In B2B sales, storytelling builds a connection. Product features are boring unless customers envision using them to their advantage. Hence, we tell a success story... as a lure. However, most success story email templates tell self-centered stories without first earning an active ear.
Result: They suffer from a tragic condition.
True: Nobody wants to listen to bragging about a company, service, how good you are. They prefer knowing what your service can do and how it will help their business.
However, success story email outreach templates have pitfalls. If all you do is tell the story -- for your own gain -- to deaf ears -- you'll book fewer meetings.
Customers prefer to be seduced a little -- get primed to hear your success story or case study.
In theory, success stories in cold email should work
Whether you're working warm leads from trade shows or inbound marketing -- or reaching out to cold contacts, experts suggest we tell stories to build stronger relationships.
While this might work in marketing copywriting, it's different in sales outreach.
Consider what behavioral science teaches us. Think like your customer thinks.
People value more what they ask for, less what is freely offered. Hence, if the story is to be heard (appreciated, acted on) it should be, first, desired... asked for.
For example, think about it as a first date. You may be eager to speak about yourself and your story. However, rushing into it leaves little to no room for curiosity to grow within your date.
And just like that, you've reduced chances of a second date!
However, if you hold back... avoid giving too much away... it leaves room for your date to become curious and want to know more about you.
They'll ask a question, prompting you to tell the story!
This makes you more relatable, approachable, attractive. Rather than selfishly pushing the story the other person requests it... pulls.
See where we're going with this?
Why they actually don't
Yes, sharing stories and best practices helps customers understand your value in a relatable way. However, effectiveness of the success story requires you have an interested listener.
Effective means motivational. Customers should be motivated to respond.
Yet most email templates containing success stories merely tell the story -- without provoking the request for it.
Consider this: How can you increase odds your customers will read the email and clearly envision using the story to their advantage?
Answer: Earn the right to share the success story. Provoke a request for it.
As the Italian journalist, Italo Calvino said,
"It's not the voice that commands the story, it is the ear."
One must be invited to tell their story, by a prospect. Not the other way around.
Do this instead
If effectiveness of the story (or case example) requires an attentive listener (and it does!) you also need to spark curiosity.
They must be piqued enough to engage.
Yes. Develop good story telling skills. Use these skills in email and LinkedIn outreach.
But first make sure you have an active ear to tell it to -- an audience who's piqued, primed for it.
Before learning how to tell a good story get skilled at earning requests to tell them.
Next time you read some expert saying "Rather than selling a service, focus on the value it brings and the human experience. Tell a story..." slap him or her upside the head.
Then, ask, "How do I get in the position to tell tell the story -- to someone who WANTS to listen?"
Developing curiosity is a skill worth learning -- first. Ensuring stories are heard, appreciated and acted on.
Example: Great success story, poor execution
The below example is a motivational (frightening) story. These kinds of stories can motivate behavior on the customer side.
However, it merely pushes the story to the masses, hoping for something to stick.
Premature elaboration strikes again.
Notice how the message fails to earn permission to tell the story among those most primed to say "yes." It just launches into the story... which is a strong one.
But is anyone listening?
Anyone can vomit a story into a canned, static email template. It takes skill to provoke a request to tell the story.
"Never, and I mean EVER, start a cold call with your corporate value proposition," says Martin E. Stevens of Pipeline Doctors.
Same goes for telling success (or horror) stories which relate to your value proposition.
Provoke curiosity instead
Avoid telling stories in ways which:
- attempt to persuade the reader;
- focus on your value, positioning you as the solution/hero;
- use words like, "our client" or "thanks to our solution";
- reveal the entire story, leaving no room for curiosity.
Avoid premature elaboration!
- tell a mini-version of the story's amazing outcome;
- omit details of how it happened and who (you) facilitated it;
- tailor the message content around factors like geography (location) to increase relevance.
That #3 above is critical and not always possible. However, results (engagement/response rates) improve dramatically using this element.
For example, notice how the seller below tells a truncated version of the story. They scratch the itch -- without fully satisfying.
This helps the client want more scratching 🙂
Also, note how the seller positions their client to be the hero, not themselves.
This is done by highlighting the problem they were able to solve for the client and the benefits produced from said solution -- omitting the seller's role.
Also the sender avoids giving away "all of the how" behind the story, leaving room for curiosity to grow within said prospect.
Facilitating a response...
Notice the underlying psychology of the message sent -- and response.
Notice how the customer is aware of his "taking the bait."
Don't mistakenly interpret this response as anger. He's not angry. But he is feeling vulnerable and purposefully making the seller aware -- of his awareness. He is also flexing his power over the seller.
"If it's a social influencer campaign..." this discussion is over.
But he is "not opposed" to hearing more.
How can you help customers wonder a little? It's not as easy as copycatting what I've shown above. It's a learnable skill.
Consider joining a community of practitioners -- who enjoy taking a behavioral science approach to sales outreach.
Or leave a comment below.