Storytelling has proven to be a compelling best practice in modern communications, and maybe our colleagues in sales can learn a thing or two from that success. New research shows that salespeople need to use more participatory, visual storytelling techniques to be most engaging and memorable on sales meetings conducted by phone or web conference—the areas where 61 percent of salespeople now stage more than half of their calls, according to a joint survey conducted by Corporate Visions and InsideSales.com.

The test simulation, done in partnership with Dr. Nick Lee of the Warwick Business School and the International Journal of Sales Transformation, involved 800 participants who were randomly divided into four different inside selling test conditions. Each group experienced a different engagement approach—some more visual and participatory than others.

What can comms pros teach sales teams about storytelling? Plenty!

The simulation included the following test conditions:

  • Verbal Only
  • Listen and Watch Only
  • Listen, Watch, and Take Notes
  • Listen and Draw as Directed

Why storytelling works for sales

The study specifically assessed the impact of these approaches on the areas of attitude/disposition and recall—and revealed that when it comes to engaging contacts in these inside selling environments, the more participatory approaches that involved getting contacts to take notes or draw simple, concrete visuals consistently performed best, and were shown to be vital to increasing favorable attitudes toward your story and improving recall.

What can comms pros teach sales teams about storytelling? Plenty!

“This study shows that salespeople need to get prospects and customers beyond passive on their phone or web-based calls,” said Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and research officer at Corporate Visions, in a news release. “To stand out in these environments, reps can’t get lulled into a false sense of security and think that a verbal-only approach is best. This research shows that words alone mean less engagement and recall of your message.”

Before conducting the study, Corporate Visions worked with a client to revamp their approach to inside sales calls, helping them shift from a script-based, verbal-only approach to one based on simple, concrete visual storytelling techniques communicated over the phone.

“We saw the transformative effect that had in that individual case, but we needed to generate more empirical data and really see how the visual, experiential approach held up in a more rigorous B2B decision-making scenario,” Riesterer said. “This study validates that more participation and visualization means more impact.”

What can comms pros teach sales teams about storytelling? Plenty!

“Today, 87 percent of salespeople engage prospects or customers with visuals either rarely or never, according to the survey we conducted ahead of the research,” Riesterer added. “That means companies have a major opportunity to differentiate in this area, and that could mean more second meetings and more prospects willing to champion your cause internally. This study shows that you need to be asking what participatory actions your audience can take to reinforce the story you’re telling them.”

Read the full report here.

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