With the pandemic that came upon us, the rise of video conferencing tools like Microsoft teams and zoom has led to more aspects of the sales conversation to occur virtually. And what began as a crisis reaction has evolved into the new normal, but how normal is the new normal? We’re talking about how the strong shift from in-person to virtual selling has transformed B2B sales experience, virtual sales enablement, new organization’s KPIs. Everything is evolving. In the virtual selling podcast we address these issues in depth twice a week with the experts and leaders of these transformations, heads of sales, sales ops, and sales enablements of the most innovative companies in the field. This podcast is sponsored by sales deck.io, the new SAS platform to make your customer meetings more engaging and better prepared.
Find out how you can shorten sales cycles, convert more leads and increase customer engagement. Virtual selling is here to stay. And so is SalesDeck.io.
Gabriel : Hi, everybody. I’m very happy to be with Dean Ray, who is a coach within SalesGym. What you do at SalesGym, and we will complete that Dean. You help salespeople having better conversation around better meetings.
And your background is from the Marine cop. You were in helicopter attack or attack helicopter. And you really make the comparison between having a great flight and having a great conversation and a great customer meetings.
And really the idea is that, as a salesperson, you are a performer and a life performer. And then you need to train and to practice over and over to free your mind and to be confident of what you do and what you say.
And you can really focus more on the strategy. Is it correct ? And I am really happy to have you in the me in the podcast, Dean.
Dean: Hey Greg bill, thank for having us on board. So yeah, that’s exactly right. So the mentality that I think a lot of salespeople have is they just kinda show up and rely on their natural talents and ability to communicate, whenever they’re having meetings.
And sometimes that goes really well, but oftentimes there’s a lack of consistency there and their ability to get their message across, do great discovery and the other things that belong in a great meeting flow. So yes, with my background in the Marine Corps, that’s kind of really what drew me to Salesgym and that philosophy was I knew that I personally was not prepared for a lot of the flights I was jumping into when I first started flying. But once I started doing some drills, getting really, really good at what we did internally inside the aircraft that freed my brain up to focus on what was actually happening outside and what the mission was.
And I should have got that revelation long before cuz growing up, I played piano, I played all kinds of sports and there was a lot of drilling that happened within those particular capacities. But for some reason, never clicked in my mind that when you’re in a sales role or a client facing role, you should probably be doing the same thing to ensure that you’re consistent and you feel confident and good when you’re going into meetings.
Gabriel: Great. I love that. Before we go to our conversation about storytelling, which is a great subject, too, do you want to share with us a fun fact ?
Dean: Oh Yeah ! So whenever I was in the Marine Corps, one of the things that we got to do a lot was fly all around Southern California, because I was at camp Pendleton.
So this went from things like flying over Coronado bridge. Whenever I was in San Diego and then flying down through LA flying over Disneyland, and one time we actually landed on top of LA PD. We had all the cops come out there taking pictures of us and stuff as we were landing on there. And we almost blew one of their helicopters sideways that was sitting on top of the building as well. So, pretty interesting experience getting to do things like that is somebody in the early twenties.
Gabriel: Great. So one of the topics that we would want to address together is really about storytelling. You really thinks that storytelling is really important in sales and really important, in your normal communication also with people.
Can you tell us about storytelling ? What do you have in mind ?
Dean: Yeah. So whenever it comes to storytelling, like first off, we’ve probably all been in conversations with people who are exceptional storytellers. And they’re generally the people who are the life of the party when you’re going out and you’re with friends and family, they tend to kind of keep the conversation revolving around them.
And everybody leaves those conversations feeling good and energized. On the other hand, we’ve all seen bad storytellers, where they just start telling a story, it doesn’t really go in any particular direction, it doesn’t really have a point, kind of dies out. It creates a lot of awkwardness and just unpleasantness in those conversations.
And so that’s something that really stands out in the personal world. So whenever it comes to the professional world, though, storytelling’s a great communication tool. You see politicians, CEOs, all kinds of other people telling stories to make their points. And that’s because we, as humans, we connect with good storytelling.
