The Sales Engagement Podcast
The Sales Engagement Podcast

Episode · 3 years ago

A Three-Part Framework to Build an Army of Storytellers w/ Beau Brooks

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Your team of salespeople should be nothing more than an army of storytellers because stories improve engagement. Any position on your team that entails major front-facing time with prospects should be able to speak clearly and deeply on your product using the power of story.

Beau Brooks doesn’t just want his sales team pitching a product to a prospect, he wants them to passionately share relatable stories of success from others who’ve said yes. As the VP of Sales at Formstack, Beau leads the team of people on the frontlines; the group that interacts with leaders in diverse industries, which can make relatable storytelling hard to keep up with.

He wants nothing more than for his team to be equipped to confidently share the value former customers have received from their product. This helps people understand why they’re even talking to you in the first place. As Beau says, it should be less about here’s what my product does and more about here’s how people are benefiting from my product.

Welcome to the sales engagement podcast. This podcast is brought to you by outreach dot ioh, the leading sales engagement platform helping companies, sellers and customer success engaged with buyers and customers in the modern sales era. Check out sales engagementcom for new episodes resources in the book on sales engagement coming soon. Now let's get into today's episode. Hey everyone, Jovig Nolo here, senior content managing editor at outreach, and joining us today on the sales engagement podcast is bow brooks, deep of sales at form stack. He is on the show today's talk about the importance of building an army of storytellers and how that improves engagement in sales. But before we get to that, I'm going to Casson on over to bow to introduce himself tell us a little bit about his background and a little bit more about form stack. Bo, thanks for being on the show today. Awesome, Jone. I'm excited to be here. Quick background on myself. As readtioned, I weak the sales team and the customer experience team here at for Stack. I spent the first part of my career warned how to sell. I sold long range weird jet medical transport flights. I've said that a million times. I spent about seven years of sales and in transitioned over to about five years running customer experience teams. So I got to learn the backside of the sales well and then have moved over in the last three to four years to run and kind of a combination of both sales and post sale customer care teams. So it's been a fun ride. Right now at form stack, farm stack is a breakthrough technology that allows a nontechnical person to do a very technical thing. So if you're ahead of sales, you're in marketing operations, you need to be constantly capturing data from prospective customers, are current customers, are employees, and you don't want to be dependent on development team to go build out form for you. So we allow a very dragon drop software. We can go build out those forms, to capture data in real time, be very nimble and then route that data through workflows or integrations in various products super easy. It's a fun product that we love working with all different kinds of customers and it sounds like throughout your career you've been fret and center with all types customers from from before the sales all the way through the sale. Tell me about the importance of being a storyteller. I mean, you don't have to convince me, will just throw it out there now. I come from a television journalism background, the content marketer. I love telling a good story. But tell me about your perspective on this bow and why it's important that your sale sellers are good storytellers. Sure, I know you're a big fan. I this is such an important topic in the sales area as it spans from the very brand new person sales all the way the very experienced person. But it kind of maybe goes back to right when I started at form stack. A lot of people they hear about forms that I think, why is there a company that even does this? Don't development staff at an organization just go build forms for the group? And I got to quickly learn wow, there are so many different ways that companies use this product. I need to make sure I can talk about these things and understand them, and not only me, but I realize you what I've got this group of sales people that are talking to customers every day in healthcare and government, in tech, in education, and they need to be able to talk deeply, to go to the place where the customer will lives, rather than tell a hype of story. So we talk on the lofty task of building out. I love the term an army of storytellers, because that's really what we are. When my sales team is out in the world talking to customers, I want them to be able to tell relatable ways that people are using the product, and I think this goes across any product. Even if you have a highly specialized type software or type of service that is very niche, you want to be able to tell the value of what people are getting out of it, because that helps people to understand why they're even talking to you in the first place. It's less about here's what my product does versus here's how people are finding the benefit of my product. And Yeah, I totally...

