How to Use Selling With Storytelling In Retail Sales

group of sitting children being read a story

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When you use storytelling in retail, shoppers quickly become engaged.

That is especially important in retail sales because people are loyal to people, not products. And during tough times, they often want to escape the news.

The purpose of storytelling in retail is to invoke an emotion and use it to influence the customer's decision about buying.

Storytelling helps people connect with success, fame, prestige, a revelation - you name it. 

Everything but logic

Do you know how you feel when you hear “Once upon a time…”?

You are open to possibilities…To magic…To wonder.

Like a child, when you tell a story to an adult, you engage the heart, which leads the buyer up into the highest level of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, the Wonder part of the brain.

It is where we are most happy, comfortable, and open to new ideas.

People remember stories while they forget facts. That's important when you're Selling.

But sales associates don’t tell stories

They vomit useless fact after useless factMaybe that's because they were taught not to talk to strangers and not to talk about themselves.

On top of all that, without understanding the power of storyselling, some tell stories with no point. So, they never see how a narrative can help them.

So when selling themselves, their website, or their products, they stick to an analytical approach filled with facts.

If that’s you, and you want to grow your sales - and who doesn’t - you need to change your thinking. Storytelling in retail is the most effective way to get past someone’s logical mind and appeal to their heart.

See also: Selling Skills: How To Close A Retail Sale 

Here’s what’s wrong with a Just the Facts approach


Using an Analytical approach means you are using the logical part of your brain, the neocortex or, as I call it, the "Critical Parent," by providing fact after fact when trying to justify your pricing.

Because of this, your potential customer, who you’ve forced to stay in their own Critical Parent part of their brain, is judging and analyzing everything you say for accuracy and relevance.  

And if you chance to say something is a good deal, they’ll have to check it  - whether on their smartphone or a trip to a competitor.

No one is inspired to act solely based on facts, as logic tells them that just like a missed bus, another deal will come shortly if they wait.

A well-structured and engaging story during a sale helps your customers experience what happened to a stranger as if it had happened to them too. When they hear the positive outcome, it removes the fear of purchase.

The five elements of storytelling in retail stores

1. A brief setup

Just saying you're family-owned or a fair value doesn't provide an emotional connection that makes us want to visit your store. Where did it happen, and when?

2. Who is the story about?

Was it you? Was it a customer? If you know their name, use it.

3. What was the conflict or problem?

Be as specific as possible.

4. What was the solution?

For example, using a better product saved time, effort, and money.

5. What were the results?

The problem was fixed. They got a beautiful home, became a loyal customer, and told their friends.

One important point when storytelling is that your narrative must be real. Hypotheticals land like duds. That’s because we buy from people whom we believe.

Three places to use storytelling in your retail business

1. On your website

So many businesses leave a story off, but it should definitely be included in your About section.

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • What makes you different than someone else?
  • What obstacle have you overcome and decided to open a store?

Keep it brief and real; it will help customers choose you over someone else.

2. In your sales process

Stories fit in the fourth part of the sale, where you are describing what a product will do for you or toward the end when you need to overcome an objection. This is sometimes referred to as the Feel, Felt, Found method of selling.

Tell the customer that you understand how they feel, that you felt that way too when you were looking for something; do this by telling your true story. Or share a relevant customer’s story.

Describe how you or that customer Felt - frustrated, angry, confused, overwhelmed by the price, etc.

Then, describe what they or you Found upon buying it - that their initial sticker shock was groundless for all the product did, how easily it solved the problem, and how they felt when they got what they really needed. It is crucial to describe what the results were.

Your story must be relevant and shared at the correct time - after you've built enough rapport, they will likely listen and not feel it is irrelevant or a waste of their time.

3. At a Zoom event

So many business owners feel awkward at a business function or even on a Zoom call when someone asks them what they do - especially if they have a retail store.

Tell your story of frustration working for someone else, taking the jump, and the excitement, success, and fulfillment you found. It will make you stand out much more than a just-the-facts business card.

People are sold on people first

Using the right story makes product and experience details memorable. People aren’t loyal to products. They’re loyal to people.

And just to put a finer point on that, here is a brief story of mine...


A few years ago, I was to deliver a keynote at noon in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. My first flight was delayed, so I missed the connection in Chicago.

A woman told me I wouldn't make it until after 3 pm the next day.  

I emailed the client and then called United's 1K desk. I told the guy I had a speech at noon Sunday that I had to be there for.

He took several minutes before returning to the line and apologized as he told me he could get me there on another carrier at 11:15 am. But, I'd have to spend the night in Montreal to catch the connection, restarting my trip from Albany. That was fine.

I took the flights and made the speech.

Stories with outcomes like that are what keep me a loyal United customer. 

If I were selling their Premier program, I would use the fact I got there as reassurance their frequent flier program was worth much more than just points.

What stories do you have to share with your customers?