To get a story, right, there’s a few critical elements that really need to be there, regardless of what context we’re talking about. So the first thing that happens is the problem, right? So what’s the tension in the beginning. [00:05:00] That causes action in the story. If you’re talking TV shows or whatever you’re thinking of, you know, in the Hobbit, whenever small comes down, you have the dragon come and take over the town.
And it’s a real big problem they’ve gotta deal with, right? So that’s can kind of be the initial stage is that problem that draws everybody in and gets people to recognize something needs to be done. And the next piece is the decision, right? So the decision made is, you know, when the dragon comes into town, the nights jump on their horses, they grab their swords, they get ready to go to battle.
And they’re gonna do something about this problem. And whenever you talk about the decision, what’s really useful when you’re having say a business conversation is to be specific about what happened. Whenever people hear about a problem they can relate to, they wanna know how that thing gets solved. And if you can tell them in depth, what it looks like to solve that problem.
Now you have their attention and they can see something that’s action. And then that last piece is that positive outcome or result, right? Whenever you’re talking about a story at, you know, at home with friends and the like, people wanna know how it resolved. So say you, you broke down on the side of the road, how’d you end up getting a ride and getting back to your car and getting that all fixed…people wanna know the ending.
And whenever you’re talking about like a business relationship, People wanna know, was it worth it for them to take those steps and move towards that action? What they actually get as a result of deciding to address that problem with these specific steps and will this solution work for me, that’s what people wanna be able to hear when it comes to storytelling.
So when you’re thinking of those stories, always try to use a problem decision resolution style flow, whether it’s personal or professional. And you’re gonna notice yourself engaging with people a lot.
Gabriel: And at what moment in the sales process and during sales conversation that you, you should use storytelling ?
Dean: A lot, as often as possible, to be honest. But critically you want to use it ideally at the end of the conversation. So say you’ve had a great conversation with somebody you’ve learned a lot about their company, what their problems are, what their goals are, some of the obstacles that maybe can, you know, prevent them from achieving those goals.
When you get to the end, you’ve summarized it. And you’ve realized you’re all on the same page. If you have a story of another client who’s been in their shoes, who’s shared their problems and their goals, and you’ve seen them get to where they want to go. You should tell that story. Because if somebody can actually see what the process looks like and they can envision what their future would look like if they took these steps with you, they’re much more likely to do that.
If it feels abstract and you’re just sharing some bullet points and how these bullets solve these problems, now, it feels like an abstract conversation and they may or may not be able to see what that future looks like. So telling a story helps them envision what a brighter future could be and what steps they’d need to take to actually get there.
Gabriel: And so, how do you rehears those type of stories or how do you know them? Is it like use case? Do you train to tell those use case ? What is the the right way to be able to have these stories in mind ?
Dean: That’s a good question. There’s a large collection of stories. I think we’ve all accumulated throughout the years. So I think your question is like « how do you choose which ones are right ? » And « how do you get good at telling those stories ? »
Gabriel: Especially, because if you are not directly related to the stories from the company and someone told you, and that you need to know it and to tell it, as if you have lived it for yourself, which is not the case.
Dean: So that’s another trick. So let me kindly answer that. That’s kind of a two part thing, right? So most people go to about three to five different types of meetings consistently. I’ve worked with thousands of people across a lot of different industries and that’s one thing that’s remained true. There may be outlier meetings, but for the most part, you’re going into about three to five different types of meetings with different types of clients you’re accustomed to.
So whenever you’re going into those meeting types, what you ideally do is over time, collect a series of stories, questions that you typically ask questions that you know, are gonna get asked of you, and you start to collect those on your desktop and different files for each meeting type. So that’ll help you figure out which stories are gonna be appropriate for which meeting type.
And you can start practicing a few different, stories for each meeting. That way you have some really good things in your back pocket. Whenever you hear something that’s aligned with, maybe something that you can bring some value you can bring to the table. Now, as far as, how do you tell stories that aren’t your own?
That’s a real tough thing for people to do. I’ve noticed, and it’s really simple. There’s a really easy slide of hand. So what you do is say, you know, Gabriel, I was talking with somebody, and actually a colleague of mine. And they had a client who was in a very similar situation as you. Let me tell you what happened.
