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June 4, 2015

Master Storytelling – When selling ideas go viral

Using crowdsourcing to surface your most powerful sales messages


Marketing strategies have flat feet. Oh, they may be brilliantly conceived, and drawn from a truly unique and inspired understanding of the market’s competitive situation and trends – but almost invariably the strategies themselves are expressed in completely prosaic and lifeless terms:

“Our product offers better value / faster response / fresher taste than other alternatives.”

It falls to those who have to execute the strategy to breathe life into it. Wendy’s’ advertising agency delivered an indelible cultural milestone with the “Where’s the beef?” ad campaign; not so memorable is the strategy that drove it: “Wendy’s’ hamburgers are more appetizing than McDonalds’ hamburgers.”


shutterstock_295255982Selling the big idea


In movies and on television, hustle and unmitigated egotism are depicted as the key skills of a successful salesperson – or maybe the only skills. What goes unrecognized is how vitally important the skill of communication is to success. The best sales people identify what the prospect needs, and then demonstrate powerfully and meaningfully how they can deliver that for the customer.


In short, they are master storytellers. When handed the marketing plan, they have to fashion its straightforward content – its strengths and inevitable weaknesses – into something fascinating for the company’s prospects and customers.

We were reminded of this under-appreciated truth recently by Allego customer Jeff Duckworth, who manages the people who sell John Hancock mutual funds to institutional investors and financial planners. Admit it: you’re thinking right now, “What could possibly be fascinating about mutual funds?” – and especially selling them to professional investors, whom you would think would be concerned only with numbers.

Jeff however tells a different story: “Sometimes a divisional manager will be on a call with a Business Consultant” – the company’s term for a sales agent or wholesaler – “and just be really impressed with the way something was positioned in that meeting.” This ability to bring the selling idea vividly to life is the hallmark of top sales people.


The wisdom of the selling crowd


Using Allego, Jeff now has a vehicle that lets him replicate this powerful selling idea across his organization. He tells us: “When they leave the meeting the manager may say to the wholesaler ‘Do me a favor… When you get back to the hotel, give me a 3-4 minute video of what you just did in this meeting. I want to share it with the whole team.’ ”

What’s exciting to Jeff is that he is able to use the great positioning story to create a snowball effect within his sales force. “From there, the manager’s mandate to the 10-12 wholesalers in his division might be ‘I want you to record your own version of this by Friday.’ ” The very best of those dozen videos might be shared with other sales divisions, who in turn internalize the positioning and record their own versions.

Ultimately, the best stories will be shared not just across the sales force, but also with other operating divisions, including the Marketing department – which gains tremendous insight from this zoom lens into the sales arena. Remarkably, this cross-pollination and consolidation of messaging across the organization can happen in just a matter of days, and not months.

An unexpected bonus


John Hancock Investments also discovered that sharing the wholesalers’ videos with the internal sales team lets them mirror the same language and ideas in telephone contacts with the wholesalers’ clients, reinforcing the message. What came as a surprise however was that the internal and external sales organizations actually developed a stronger partnership through the sharing of videos and selling ideas.

You can learn more about how Jeff Duckworth is benefiting from Allego by viewing this four-minute video.


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