...agree with that. And coming from a Drozem back when, when I would write a story, you'd have to kind of appeal to the broader public right, you'd have to make sure that everyone can relate. How do you do that when your salesperson is potentially talking to, like he said, someone in the medical field or someone in tech or someone in a variety of different industries. How do you make that person proficient storyteller when they're talking to so many different types of people? Sure I think framework is extremely important and it doesn't have to be complex. If you're writing a novel, you're going to list out the entire framework, chapter by chapter, of what you want to accomplish the book. We don't need to get to that detail. But I took the approach of building out a framework for the team that has three simple pillars to it, first being what is the challenge that the organization in the example that you're given the stort of you're telling? What is the challenge that that organization faced? The second piece is how do they go about solving that challenge, the actual execution of it, and then the third piece, which hopefully you have it, is what's the value that they've seen as a result of solving that problem? Those three simple pillars have allowed our team to think in a very structured way about how we evaluate business and tell stories that crossed the Kigama one of the other so what I'll tell this story. One of the other big problems that I see regularly in sales is we've got into this phase of using snippets. We have these simple stories that everybody knows about a keystone customer at form stack. One of them is we've helped Yettie save over eighty hours per month and Eightyzero dollars a year development time by using forms it. That's a good story, right. Everybody knows Yett E. everybody loves their coolers and their tumblers. It's an awesome product. But the second that anybody ass oh that's great, how did they do that? As sales people, oftentimes we're stuck because we've learned the line, we've learned the value prop but the story behind that. So we've built this habit, built this muscle and I firmly believe telling stories is just like working out and getting into shape. It's a muscle that you constantly have to be flexing and practicing, and now we can tell that story. Yet he had the problem of warranty claims coming into their organization and the data was always jumbled and passed around and things were not always resolved in a time refashion. So they use forms back to build a very clean intake process. You go to their website and see their warrants be claim for today, based on the product that you select. That gets round at directly into the product manager that owns that and as a result, they've been able to reallocate a developer for eighty hours a month to work on more mission critical task because they've operationalized this very challenging thing they had in the past. That's a much cleaner story that anybody can relate to that knows kind of a process like that. It's almost like a ticketing process. But when we started probably fifteen months ago, that process was much uglier and often times just we would be left with silence when somebody said, Oh really, how do you do that, which can really weaken a story when you've gone through a great job of explaining what your product does, sort of the value and market fit that you have, but not being able to enunciate why customers using it. We were missing out on a ton of value. Hey, I don't know if people were listening carefully to the way you told that story. You can now it. Once you know the template, you can sense when you're transitioning to each part of that story so that that's part of the framework that you built out. Absolutely we had the awesome the challenge then of okay, we've got this good framework and we built down sort of a structure and a schedule. Every day somebody had a responsibility to submit a use case. We set up a slack channel where everybody in the company could see it. And the cataloging then became a bit of a challenge, right because now you've got sort of the prisoners the LEMMA. It's not my day to do the use case. Somebody else going to do it, I might miss it and then nobody's paying attention to this vast library of awesome information. So we found a categorization method that work. We would start to tag the product that was being discussed or the vertical that the story was coming from, and then we've started to build this much cleaner library of use cases to where as a salesperson,...

