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8 Minutes of Execution

How well do your salespeople live the story?

Do you know the number one reason your salespeople don’t hit quota? According to analyst firm SiriusDecisions, it’s because they don’t know how to articulate value. This means making your number literally comes down to salespeople with their lips moving and the ability to tell a story so powerful that it causes a prospect to give up their status quo, move past no decision and choose you over a competitor — all while paying a premium.

Let that sink in. The entire success or failure of all your company’s strategies, decisions and investments come down to the moment when a salesperson opens their mouth to speak.

65 – 7 – 8

A sales conversation is a lot like a football game (I’m not usually much into football analogies, but this one is powerful). Consider these three numbers: 65 – 7 – 8. Here’s what they stand for:

65 – Average number of plays in a game

 7 – Seconds it takes to run a play

 8 – Minutes of actual “execution” per game

Think of all the preparation it takes to put football players in a position to win a game. The personnel decisions, financial investments, development of a playbook, training and conditioning, and the practice and coaching. After months of time and millions of dollars spent, it all comes down to eight minutes of actual execution to win a game. This isn’t all that different from your company’s execution coming down to the few minutes your salespeople actually engage in prospect and customer conversations.

The best story wins

At that critical moment of truth, when your prospects are hearing from all of your competitors, and they’re struggling to process the overwhelming amount of information it takes to make a decision, only one thing can break through to provide clarity — a great story.

The best story, told in the very best way, will win every time when everything else is more or less the same.

A simple tool to help you develop and deliver a winning story comes from Joseph Campbell, a mythologist who traveled to more than 100 countries documenting the most popular myths and stories. He discovered that all of the so-called “hero stories” follow a similar pattern across geography, culture and language. From that he created a storytelling model which is used today by many screenwriters, directors and producers to win the hearts and minds of their audiences.

This model has applicability for your selling stories as well, and here it is in five basic steps:

Step 1. The world is normal

Step 2. Something changes

Step 3. The hero pushes back

Step 4. Enter the mentor

Step 5. The hero is convinced and saves the day

This same model is repeated in virtually every hero story from “Star Wars” to “The Karate Kid.” There’s something in the brain
that responds favorably to this model, and you need to harness its power as you develop and deliver your eight-minute customer story.

Your distinct point of view

In the book “Conversations that Win the Complex Sale,” which I co-authored with Erik Peterson, we introduced a concept called “Your Distinct Point of View.” Based on the Campbell storytelling model, this concept gives you a structured approach for organizing and telling your story, but we’ve simplified it
since the book was divided into four basic steps (see graphic on page 19):

Step 1. Share an insight that disrupts the status quo and
gets the prospect to see the world is changing

Step 2. Demonstrate unconsidered problems and threats, revealing gaps and deficiencies that make the status quo unsafe

Step 3. Introduce new needs and requirements and an alternative approach that provides a clear and contrasting “new safe”

Step 4. Share a proof point story with contrast based on a comparable client company that struggled, made
a change and is succeeding

The common idea in these two models is that the world is changing and it won’t go back to the way it was. The hero is your prospect, and initially they will struggle with the changes and not knowing whether it requires action on their part, or specifically which actions to take.

You and your company are the mentor (not the hero, remember that). You provide clarity amid the confusion, helping the would-be hero understand the changes, why they can’t turn back and introducing the new path they need to take.

At the end, you share a story about a similar customer to get the prospect to “self-identify” as their company’s hero — and accept the call upon their life — to lead their company out of the unsustainable status quo and to the new safe solution.

Too dramatic for you?

What’s the alternative? Continue to have conversations and give presentations that sound the same as your competitors? Is it any wonder your prospects are lulled into a sense that there’s nothing new or different to get them to care enough to change or pay more?

Remember, the difference between winning and losing may come down to only eight minutes of execution. How are you going to outperform your competitor in those precious few minutes?