And then you tell the story as if it’s your own. Exactly. As you were told that story exactly. As you learned it. And at the end, if you start asking me for more details, it’s as simple as saying, you know what, Gabriel, that was actually one of my colleagues. I don’t have a lot of extra details there, but that’s just kind of what they told me was going down in that situation.
So if you use that type of a framework, that little slide of hand at the top about what a colleague had told you about that allows you to tell stories as if they’re your own. So you can tell them more powerfully, but it also helps you escape that responsibility of all these extra details that you don’t have.
[00:10:00] So that’s a good technique of being able to tell stories that the organization is sharing, without being responsible for every single detail.
Gabriel: So it’s really about being a performer, as you say that the intro and being an actor. And, to know your texts and to be confident of that to reer them
Dean: And that gets back to that thing. I was discussing at the beginning. Sales people, they’re naturally, for the most part, are charismatic and they’re good with people and that’s why they get in that space. But if you’re not doing the prep, you’re not being kind to yours.
If you were a great piano player, you wouldn’t just go up and do a recital with no practice at all. You wanna practice the piece you’re gonna be playing. So that way, when you’re in front of the crowd, you can actually play it. And to think of a little bit less rigidly, say you’re a jazz musician and you’re, you’re allowing yourself to kind of riff and move in a lot of different directions.
The only way you can do that is if you get really strong at the fundamentals of how you’re playing and the different types of chords and scales you’re bringing together. Once you’re getting really good at that, you can adjust on the fly and make some pretty creative things that are different every time.
But if you don’t practice those fundamentals underlying, that actual playing, you’re not gonna be able to do that. So a lot of people don’t wanna practice for meetings and stories and the like, because they don’t wanna come off as inauthentic, which is completely understandable. But the key is if you practice something a lot, and you get really good at it, you’re gonna come off as authentic because you can be your genuine self.
You’re not rehearsing a script and memorizing every word. You’re just more and less remembering what happened in those situations and you’re just organizing your thoughts more consistently. That’s all it is. So a good analogy I like to use is like when you watch keynote addresses from Steve jobs or any other CEO or speaker, who’s gone up and done a fantastic job, they didn’t tell that story or those stories for the very first time on stage.
They rehearsed that hundreds, maybe even thousands of times, that way they could go up and execute properly while still looking natural, because they’re comfortable with the material. As salespeople, maybe we’re not practicing hundreds or thousands of times, that’s unrealistic, but if we gotta practice it a few times, so we feel comfortable, we know what we wanna say.
The tone and how we wanna say it, the cadence of how we wanna flow through different ideas. And once we get comfortable with those things, it takes a lot of anxiety outta the selling process because there’s more predictability and you know how good you are at it. Because you’ve heard it out loud already.
Gabriel: Sure. There is a book I really love on storytelling for salespeople. It is « Seven stories every Salesperson must tell » from Mike Adams. And he gives different framework of stories, the one about your personal stories, your company stories, your key people stories, some success stories and also some not only success, but sometimes there is some more difficult outcomes. So stories to help your customer understand that you will be close to them, even if there is a problem. So you really need to see « Seven different type of story », which is really important to have to help smooth the sales process and the sales decision.
And for those that speak in French, which is not many here, we have made a book which is « Q2C Selling » in French. That address also this topic of storytellings and adding different scenarios of different stories at different moments of the sales process and sales conversations. That that’s really a very interesting topic and it’s very true and you know, I’m a marketing funder. We talk a lot about storytelling within marketing and not enough within sales. And I think it’s much more efficient to do some storytelling in sales than in marketing. Because when you are a human, it’s much more easier to share a story than when you are a company.
Trying to share a story is less relevant and there is less authenticity about the story of a company. But when it’s a human it’s much better. About storytelling, what is your point during virtual customer meetings or virtual selling ? Do you tell stories the same ways than in person or there is something different that you need to check ?
