Train Your Sales Professionals to Sell with Data and Storytelling

Training your sales professionals to simplify the way they share data with customers and prospects is best accomplished by building the skills they need to put together a compelling sales narrative.

According to research from International Data Corporation,99 percent of CFOs and CIOs at global organizations believe analytics are important to their business. The problem: 75 percent say they have trouble using the data to make decisions. Part of this challenge stems from a business setting in which data is vast and easily accessed but also disparate and lacking the contextual power of a narrative.

Training your sales professionals to simplify the way they share data with customers and prospects is best accomplished by building the skills they need to put together a compelling sales narrative.

Let’s break this process down into three parts: 

  • The importance of sourcing the right data to position a solution
  • How to organize the data for a focused approach
  • How to develop a strong narrative to illustrate the meaning behind the numbers and make data compelling

Sourcing the Right Data to Position the Solution

Identifying the most relevant data requires the sales professional to have a clear idea of the customer’s challenges; understand how well the data communicates the gains offered by the solution; and source in-depth, relevant information that speaks to those challenges

Finding the right supporting data means training your sales professionals to ask open-ended sales questionsthat reveal the customer’s needs. These incisive questions reveal which measurements will offer the most authority when it comes to illustrating the upside of a solution. 

A second critical element of sourcing the right data is ensuring sales professionals know how to source and verify research-backed evidenceto support the value of the solution.

Organizing the Data for a Focused Approach

Sales professionals must consider not only what data they’ll bring to the table, but ensure they can organize the data to convey the information clearly without overwhelming the buyer with disconnected numbers. 

One of the key steps to organizing data is making sure it is digestible. Therefore, it is useful to make your sales professionals aware of the science behind cognitive load theory.

Cognitive load theory asserts that learning falters when it demands too much working memory capacity. The Journal of Instructional Scienceprovides some guidelines for preventing this overload. 

  • Intrinsic Load: Intrinsic load is low when the concept can be learned in isolation. As some researchers have illustrated, learning a list of words exhibits low intrinsic load, whereas learning the syntax and grammatical rules that connect those words represents high intrinsic load. Sales professionals can put this to use by limiting the intrinsic load of information shared. Choose data points that don’t require a complex foundation of preexisting knowledge.
  • Extraneous Load: Extraneous load refers to the medium used to convey the idea. Some concepts are made clear with visuals.Using descriptive language to explain how a propeller works, for example, demands a greater extraneous cognitive load than simply showing a picture or short animation.
  • Germane Load: Finally, germane load is the degree to which the learner must interpret and classify the information. Break up material into pieces so learners can more effectively absorb the content and find its meaningful place among what they already know.

Training your sales professionals to select and organize data through the lens of what science tells us humans can handle will help ensure the information and the message are clear in the minds of their buyers.

Developing a Strong Narrative

Good storytelling follows a logical progression. While narratives differ across various genres, each adheres to the same core structure. What’s important is that each stage of the story leads to the next. This flow is important because the sales professional needs the data and the solution to fit seamlessly into the story. 

Training your sales professionals to utilize conventional story structure to tie their data together into a continuous presentation helps them keep buyers engaged because it moves. As Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Mamet explains, the basic format of a story is:

  1. Once upon a time… (The business entered a new market.)
  2. And then one day… (It started to grow and take market share.) 
  3. And just when it was going so well… (Unforeseen technical challenges upended customer implementations.)
  4. When just at the last minute… (The business partnered with a provider to rapidly fix the issues and scale.)
  5. And they all lived happily ever after… (The business reached ROI performance goals and improved customer satisfaction.)

The simplicity of this five-part format is its greatest feature. Why? Because the structure it is easy to remember and can be immediately applied in the field.

Success in selling belongs to the sales professional who can balance the role of analyst with storyteller.Click here to learn moreabout why, when it comes to selling, data is the fuel, and the story is the engine.

Ben Taylor is a Content manager at Richardson,a sales performance improvement company. For more than 40 years, Richardson has helped sales leaders exceed their goals and build lasting, profitable relationships with clients. For more information, visit:


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