How To Use "Selling with Storytelling" To Boost Retail Sales
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How To Use "Selling with Storytelling" To Boost Retail Sales

How To Use

When you use storytelling in retail, it helps shoppers quickly become engaged.

In retail sales, that is especially important because people are loyal to people, not products. And during tough times, they often want to escape the news.

The purpose of storytelling in retail is to invoke an emotion and use it to influence the customer’s decision about buying.

Storytelling helps people connect with success, fame, prestige, a revelation – you name it. 

Everything but logic

Remember how you felt as a child when you heard those words, “Once upon a time…”?

You were open to possibilities… to magic… to wonder.

Just as with a child, when you tell a story to an adult, you engage the heart, which leads the buyer up into the highest level of the brain, the prefrontal cortex; it is the wonder part of the brain. It is where we are most happy, most comfortable, and most open to new ideas.

People forget facts, but they remember stories. That’s important when you’re selling.

But sales associates don’t tell stories. Instead, they vomit useless fact after useless fact. (Maybe that’s because they were taught not to talk to strangers, or they were taught to not talk about themselves.)

On top of all that, without understanding the power of storytelling, some tell stories that have no point, or at least not in terms of selling. So they never learn how a narrative can help them sell. So when selling themselves, their website, or their products, they stick to an analytical approach filled with facts.

If that’s you, and you want to grow your sales (and who doesn’t?), you need to change your thinking. Storytelling in retail is the most effective way to get past someone’s logical mind and appeal to their heart.

What’s wrong with a “just the facts” approach

Using an analytical approach means you are using the logical part of your brain, the neocortex or as I call it, the “critical parent,” by providing fact after fact when trying to justify your pricing.

Because of this, your potential customer, who you’ve forced to stay in their own critical parent part of their brain, is judging and analyzing everything you say for accuracy and relevance. And gosh forbid you say something is a good deal because they’ll have to check it for themselves, whether on their smartphone or a trip to a competitor.

No one is inspired to act solely based on facts, as logic tells them that just like a missed bus, another deal will come along shortly if they just wait.

A well-structured and engaging story during a sale helps your customers experience what happened to a stranger as if it had happened to them, too. When they hear the positive outcome, it removes their fear of purchase.

The 5 elements of storytelling in retail stores

1. A brief setup

Just saying you’re family-owned or a fair value doesn’t provide an emotional connection that makes someone want to visit your store. Tell a story about your family, or how another customer found value in a similar situation. Use a lot of details. Where did it happen and when?

2. Who is it about? 

Was it you? Was it a customer? If you know their name, use it.

3. What was the conflict or problem? 

Be as specific as possible.

4. What was the solution? 

Again, be specific. For example, when a previous customer used the better product, it saved time, effort, and ultimately, money.

5. What were the results? 

The problem was fixed, they got a beautiful home, they became a loyal customer, they told their friends. 

One important point when storytelling is that your narrative must be real. Hypotheticals land like duds. That’s because people buy from people in whom they believe.

Three places to use storytelling in your retail business

1. On your website

So many businesses leave a story off, but it should definitely be included in your About section. Why do you do what you do? What makes you different from someone else? What obstacles did you have to overcome when you decided to open a store? 

Just saying you’re family-owned or a fair value doesn’t provide an emotional connection that makes someone want to visit your store. Keep it brief, keep it real, and it will help customers choose you over someone else.

2. In your sales process

Stories fit in the fourth part of the sale where you are describing what a product will do for them, or toward the end when you need to overcome an objection. This is sometimes referred to as the Feel, Felt, Found method of selling. 

Tell the customer that you understand how they feel, that you felt that way too when you were looking for something. Do this by telling your own personal true story. Or share a relevant customer’s story.

Describe how you or that customer felt (frustrated, angry, confused, overwhelmed by price, etc.).

Then describe what they or you found upon buying it, that their initial sticker shock was groundless for all the product did, how easily it solved their problem or met their need, and how they felt when they got what they really needed. It is crucial to describe the results.

Your story must be relevant and shared at the correct time. After you’ve built enough rapport they will be likely to listen and not feel it is irrelevant or a waste of their time.

3. At a Zoom event

So many business owners feel awkward when someone asks them, “What do you do?” at a business function or even on a Zoom call, especially if they have a retail store. 

Tell your story of frustration working for someone else, making the jump, and the excitement, success, fulfillment you found. It will make you stand out much more than a just-the-facts business card.

People are sold on people first

Using the right story makes product and experience details memorable. Remember, people aren’t loyal to products, they’re loyal to people.

So what stories do you – and your staff – have to tell with your customers?

Bob Phibbs, “The Retail Doctor,” is a 30-plus-year retail expert with a proven track record to help brands lift sales, turn their retail staff into real salespeople, and get more out of their store traffic with innovative retail marketing tactics. Contact him at 562-260-2266, or visit his website.

Published: June 14th, 2022

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