There have been countless books written on the power of storytelling and why that is needed. We have learned that
- From the beginning of time that this was how we transferred information and wisdom
- Stories help us capture and remember concepts.
- All humans are wired to communicate best through stories
However, does any organization practice storytelling. Do they practice how to create meaningful dialogue from them?
In the book Mapping Dialogue: Essential Tools for Social Change, the authors discuss The Story Dialogue technique developed by Ron Labonte and Joan Featherstone. Ron and Joan saw it as a way to use stories to detect essential themes and issues for a community, moving from personalized experience to generalized knowledge. The book explained how:
In Story Dialogue, individuals are invited to write and tell their stories around a generative theme – a theme that holds energy and possibility for the group. As a person shares their story, others listen intently, sometimes taking notes. The storytelling is followed by a reflection circle where each person shares how the storyteller’s story is also their story and how it is different.
A structured dialogue ensues guided by the questions
- “what” (what was the story),
- “why” (why did events in the story happen as they did),
- “now what” (what are our insights) and “so what” (what are we going to do about it).
The group closes by creating “insight cards,” writing down each insight on a colored card and grouping these into themes.
When transferring this concept to sales training, I find it remarkably useful. Typically, when customer conversations are recorded or repeated in sales training, they are evaluated by a specific set of criteria. The most common being did you stay on the script and second, did you engage the customer. I, personally, could not see two more opposite statements. However, I have experienced conversations like this repeatedly.
Instead, use the Story Dialogue as a guideline for improving the sales conversation. Gather your salespeople together and have them listen to a recording, watch a video or listen to an enactment. Instead of critiquing, we go around the room and have your salespeople tell how what they heard is also their story and how it is different. You would capture all the different ideas with the use of insight cards. Group them in themes and have a structured dialogue on improving your sales stories or, as many of us might call them, our sales pitches.
This type of dialogue training can have more profound consequences. Instead of defending our actions, we create a more reflective atmosphere where we start inquiring about viewpoints. This shift though it takes time to develop will also transfer in the dialogue you will have with customers. Developing a reflective inquiry approach can become a key ingredient in your sales approach.