...if I'm about to jump into a healthcare demonstration, I can quickly can pull up this is how HCA is using the product, of the Self Franciscan alliance is using the product and have that clean story right there. For a long time that was a big challenge for us is we're going to come up with a thousand use cases, but how we really going to operationalize this within the army of sales people that we have and it's made it up a much cleaner process by structuring the data in a meaningful way. So it's not only about flexing that muscle and practicing telling stories, but also building out and easily accessable repository of these stories for your came to be able to access quickly. Absolutely, and I would even tag onto that. One of the other challenging things in sales is to create this sort of versatile mindset where you don't know the answer going in. I think Cubby said it best right seek first to understand and then be understood. So as we as salespeople go into conversations, we want to ask questions, we want to listen and we want to understand what their challenges are and then be able to find not only a potential solution within our product that works, but also tell stories that are more relevant to their situation. If I took that Yettie example and told that in every single sales conversation I was in, it would be terrible. So we've built, we've tried any way to build an infrastructure where they can restart ahead of time. Here's three or four different use cases within healthcare and then, as I'm talking to a prospect and really get to understand what their challenges are, I can start to do my best to tailor the example that I'm going to give, which is going to provide the most relevant information of the most relevant example and rather than having that one canned example and healthcare the one canned example, and it be much more versatile and really do a service to our customers by actively listening and sharing information that is is appropriate at that time. And you talk a little bit about making the world smaller. Can You? Can you go into that? Absolutely. This is one of the things I love of the most about sales and it's kind of funny, but this goes back to a conversation I had years ago with a few of my sales reps and the question is really whether talking about the weather builds. Rapport and I can probably talk about this forever. I think it's one of those funny topics out there, but the concept really is that talking about the whether where I am, yeah, that's not reportability. Nobody cares about that. But if I'm talking about the weather, Joe, where you're at and San Francisco, and I know that there was just a big storm there or you guys are having the fires that are going on out there, something like that, and I can make the world smaller between the thousand miles that are between you and I right now. That's really what matters. So, as I'm trying to be a storyteller and build a relationship, I want to find commonalities in the stories that I'm telling the way that I'm interacting with my customers. Often Times that that is done through research, right. So we talked about this library of information that we have ahead of time. Going into a call, I need to spend time learning about who you are, what school you went to where, what kind of work you've done in the past and roles you've had, and try and find commonalities that can start to tear down some of the walls in the sales conversation. We're in an age now where prospects can come into a sales conversation with so much more information than they've ever had and not have to rely on the sales people as much. So we're as a longer sales cycle conversation. In the past you had time to break down some of those walls. Sales people have fewer time that fewer amount of time that they've ever had to try and get to a point of trust with a customer. So the thing you mentioned, making the world smaller, I think is a fantastic way using stories and and we originally started talking about using stories that relate to customer examples, but using stories that make the world smaller, even from a personal perspective, is a great approach to selling and it's finding commonality, finding ways to make it not feel like we're so far away, even though we're on video, even the fact that we have with the camera on. This is a podcast. A lot of your listeners will probably just hear it over audio, but some people see it over video and there's a much better connection and the ability to tell a story, see facial reactions, the old silly adage...

