Story Time

By Lisa Gschwandtner

If you find your sales team showing more enthusiasm for the complimentary donuts at your sales meetings than for anything else, it might be time to turn the floor over to your audience.

A sales meeting is the perfect forum for salespeople to swap stories about amazing closings and deals done right. Personal stories draw the audience into the meeting and give busy salespeople a chance to talk to their peers, learn from their successes and failures and emphasize common goals.

Before the meeting, single out a top performer and ask him or her to share the details of a significant sale. Give the presenter the following questions and instructions as a guideline:

Tell us how you initially contacted the customer.
Describe the customer’s situation.
Describe your pitch.
Who was the competitor? What did they do right, and what did they do wrong?
What pitfalls did you encounter, and how did you get around them?
Who helped make the sale?
What was one lesson you learned? What’s one thing you’ll know to do in the future?
Salespeople should limit their stories to two to five minutes; any longer and the audience’s attention may start to wander, or the storyteller may lose focus.

Evaluate the storytelling skills of the sales team. If you find that some people have trouble sticking to your guidelines or simply can’t construct a good story, consider sending them to Toastmasters (www.toastmasters.org). Toastmasters can improve a salesperson’s ability to give an impromptu talk or present a prepared speech-skills any good salesperson should cultivate.

Solicit at least one success story for every sales meeting. Praise promotes camaraderie and helps keep meetings focused. Be sure to congratulate the team and thank them for meeting goals, closing deals and making money.

A good sales meeting should get the team ready to sell – not burned out from a donut-induced sugar high. Turn your audience into active participants, and they’ll leave raring to go.