Retail Sales Training Tip: Use Story Selling

By Bob Phibbs

storytelling to sell retailRetail sales training for associates has to be more than to hammer employees over the head about facts, facts, facts.

When we buy on emotion, emotion, emotion.

Doesn’t matter if you sell a yacht, a pair of eyeglasses, an engagement ring, a pair of shoes, or a beautiful vase. Luxury shoppers are shopping for how they will look better, more prestigious, young, attractive, sexy, etc.

More employees know a great deal of technical knowledge about their more expensive luxury merchandise and are spilling more and more of that factual information onto a population that – let’s be honest – just doesn’t care.

How to get emotion into your selling presentation? Use a story.

As a professional speaker for over twenty years, I’ve found story, followed by the point is the key to an audience enjoying a speech – or not. The same for you as a salesperson being clear on the point - the why - you told this one customer (not as part of a canned presentation).

Stories convey emotion.

Story selling is often found but without the point. This can lead to confused customers, irritated customers, lost sales. I’ll go over some of the worst but first, here’s what you need to know to use appropriate stories in your selling.

1. Be Authentic. Story selling is using a real story, either one you experienced, a customer experienced or something you read about that actually happened (no urban myths please) to reinforce or teach a key point of what you are trying to sell to a customer. That’s because we see in pictures so create compelling ones for your customers.

2. Really. You need a “Wow” that makes your point.

3. Keep it brief.  You have to get them in seconds, not minutes.

4. Make it relevant. It's not about you, it's about helping the shopper feel confident.

5. State the point.  Sum the point up in the end how it relates to this shopper.

Begin by coming up with some of your key features or benefits of your more expensive products.

Let’s say you carry a luxury fabric embedded with a chemical that doesn't sun-fade. You could just say that. Boring.

But what if you actually had a customer with a west facing living room with floor to ceiling windows. She’d tried everything but her furniture got so sun-washed she feared her friends thought she shopped at a garage sale. She used this fabric in red and now, four years later – it still looks like it did the day Architectural Digest shot it. And then you pulled out the issue – or showed a picture on your iPad. Wow.

The key is to state your point. In the fabric example it could be, “If it held up under those conditions, you can rest assured it won’t fade like cheaper fabrics you’ve had.”

What not to do…

So many employees and salespeople begin story selling to either create risk, “I had this one customer use it and (calamity ensued.)”

Or create doubt, “You have to be careful how you use it because this one time, in band camp…” Well, you get the idea.

Or kill the sale; “I had a customer tell me they used (X) which did (Y) and turned out about as good for half the money.”

You do have to know your audience though; just like a speaker.

I once told what I thought was a funny story about renovating my home and lost the audience because it all became about me, me, me. Never good in selling. Someone else should be the hero of your story.

If you want to provide better retail sales for staff, the key is to capture the emotion of the product in a new way instead of beating them over the head with facts, facts, facts.

So keep your stories:

  • True
  • Short
  • Relevant
  • Focused on a point
  • Hero is someone else

See also, Measuring & Improving Your Retail Sales Training

In Sum

Stories are how we communicate with the world. Harness the power of story selling for your luxury goods and you’ll see sales increase.

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