...that ninety three percent of communication is nonverbal when you're telling a story, if you're doing it over video, you can see much more and that interaction that that's another way that you that we as sales people can make the world so much smaller through just personal interconnection. And this is all moving towards kind of systematizing this process of storytelling, having the information, doing the research and and creating that that shared connection. How do you also inject all of this with authenticity? How do you make these these conversations real? It is a tough thing to trend. Let me tell you the litmus test that I often use with my team when we're talking about a sales conversation. They're going to have our sales conversation they did have, is put it in the light of let's say we have the holidays coming up and you're going to be at family get togethers or friend get together somebody's going to ask you what you do. If your response you listen to, that's interesting, I'm gonna go get another drink. You have not made the World Small R and you've not built that in that inner personal relationship where if you can find a way where it comes across genuine and you really share something, that is it, that's interesting and that Pique somebody's attention, that's where we as sales people are starting to win. And again, it's all about listening first to understand who your audience is. But I love the other image that I've heard people who use in the past when you when you jump onto a call and you're talking to a prospect and there there's someone engaged, obviously on the call for some reason, but they're kind of sitting back in their chair and you can be genuine enough that you get them to lean forward and want to learn more and and hear more about what you're saying. That's our goal of sales people, and just talking about your product is never going to get you there. There's also like we all have a friend like this, but there's that person that they just like to talk about themselves all the time. That really doesn't work and that's where, when you talk about the genuine aspect of it, you fall down in your conversations when they can tell that you're just talking for the sake of talking or you're telling if all of a sudden I throw out some story about a customer like yet a at a point where it doesn't make any sense and I'm just trying to be self serving in that conversation. But this is it is a it's really a finesse that we as we, as sales people, no matter where you say in the spectrum of your career, are constantly having to practice and get better at, because genuiness is not something that you could fake, and I'm a firm believer I know I've repeated this a couple of times, but I'm a firm believer that you have to be listening and you have to understand who you're talking to in order to tell a genuine story right and in order to make a connection that's real. There's a fantastic book out right now by Chris, Chris boss. It's called never split the difference, and one of the things that he talks about at length in the book is finding ways to get people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it. And so much of that has to do with finesse. That has to do with understanding who you're talking to, reading their behavior and making them feel comfortable in the environment. And that's another reason why I love this topic. I love telling stories, is because it's a great way to make people. If you can deliver it well, it can be genuine, you can make people feel so comfortable and then engage. There's almost like a jazz aspect to it, right. I exactly. That's a great announcer. Okay, so everyone is that's listening. I'm sure they're shaking their heads, are nodding their heads, saying, okay, this all makes sense. This is great. All right, let's go back to that tamplet that you talked about in the beginning, the you know, situation, the impact and the resolution, or however you late it out. Can you go through that again so that people can can maybe replicate that in their own jobs? Sure, and I would propose it. When we thought about the structure, it has to be something that's simple and that's easily remembered. If there are too many steps to it, you'll lose side of in the organization. So we set up three the first one being the challenge at the organization faced, and that generally takes the framework of what you've learned on a discovery call or sort of an...

...early phase. Are we a fit call? What do you what do you know about the customer and one of the challenges that they saw through the process and then how they solve that problem? So that generally is associated with what they did with your product, how they put it into place. What were the technical and also the the relational aspect of the product? And then the third one was what were the results? We always want to show Dan's soul, its lones, the Roy impact. To you. You may not be able to answer that on every single case study that you put out there and seeing the use case that you put out their story. But to the extent you can, that's really where a lot of the value comes. Okay, I have a problem similar to that. I can see myself solving that problem and then, boy, I sure would love to save half a headcamp this year and allow them to repurpose somewhere else in order to make that a reality. So that's the structure that we've taken to to make it a simple process. It's really interesting that it has three parts. I mean it's like the standard structure of a movie, right, there's three acts, the three part essay. It's it's there's something about the three that psyche psychologically clicks for human beings, right. Is that something that you've been seeing? I think it was intentional and it's because there's that natural flow. Even even when I said the the example on a call, I knew I was over the challenge and then automatically go to what happened as a result and then what the impact was. It is that natural progression. I'm trying to think whether we chose three on purpose or with that that's just sort of naturally where our mind went because there's just the the flow to life of that. But there's definitely a pattern that gets followed out of those things and it works tremendously. Yeah, I find that the structure of three, when this is coming from, and I took storytelling classes in college and interpersonal communication and all these types of things, that there's a balance to three. It seemed that there shouldn't be a balance at three. There should be balunced to four, to but a list of three is just right. If there's for it's too many points. If it's to there feels like there should be one more. It's it's almost that we're hardwired to have kind of the set up, the meat of the story and the conclusion, and you're tapping into that right now to increase engagement when you're talking to prospects and customers. I think it's fantastic, one hundred percent and it's shown a tremendous amount of success within the team and, like I said, it's really that muscle. It was a practice endeavor that took six months really to get ingrained within the organization, but it's now just a natural flow of what we do and for those of you that are listed that interested in making something like this happen. It really has to start at the top. There has to be dedication from the leadership that we want to be an organization of storytellers. One of the most powerful things you can do, and not even as a leader like you don't. You don't have to be a VP of sales to be a leader in the organization, to be in the manager, to be leading the organization is to be known for asking the question, Oh really, how are they using the product? or Oh really, how are they working with us? Because in sales in particular, we have a habit of celebrating a win. Right, hey, we just close this company and everybody celebrates, or hey, we just got to deal with this company and everybody celebrates. We're celebrating the outcome when really we should focus on celebrating what the problem is that we're potentially going to solve. So be that person in the organization that, anytime anybody has one of those celebration moments, to say, that's awesome, how are they using us? And get the team in the habit. For the first six months it'll drive you crazy and people will say, Oh, I forgot or oh it's I only know this little bit, but it will evolve to where I know wally ask this questions. So I'm going to find out and they will tell this elaborate story of exactly how the customers planning to use you, what the challenge is that they're having and how they see the impact on the organization. If you started up the top that way and you make that an ingrained part of your culture, it will turn quickly and you will. For me, it's a rewarding when I see people get called out when they don't know the answer, when somebody says...

