The Power of Stories. The Art of Persuasion (Part 2)
I think the first time I noticed the power of stories in sales was when I was managing a sales team in Russia for Schlumberger in 2000.
Schlumberger was formed in 1926 after the invention of a technique to measure the variation of resistivity in oil wells and hence locate the oil. Today, Schlumberger is a $35 billion revenue company which dominates the oil and gas services business, but the company suffered a huge setback in the 1930s when Stalin nationalised its assets in Russia.
In the mid-1990s when Russia was opening up to western companies after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Schlumberger needed to make a decision on whether to re-enter the market. Then CEO, Ewan Baird was asked how much money he was willing to risk on a Russia re-entry. Ewan’s answer was “$200 million”.
With that answer, Schlumberger set about placing senior experts and investing in two of the top six Russian oil companies. The results were startling. Using western techniques, the two Russian oil companies achieved dramatic production increases while their competitor’s production was falling.
I told this story many times and heard it re-told by my customers. The story’s effect was remarkable and unmistakable. The power of stories to capture our attention lies in the narrative journey; the complications, trials and mistakes that expose the hero's vulnerabilities. Without the setback of Stalin's nationalisation the story would not have the same power.
More recently, while working to build our sales consulting company, I listened to my business partner, Sue Findlay, tell her story to a prospective customer who had already told us that he was “not buying”. Again, the story’s impact was striking and immediate. The managing director reciprocated with his story and opened up about the sales challenges they were experiencing and we have started to work with them.
The wonderful thing about learning how to use stories in sales is that it is so much easier and more natural than any other conversation method.
If you live in Melbourne or Perth and would like to learn how to use stories in your customer conversations then why not join one of our Story Selling workshops?
A Sales Management Specialist and Director at Growth in Focus, Mike has managed sales teams in the United Kingdom, Russia, India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia in IT Software, Telecommunications, Oil and Gas, Mining, Facilities Services and Industrial Products sectors.