Story Selling: 3 Frameworks to Build a Compelling Story

The myth of “build it and they will come” – and its corollary “best product wins” – are dying. The reason? The moat that is product and features is shrinking: copying features is easier than ever and competition in every vertical is getting steeper. To stand out in a crowded market, you’re going to need to win over the minds of your customers. And stories are your secret to winning that battle.

Why stories matter

Stories are how the brain learns new information. Stories give context which makes the details of your pitch easier to remember. Stories rope in your prospect and prevent them from zoning out. And stories allow you to get past selling features and into actually selling benefits. At this point you’re probably thinking “great, so how do I do it?” Here are 3 tried and tested frameworks to help turn your sales pitch into a story and leave your prospects asking for more:

#1 Andy Raskin’s 5 step formula

In his post The Greatest Sales Pitch I’ve Seen All Year, Andy Raskin breaks down the 5 elements that Drift CEO David Cancel built on to deliver a breath-taking sales pitch:

  1. Start with a big, undeniable change that creates stakes. The trick here is to describe a change that is happening independently of you and your company and gives rise to stakes (i.e. there will be winners, and losers). 
  2. Name the enemy. What’s stopping your prospects from becoming the heroes of this story? Hint: it isn’t just your competitors, it’s the old way of doing things which they represent.
  3. Tease the Promised Land. What does winning look like for the hero (aka your customer) in this story? Ideally, it should be desirable to them, as well as difficult to reach without your help.
  4. Position capabilities as magic for slaying monsters. Now it’s time to talk about what you do, and how your product is the secret weapon that will help your customer defeat the obstacles in their path.
  5. Present your best evidence. Show results: whether it’s client testimonials, your own usage of the product, a demo, prove that you can deliver the goods you promised.

For more details on the 5 step formula, listen in to Drift CMO Dave Gerhart’s podcast featuring Andy Raskin.

#2 Pixar’s 7 sentence blueprint

Pixar turned their simple recipe for story telling into a billion dollar business. The framework they use is simple and maps out the dots you need to connect as you pitch your story:

  1. Once upon a time. Introduce the protagonist: someone that your prospect can relate to.
  2. Every day. Explain the way things were by framing the objective, means, and results obtained in the past.
  3. But one day. Introduce a shift that makes it harder now to keep up with the way things used to be.
  4. Because of this. What are the new hoops that the protagonist needs to jump through to reach their goal?
  5. Because of that. How is this new state affecting the protagonist? What is broken in the way they currently do things?
  6. Until finally. Introduce your product.
  7. And ever since then. Showcase the value the protagonist can achieve, whether it’s more results for the same effort or less effort for the same result.

Step 7 is where you can zoom in on the one feature that is going to be a game changer given your prospect’s use case.

#3 The StoryBrand framework

In Building a StoryBrand, Donald Miller goes over his framework to clarify your message and build a story that actually involves your customers, not your product. It starts with:

  1. A character. Who are they and, more importantly, what do they want.
  2. Has a problem. What is standing in the way of them realizing their goal? Most often the problem will be external, but it can be internal too.
  3. And meets a guide. Aka: you. You’re customer is already the hero, so it’s important that you position yourself and your product as a means to the hero’s end, not another hero who’s going to swoop in and save the day.
  4. Who gives them a plan. Map out a short list of steps to help the hero get on the road to success.
  5. And calls them to action. Time to ask for the sale: now that you’ve established who they are, where they want to be, and how to get there, you need to be clear about what they need to do to get the help they need.
  6. That helps them avoid failure. This is where you lay out the stakes: there will be winners and losers, now it’s up to them to decide.
  7. And ends in success. Sketch out the happy ending, what does success look like, and how do they know it’s the real deal.

To keep an open line of communication, Donald Miller suggests adding a secondary call to action for customers who aren’t ready to buy right now. In a sales call, this could be setting up a second call for a product demo for instance.

You may have noticed that a lot of these frameworks rely on similar concepts, but order them slightly different. It’s no coincidence: the hallmarks of a good story are incredibly consistent. Once you’ve mapped out the key building blocks, experiment with the different frameworks and see which order works best to convey your story. And sell your product. The end.

Leave a Comment