I would using US and somebody doesn't know, well, you get in trouble, but come on, you you made a big mistake there that you don't know what's going on. How big of a part does emotion in your storytelling play, apart you talk about you in our previous conversations you talked about flinchure, pacing the sale. Explain that a little bit and I think emotion plays a part of that. Right, absolutely. Thank you for bringing that up. That's something I'm very passionate about organizations. I get caught up in this just product demo cycle, future praising as a concept, where you want, as you're talking to a prospect. You want them to live in the environment that they will be in once they've adopted your product and or seeing the benefits. So absolutely that emotion kind of goes along with the genuine nature of what you're talking about. But if you get just visually excited about the story that you're telling, you're going to have a tremendous impact. I'd even liken it too. I have little kids. Some of you may not have little kids, but you've been little kids and people have told you stories. Right, there is a big difference between somebody kind of money, like imagine Ben Stein reading the barren steen bears versus the rock reading the barren steam bears. There's a tremendous difference, just even in delivery. The Passion comes through in your voice and people want to be a part of that. If somebody is and if you take the context of somebody's got this tough challenge that they're facing in the organization that they need to solve, if they can hear the excitement in your voice around helping such as such customers solve this problem and really making an impact in their business, they're going to want to do business with you. That's one of those things where that genuineness really comes into it. So in order to future pace you have to have relevant examples. I'm Jordan Bellefort said it well, the original Wolf Wall Street. Some people think he's sort of a controversial character in the sales world, but he really talks about getting a prospect to a ten out of ten in three areas. One of it is going to be the product that comes to the product demonstration. One's going to be the company. That comes down to part of what you're talking about. They have to trust you as an organization. So when you can tell stories about how you've successfully done it, that leads to that ten out of ten of trusting your company. And the third, arguably the most important sales is they have to trust you as a ten out of ten. So being emotional, being enthusiastic, telling great stories that lead to not only our product works and to tell these companies, but that is a salesperson. AM So excited that I got to help them through that problem. Boy, there's no better way to future pace of sale than to have that type of emotion. And then when you get down to the more whether it's a technical demonstration or a more deep product dive. You have that established rapport and there's a new level of trust. They're because they know you're passionate about what you do. So when you talk to the product you're going to have more credibility than the person that just is kind of monetowner, is kind of straightlaced. It's one of those things that that's tough to teach but can be practiced and can be learned. I think there's a sort of wellknown thing developing in the sales world that introverts can be phenomenal sales people. Some of the best public speakers, some of the best leaders in the world are actually introverts, but they know how to tell a good story. One of the things that I share from time to time is I had unique opportunity when I was seventeen years old, to meet Bill Clinton sort of in a oneonone environment from a conference that I've gone to and talk about the impact of great stories and that man was he was, regardless of your political orientation, was a phenomenal politician, good at what he did, but he could tell stories all day. But I'll tell you the thing that I remember most about meeting him. I had, I've had a five minute conversation with him at his desk in the White House and I had a list of questions that I was going to ask him when I walked in. I walked out of that not having asked one single question, because he asked me a ton of questions and I was so excited that I told him every day, it's all in my life story. I told him what was going on in Colorado and I walked down said I cannot believe that that just happened. I didn't ask a single question, but it was because he was masterful at that genuine nature, that genuine interest in what I was doing,...

