Sales Moves

Using lessons learned from stories for your sales presentation

December 25, 2015
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It’s likely you are spending time with family over the holidays.

Most people add to their waistline during these times. I’m going to share a few strategies that will fatten your wallet.

Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, families gather and talk about old times — growing up, vacations, past holidays. They all start out, “Remember the time that …” and they go on to tell a funny or poignant story. These stories are gold.

In your presentations and informal meetings, telling and exchanging stories are at the core of rapport, relationship building and creating a buying atmosphere.

These golden lessons and stories are all around you, and many of them fit your selling situations, and relationship-building process. Real stories make you seem real — more human, approachable, relatable and even trustworthy.

Now that I have whetted your appetite, let me give you the strategies of story collecting.

First get the stories rolling:

  • Start by asking everyone to tell their most memorable story.
  • Ask about best lessons learned. Request that people jog their memories for stories about when they learned lessons from mistakes, embarrassing moments, funny responses and successes.
  • Listen with the intent to understand (this means don’t interrupt):
  • Listen for funny events or responses that are yours to retell at the appropriate time.
  • At the end of the story, ask questions or request the person to elaborate or fill in missing details.
  • Look for the reaction of others. It’s a hint as to how your customers may be impacted.
  • Take notes as you go. You will never remember everything without taking notes.

As the stories are being told, listen for the lessons behind the endings:

  • Lessons from parents, teachers, siblings.
  • Lessons you learned as a child: playing with others, accidents, in school, winning, losing, getting hurt, loss of a friend.
  • Something memorable.

Once you have the story and can see the fit into your style and delivery, then it’s time to convert it to your sales presentation.

Get the story to fit into your presentation:

  • To overcome an objection (the same thing happened to my mother).
  • To create common ground (the same thing happened to me).
  • To justify price (my uncle told me a story about his dealings with …).

When retelling the story, keep it short and sweet:

  • One to two minutes if you’re telling it to a customer one-on-one.
  • Two to three minutes if you’re telling it to a group.
  • Don’t set it up, just tell it. (Not: “Here’s a hilarious story.” You’ll set yourself up for failure, and the other person completely misses the point.)
  • Tell it at the right moment — you’ll know — don’t force it.
  • Put passion into it.
  • Have your lesson or point at the end, not at the beginning.

It’s original: For years I have preached against telling jokes. Stories are yours — no one else can tell them. You are assured the customer or prospect hasn’t heard it before. And it can have long-lasting effect.

I have told stories about chasing my dog, where I grew up, how I dropped out of college, going to sporting events, big sales, lost sales, flying, traveling, hotels and restaurants. I have featured my parents, brother, children, grandchildren, teachers, mentors, servers, sports heroes, doctors, customers, close friends, partners and past wives.

When I am in a sales presentation or giving a seminar, every story I tell has impact.

Every story I tell conveys a lesson or makes a point. Many of the stories I tell make people laugh. Many have been collected from holiday gatherings. All of my stories are personal to me. They are original.

The secret to story-telling is your enthusiasm. Whether you’re talking to one or one hundred and one, each person must feel like it’s your first time to tell it, even though you may have told it one hundred times before. The passion of your conveyance will lead to the emotion of their purchase.

Now that’s something to celebrate.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of 12 bestselling books. His real-world ideas also are available as online courses at For information, visit or, or email Jeffrey at

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