


Some people will want to take some time to think about your product, and then disappear. How do you stop that from happening?


Paul discusses howpeople need time to mentally process information and a salesperson cannot always stop them, but there are things he can do to create a sense of urgency. One of the 25 types of stories that great salespeople are telling is a story to create a sense of urgency. If a salesperson tells a story about a previous prospect who never became a client, who liked what they were selling but did not buy and then later regretted it.

A story like that can illustrate why the prospect might not want to wait.


What is the structure to create a very compelling story? Beginning, middle, end?


Effective story telling should follow a four step kind of process;

·       Context: Think about the beginning as the context.

·       Challenge: Challenge and Conflict comes in the middle,

·       Resolution: This ends the story.


But it’s difficult for people to wrap their minds around that. It’s easier for people to think, what are the questions that my story needs to answer? And the order in which it should answer them.


Paul came up with eight questions that stories need to answer.


1.     Why should I listen to this story? In the first three or four seconds, the sales person will have to explain to the prospects why his story is important to them.

2.     Where and when did it take place?

3.     Who’s the main character?

4.     And what did they want?

5.     What was the problem or opportunity that they ran into?

6.     What did they do about it?

7.     How did it turn out in the end?

8.     What did you learn from the story? And then what do you think I should go do now?


If the eight questions are answered in a sales story it makes it more effective and saves all other kind of questions that don’t need to be. It can keep a two minute story from becoming a 10 minute story.


What about the entire structure of the sale, would you recommend discussing the stories that you would like to check in?


1.     First of all, only about 10 to 15% of the words of a salesperson should be in the form of a story, the other 85 to 90% should be conversational. It’s not the majority of the time that a salesperson should tell a story but the minority of the time.


2.     Secondly, these stories are effective throughout the entire sales process, not just in the sales pitch, and a sales story isn’t a sales pitch. So a salesperson might have a half an hour with a prospect in a meeting to make the actual sales pitch, but they didn’t just wake up one morning and magically find themselves in the buyer’s office. There’s a lot of stuff that leads up to them.


3.     Salespersons have to find the prospect and meet the prospect and once they get in that meeting, there’s some rapport building, then they actually make the sales pitch and then later, they’re resolving objections, and then close the sale. And then follow up and service after the sale.


4.     Great salespeople are telling stories throughout the entire process, right from the moment they meet a prospect, to that rapport building phase, and to the actual sales pitch itself. So in a 30 minute meeting, a salesperson might tell three stories. Each of those stories should be only two to three minutes long. But these are just like two to three minute short stories told for very specific reasons throughout this entire sales process. You have to structure a 60 minute conversation and stories are going to be little pieces of it that you need to illustrate certain points.


Is it worth putting a story into either your presentation that you may be doing to a client or any visual material you may be sending over to a client?


·       Stories should be communicated in every type of vehicle that you communicate. If a salesperson communicates with his prospect on phone call, then obviously his stories should be delivered on a phone call.


·       Those are all different vehicles of communication. Storytelling should be a part of every single vehicle of communication.


·       PowerPoint presentation is the hardest one, because it’s not a vehicle that most people expect to see paragraphs of text, they expect to see bullet points. That’s because PowerPoint slides are supposed to be just a background audio visual support of a verbal speech. It’s a mistake to send a bunch of slides that were designed to simply be the accompaniment of a conversation instead of a conversation.


What sort of difference would someone be expecting when they start applying these stories?


Storytelling brings a whole lot of difference to a salesperson. It helps them to close sales faster.


Do you have an example of what would make a good story, like a short story, perhaps?


When a story is told to prospects, a week, a month or a year later, they will probably be able to recall and tell the story and get most of the facts right.


What do you recommend should be that first steps into becoming a better storyteller and starting this journey of sales through storytelling?


1.     First step for salespersons is to recognize that storytelling is an important skill to learn. It’s a legitimate skill set that deserves to be studied, like marketing or finance. They should read books, watch some videos, take classes and treat it seriously.


2.     Secondly, story collections. Start to collect stories, a sales person cannot tell sales stories if they don’t have any. They need a repertoire of stories. So start collecting them.



3.     Anytime a sales person hear a good story that they think will help their clients understand the value of the product that they’re selling, they should collect it and save it up. Remember it, and tell the story. It could be a success story from another client or a failure story on the part of somebody who probably needed their product or service.


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