...and he could have see could have sold me anything because he understood where I was coming from. That's probably one of the best examples I've ever seen of being a great storyteller but also combining that with the ability to listen and know your audience and what's going to resident with on the I'm sure he was able to convey like that. He was, like you said, genuinely interested. That conviction, in that passion for just human or interaction is contagious. And so, for those who are just listening and not watching this right now, I'm leaning in to the camera right now, because both been telling such a phenomenal story. So I mean this is an e purvent example of what just being excited about what you're saying can get the other person excited on the other end. It makes a huge difference. It makes a huge difference, and I mean I would say there's there's not time in this world. If you don't have that emotion for what you're doing, you probably should think about are you in the right place? Are you with the comppany? You're in the right line of work, because there's there's not time from in this world to do things that we're not excited about. And chances are you probably going to make more money throughout your career doing something you're passionate about because it's going to come through and the way you talked about the product and the way you do things. Get excited. I get excited. Absolutely. Bow If there was one thing that the listeners should take away from this episode, what would that be? Build an army of storytellers. Do it through a structured approach, but force your team, through constant trial, constant asking questions and a framework of how we tell these stories, to teach them how to be good at it. If you're more experience in your career, you're probably naturally good at it and that's why you've risen the people who are earlier in your career. Take away some of the he's like that structure. As Joe mentioned, there's something about three. Find a framework that works for you. If there's not own in your organization where you can start to build these things out, record them and then start to catalog them away and then as you go about your day, even at work, when you're not even maybe on a stales conversation or if you're in marketing, you're not in an active meeting, but you start to recall. You know what I thought about that? That's customer story. That would fit really good here. And train your mind on that recall, because you don't you don't want to be prepared, you don't want to be wrote, you want to build to recall these in a meaningful way. And I'm telling you, if you can make you yourself or your team into a team of storytellers, your product will take off because it will be it will create a virality and a contagiousness behind what you're doing that will be unstoppable. Hey, you know that. To convince me everyone is listening. Listening this man. He knows what he's talking about. Well, if people want to get a hold of you, learn more about you. Learn more about form stack. How they do that? Absolutely. Website is form stackcom. Feel free to jump on and get a free trial. I'd love to hear about it. If you do, you can find me at Bow Beau Dot Brooks at formstackcom. Great. Please connect with me on Linkedin as well. I love connecting with people in sales, having conversations about what you do, what my experience has been like. I'm always in the warm mode. So if you reach out, I hope that I'll get to learn something from you as well. And when you do reach out, tell both a story and then you'll grade you. So you'll see if there's three parts and say a word. Do you know? Fair deal aborns in the favor. Hey everyone, if you're like you what you're hearing today, please head on over to itunes and subscribe, or head on over to sales engagementcom and subscribe there. And we also have a special gift for our listeners. ARE BIG CONFERENCE OR BIG SALES ENGAGEMENT CONFERENCE? Unleash is coming up. It's rapidly approaching. It's in March and we want to give all of our listeners twenty percent off regular price tickets. All you need to do is go do unleash dot outreacho and use the Promo Code pod goals. That's podgo als, all one word, pod goals, and that is it. You get twenty percent off for six going to be there too. We're excited. Whoo all right, and so we'll see bow down in Sunday San Diego. Will See all of you listening down in Sunday San Diego in March when the rest of the country is using umbrellas and still shoveling out their driveways. And I want to thank Bo...

...for being a guest on the show today and I want to thank all of our listeners for tuning in and we will see you next time on the sales engagement podcast. Thank you. This was another episode of the sales engagement podcast. Join US at sales engagementcom for new episodes, resources and the book on sales engagement coming soon. To get the most out of your sales engagement strategy, make sure to check out our reach Dioh, the leading sales engagement platform. See You on the next episode.

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