Why the Best Story Wins


Why do customers choose you?

That’s the question we recently asked the market, hoping to get an idea about what factors actually create a differentiation strategy.

So, what is it? Products? Price? Brand reputation?

How about none of the above. Nearly two-thirds of respondents ranked sales conversations as the most important factor in creating competitive differentiation. That’s nearly 20 percentage points higher than product quality/innovation, ranked as the second most important factor.

The implication is clear: Great customer conversations come down to a great story, and the best story, told the best way, wins every time.

A great story stems from an awareness that your prospects are resistant to doing something different from what they’re doing today. In other words, your biggest enemy isn’t your other competitors, but your buyer’s status quo. That means marketers and salespeople need to develop and deliver a “Why Change” story that gives prospects a pathway to change that’s compelling, actionable, and—most importantly—can help them overcome the business challenges that are hurting them today.

Below are four steps to help structure a great “Why Change” story across your messaging, content and skills – one that guides prospects on a pathway to a new and safer alternative to their current situation.

  • Step One: Lead with an Insight – Tell your prospect something they don’t know about a problem or missed opportunity they didn’t know they had, revealing inconsistencies or uncertainties in the way they’re doing business today. This is the basic idea behind a messaging approach based on “unconsidered needs.” Research from Corporate Visions shows that this approach—instead of the traditional “voice of the customer” approach, where you respond only to the needs your prospects tell you they have—can give you a statistically significant advantage in the area of differentiation.
  • Step Two: Disrupt the status quo – Show your prospects why their status quo situation is unsafe and untenable. Highlight visually—ideally, with a whiteboard-style presentation—how sticking with the status quo could prevent prospects from realizing their most crucial business goals.
  • Step Three: Tie your prospect’s unsafe current situation to a “new safe” scenario – You can do this by depicting a contrasting pathway that resolves the issues you’ve identified. That resolution point is key. Research from Corporate Visions shows that creating risk around your prospect’s current situation isn’t compelling enough to incite buyers to change. To make your message actionable, you need to link the factors that make their current situation risky with a resolution alternative that can solve these business challenges. The Corporate Visions study shows that you can make a bigger impact on the factors that drive buyer action by delivering a story that resolves the risks you’ve identified.
  • Step Four: Prove it – Finish your story by highlighting a comparable scenario where you helped another company find a “new safe” through your solution. Once again, if you’re in the field, create a sharp visual contrast between the pain that company was experiencing in its status quo situation and the value and relief they gained by switching to yours.

For more on how to tell a “Why Change” story that disrupts the status quo with principles rooted in decision-making science, check out this eBook at http://cvi.to/SellWithScience

Tim Riesterer

Tim Riesterer

Chief Strategy Officer

Tim Riesterer has dedicated his career to improving the conversations marketers and salespeople have with prospects and customers. His books, “Customer Message Management”, “Conversations that Win the Complex Sale”, “Three Value Conversations”, and "The Expansion Sale", focus on improving market-ready messages and tools that marketers and salespeople can use to win more deals. As chief strategy and research officer for Corporate Visions, he sets the direction and develops products for this leading marketing and sales messaging, content and training company.

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