Facts Tell, Stories Sell. Are You A Good Story Teller?

Facts Tell, Stories Sell. Are You A Good Story Teller?

I grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee. Actually very near where the International Story Telling Festival is held every October. I guess one of the best skills I have from my bloodline is the ability to tell stories. The mountain folk, hillbillies are no longer politically correct, love to spin a yarn that will keep you on the edge of your seat or log as the case may be. This skill translated into a great career for me in sales. However, very few “sales gurus” teach story selling as an effective way to sell products and services. I have found selling insurance for 20 years sitting and quoting statistics about risk and explaining boring benefits to the average consumer is not very effective. Prospects want to be engaged and somewhat entertained. Coverage and risk can be easily explained in a story about someone who had a claim or bought coverage. Use their “why” they decided to protect their family and/or assets. If people can relate then they buy.

Here’s an example, let’s just say I have a couple around 35 years old, John and Judy Public, with two children concerned about their lack of savings for retirement and their children’s college. The Publics earn about $75,000 per year and stretching every dollar until George Washington has tears in his eyes. Their belief is they can’t afford the big bucks it takes to put away for college and certainly not retirement. They feel almost hopeless. However, during our warm up I have uncovered a few facts during our conversation that they enjoy their daily cup of Starbucks and when John gets tired around 3:00pm he will drink an energy shot from time to time. Here’s what my story may sound like.

“John and Judy I understand the struggles of raising a family as I have 3 children myself. I also understand we hit goals by focusing on them. It really doesn’t take a lot of money to start saving for college and retirement. As a matter of fact I have a product that you could start a retirement savings for only $3.53 per day, and a college savings for only $1.60 per day. It is guaranteed to return 4% minimum and if you get in a jam a few years down the road, you can withdraw your money with no fees, penalties or surrender charges. We will insure your nest egg for self completion in case you became disabled or die too soon. Coincidentally, the cost of this program is about same money you spend on Starbucks coffee and energy shots. What if we started making our coffee at home and bringing it with us every day? John, I have a friend that did energy drinks everyday and that money really adds up. He now goes out and walks a couple of laps around the building where he works when he gets sleepy and he finds that wakes him right up. He swears he is more productive and he actually lost a little weight and saves money. See he made a decision that he wanted to retire one day and not work until he was 80 years old. Now I’m not sure if you are willing to make those two little changes in your lifestyle, but you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? Ultimately if you don’t change, the result will be a lot of debt. You will be taking out college loans because only 1% win the lucky parents club and get a full scholarship for their children. You will then spend about ten years paying those off. If you put this off again, you will wake up at 45 years old and in the same boat with a lot less time to accumulate money. See saving is not a financial thing it is a behavioral thing. We must create that habit today in order to have success when it comes time to retire. We can’t count on government programs or some organization to help us when we age. We must count on ourselves. Tell me what your golden years look like as it stands right now?…”

I explained a product within the story. We can now go through the program in such a way to make sense about how it works and what the benefits are to them. Actually this blog is a story within a story that has an embedded story. Think about how you present your product or service and how you can use a story to present more effective.

If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” ― Rudyard Kipling


Tim Wilhoit is owner/principal of Your Friend 4 Life Insurance Agency in Nashville, TN. He is a family man, father of 3, entrepreneur, insurance agent, life insurance broker, salesman, sales trainer, recruiter, public speaker, blogger and team leader with over 25 years of experience in sales and marketing in the insurance and beverage industries.

5 Responses to Facts Tell, Stories Sell. Are You A Good Story Teller?

  • I enjoyed this article, in my book it actually touches on the #1 skill that Every successful sales person has, its the ability to identify with their customer to the point of becoming a chameleon but not in a phony or coning way, its doing it on an honest and sincere level by genuinely listening to the customer and understanding their primary need. Some of this sales technique can be learned but the shining stars in the world of sales seem to be born with most of it. Its funny, I’m actually typing this post while having coffee with a close friend who just so happens to be a consistent six figure commission sales earner, he and I both agree that the real talent of story telling is almost, well, like a gift, its in your gene make up as something that almost comes natural, and the most successful and highest paid sales people we’ve known have this gift refined to the point where its mastered even in their every day life. 9 cups of coffee later we both have decided that sales success is about first finding the need, understanding the need, then fulfilling the need, and by the way, International Story Telling Festival held in October, I just may have to go one time just for the experience.

  • Scott, that sounds like a great coffee break, I hate I wasn’t there for it. Everything you two discussed I wholeheartly agree with. You really should go to the festival in Jonesborough, TN. You would enjoy it. There is a lot of rich history in Tennessee’s oldest town. Near by is Davy Crockett’s birthplace and the home of Andrew Johnson. It is the humble beginnings of story telling. I wish you both much continued success!

  • Advisors are just discovering the value of sharing life with their clients via social media. It’s a slow process, but a worthy one. Thanks for the ‘storytelling’ angle. It’s an apt analogy for today’s digital marketplace

  • Couldn’t agree more! Thanks, Tim.

  • Thank you Chris, I appreciate your kind words.

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