Episode #333 – Annette Simmons

Use Stories to Demonstrate Trustworthiness


Annette Simmons

Annette Simmons is the author of five books: Territorial Games, A Safe Place for Dangerous Truths, The Story Factor, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, and Drinking From a Different Well.

Our Mission Is To Change The Negative Perception Of Sales People

Our Vision Is A World Where Selling Is A Profession To Be Proud Of

Sales is about building relationships. People want to have faith that you’re a good person and that you’re there for the right reasons. They don’t get to see you in action. But if you tell a story about a real experience, it shares a sample of your behavior. It allowed them to decide whether or not you’re trustworthy. Annette Simmons firmly believes that storytelling is the substance of relationships. Learn how she uses stories to demonstrate trustworthiness in this episode of Sales Reinvented!

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:44] Why is storytelling an important skill to possess in sales?
  • [2:01] Is storytelling something that can be learned?
  • [3:25] The ingredients of a great story that sells
  • [5:04] The attributes of a great storyteller
  • [6:53] Resources to improve your storytelling
  • [9:55] Top three storytelling dos and don’ts
  • [12:40] Using a story to demonstrate trustworthiness

The ingredients of a great story that sells

A great story is a significant emotional experience narrated so that it feels real to the teller and the listener. How do you know what stories to tell? Annette says to think of a time when you can share a quality that earned you the right to be trusted. What examples from your background of when you were that quality? Or when you blew it? If you narrate it as a real experience using your sensory imagination, magic happens. If you are in the moment, other people feel it as real. But the key is that you have to share a substantive true story.

The attributes of a great storyteller

Authenticity is #1. Salespeople are trying to build a relationship of trust. When Annette was researching storytelling and sales, she came across a story about a supplier to Walmart. He had been trying to sell to them for ages and never got a sale. Then the purchaser called and asked him for something he didn’t have—but he knew who did.

So he gave the purchasing agent the name of the person who had what they wanted. That’s where he started to build trust. So when he had what they were looking for, they already trusted him to deliver. What are the other attributes? Listen to hear Annette’s thoughts!

The 6 kinds of stories you must tell

Annette believes there are six stories every salesperson must be able to tell.

  • Who I am
  • Why I’m here
  • A story that teaches something
  • A vision story
  • A value-in-action story
  • The “I know what you’re thinking” story

When you hear a story, it prompts you to think of a story. People start sharing stories, which is when the magic happens. Storytelling is a collaborative process. Practice your story with someone else so you see if you’re recreating an emotional experience. If you’re not, you get a chance to correct it before you’re in a sales situation.

Using a story to demonstrate trustworthiness

When Annette does facilitator training, she caps the classes at a max of 10 people because the work is intense. She wanted people to have the freedom to work on themselves as well as learn the process. For one of her training sessions, she had five people signed up, each paying their own way. A large client reached out to her and said they’d take the remaining spots.

Instead of agreeing to take all five, because she didn’t believe it would be fair to her current participants, Annette said she could accept 2–3 and the others could join the next training. She wanted to make sure it was a good experience for everyone. The woman told her she wouldn’t be getting her business and hung up on her.

People might hear that story and focus on the thought that she lost business. Annette doesn’t care. She shares the difficult things they don’t want to hear with positive intent. What stories can you share that might be difficult but will create trust? And create a context where you are being honest and authentic? Annette will make decisions that are in the best interest of her clients, even when they disagree. Telling that story creates a powerful base for a relationship and builds trustworthiness.

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Learn More About Annette Simmons

Are there any books on or including Storytelling that you recommend? Honestly I don’t think many of the business storytelling books challenge the reader to go deep enough into the beating heart of storytelling. There is wisdom that only a story can tell. I’d recommend books from traditional professional storytellers. Inviting the Wolf In by Elizabeth Ellis and Loren Niemi – about how to tell a story about difficult topics. Any of Margaret Read Macdonald’s books, including Peace Tales have great stories that may not seem like sales stories but they speak to what I call Big T Truths about collaboration. I’ve used several stories from Peace Tales in speeches and conversations. Cultivate your imagination and you will begin to see stories you didn’t see before.

In the field of Business Story Telling – Who do you most admire and why? I really admire Thaler Pekar and David Hutchens. Thaler Pekar can produce short documentary style video “stories” for big clients that are personal, authentic and polished.  David Hutchens has a book out called Story Dash and he does a great job integrating storytelling into every aspect of business communication.

Are there any aspects of your own Story Telling skills that you are working on improving at the moment?  I continue to work on designs and exercises that inspire others to find and tell great stories. That means role modeling the essential elements of good storytelling myself, but it also requires me to share stories that inspire enough confidence to run experiments with story. Most people I teach need permission to be imperfect storytellers. Telling or finding a story a day is a habit that grows your storytelling willingness, and the feedback hones your talent. You get to notice what works and do it again. It is the frequency of your story experiments that enable you to grow your talents in a direction that is uniquely you. That’s the best skill – developing the habit of storytelling.

Hobbies, Interests? I love reading good fiction. There is evidence that reading fiction increases your capacity for empathy. It certainly reminds us to understand that a narrator’s voice is only one of many voices. Plus, the best authors describe patterns of behavior that allow us to develop what I call “perceptual agility” – that ability to see from many perspectives at once. I also like to paint and garden.

How can our listeners contact with you? My email is annette(at)annettesimmons.com and I welcome the opportunity to talk about storytelling with anyone who is interested in using storytelling to re-introduce empathy and collaboration into business relationships. Oh, and I LOVE UX people. 

by | Feb 6, 2023 | Sales Reinvented Podcast

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