Sales Moves

Don’t Just Thank—Remember the Lessons and Stories

By Jeffrey Gitomer

What we share at home with relatives can also help us build relationships with clients.

    It’s likely you will be with family over the holidays. Great times. Reunions. Happiness. Tears of sadness and joy. Great food. Gifts. People you love. People you kind of love. And did I mention great food? Most people—not you, of course—add to their waistline during these times. I’m going to share a few strategies that will fatten your wallet.

    Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, families will gather and talk about old times. Growing up, vacations, past holidays. They all start out, “Remember the time that…” and they go on to tell a funny or poignant story. THESE STORIES ARE GOLD.

    In your presentations and informal meetings, telling and exchanging stories are at the core of rapport, relationship-building, and creating a buying atmosphere.

    These golden lessons and stories are all around you, and many of them fit your selling situations, and relationship-building process. Real stories make you seem real. More human, approachable, relatable, and even (if the story is the right one) trustworthy.

    Now that I have whet your holiday appetite, let me give you the strategies and details of story collecting.

    First, get the stories rolling: Start by asking everyone to tell their most memorable story. Then ask about best times or best lessons learned. Request that people jog their memories for stories about lessons learned from mistakes, embarrassing moments, funny responses, and successes.

    Listen with the intent to understand (this means don’t interrupt). Listen for incidents where a lesson was learned, listen for funny events or responses that are yours to retell at the appropriate time. At the end of the story, ask questions or request the person to elaborate or fill in missing details.

    Look for the reaction of others. It’s a hint as to how your customers may be impacted.

    And take notes as you go. Don’t let the lessons, the lines, the humor, or any of stories get lost in the heat of the moment. You will NEVER remember everything without taking notes.

Forget the jokes: Stories are yours—no one else can tell them. You are assured the customer or prospect hasn’t heard them before. And they can have long-lasting effect.

    As the stories are told, listen for the lessons behind the endings:

  • Lessons from parents, teachers, siblings.
  • Lessons you learned as a child. Playing with others, accidents, in school, winning, losing, getting hurt, loss of a friend.
  • The times you got into major trouble, made the game-winning score, or something else memorable.

    Once you have the story, and can see the fit into your style and delivery, then it’s time to convert it to your sales presentation.

    Get the story to fit your presentation:

  • To overcome an objection (the same thing happened to my mother) …
  • To create common ground (the same thing happened to me)…
  • To justify price (my uncle told me a story about his dealings with)…

    When retelling the story, keep it short and sweet:

  • One-two minutes, if you’re telling it to a customer one-on-one.
  • Two-three minutes if you’re telling it to a group.
  • Don’t set it up, just tell it (not “here’s a hilarious story”—you set yourself up for failure, and the other person completely misses the point.
  • Tell it at the right moment—you’ll know—don’t force it.
  • Put passion into it.
  • Have your lesson or point at the end, not at the beginning.
  • For years, I have preached against telling jokes. Stories are yours—no one else can tell them. You are assured the customer or prospect hasn’t heard it before. And it can have long-lasting effect.

    I have told stories about chasing my dog, where I grew up, how I dropped out of college, going to sporting events, big sales, lost sales, flying, traveling, hotels, and restaurants. I have featured my parents, brother, children, grandchildren, teachers, mentors, servers, sports heroes, doctors, customers, close friends, partners, and past wives.

    When I am in a sales presentation, or giving a seminar, every story I tell has impact. Every story conveys a lesson or makes a point. Many make people laugh. Many have been collected from holiday gatherings. All of my stories are personal to me. They are original.

    The secret to story-telling is your enthusiasm. If you’re talking to one or 101, each person must feel like it’s your first time telling it, even though you may have told it a hundred times before. The passion of your conveyance will lead to the emotion of their purchase.

    Now that’s something to celebrate. 

About the author

Jeffrey Gitomer is author of The Little Red Book of Selling and The Little Red Book of Sales Answers.
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