Dean: So that’s a good question. One of the things that’s, uh, fundamental with humans, especially in the modern day is we lack attention spans. And that’s exacerbated in the online world. Maybe it’s the way we take in media. Maybe it’s just not having somebody in front of us makes us less patient, whatever it is we have a little bit less time to be able to tell stories or just get our points across in general, in a virtual space. So whenever you’re thinking of stories, you want to tell virtually when you’re having conversations, a good rule of thumb is to try to keep them under 90 seconds. If you can, you can go a little bit longer if you need to.
Because sometimes, you know, stories are a little bit more elaborate than that and you just have to get into that. As a general [00:15:00] rule of thumb, when you’re communicating with somebody in a virtual setting, try to keep your communication in 92nd chunks or less. That way you give the person you’re talking to a chance to respond and get back involved in the conversation.
If you find yourself speaking in a one-sided fashion and talking at somebody, for several minutes in a row, you can start to lose their interest. And if you start to lose their interest, it’s really tough to pull that back. And so a goal of yours while you’re having virtual conversations is I wanna get my point across and then I wanna get feedback from what their thoughts are based on what I just said.
So immediately, whenever you’re telling a story or just communicating a value proposition in some way immediately get back to, what are your thoughts on that? You know, what has your experience been in that regard? Something like that to get the conversation flowing.
Gabriel: Great. And it’s really the, for this reason that I brand my marketing agency 1min30.
So it’s really the same 90 seconds. And even now you have to be shorter and, and TikTok is more about seven or eight seconds than 90 seconds.
Dean: Exactly. Attention stands are not getting longer. That’s for sure.
Gabriel: Thanks a lot Dean, it was a pleasure. So, what is the right for people to join you and to contact you?
Dean: So you can just shoot me an email directly at email@example.com if you’d like to get in touch with me. But if you’re just more curious about storytelling and our general philosophy, if you go to SalesGym.com. We actually have a few white papers that are built around what our training philosophy is.
And our founder, Mike St. Lawrence actually just produced a book and it has a lot of the underpinnings of our philosophy in there as well as some ideas on storytelling. And I know you for sure, you can download the first three chapters for free. And if you’d like what you’re reading there, just get in contact with me.
We can see what you, we can do about getting you a free copy or just a longer conversation if you’re interested in the concepts.
Gabriel: Great. And what is the name of the book?
Dean: The book’s name is « How to influence ».
Gabriel: Thanks. Before I close this podcast, do you have an opinion on Salesdeck.io ? You have tried just before we had this discussion.
Dean: Yeah. So one, one of the things that we really focus on is obviously practicing and getting good at these different stories and sequences. And the reason why we do that isn’t so you can memorize a script.
The scripting just doesn’t work. It’s all about being able to organize your thoughts. And once you organize your thoughts, you can always go toward an effective point. And I think that Salesdeck is a really good way of organizing somebody’s thought. People often are good at maybe organizing a three to five minute segment of a conversation, but it’s really tough to organize a 30 minute or, or a 60 or 90 minute meeting.
So using a tool like sales deck would be a really good way of organizing what’s actually happening within a meeting flow. Um, it’ll keep your brain on track and ensure that you are getting to productive things that people wanna talk about. And then on the backside, you’ll actually have these organized notes you can refer to whenever it comes to sending recap emails, taking notes and doing researchers.
Or just sharing a lot of the information you learned with your team. Whenever you go back and you have a conversation about, you know, what the pros and cons might be of going forward with this particular client or somebody you’re trying to do business with for your own company.
Gabriel: Thanks a lot Dean. It’s great. Thank you. This episode of the virtual selling podcast is over. Thanks for sticking around. Join us twice a week for a new episode, with new stories and challenges with the giants in the field. If you enjoy today’s episode, we are always listening for your feedback. Share the show and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform, so you don’t miss any episode.
This episode was brought to you by Salesdeck.io, the virtual selling platforms that increase your sales team efficiency and sales readiness, enables remote management and sales operational excellence. Book your Salesdeck.io demo today to discover how you can close more deals with engaging and better prep customer meetings.
Thanks a lot. It was a pleasure. Thank you.
Dean: It was a pleasure. Thank you, Gabriel.