Book Review – Sell With a Story by Paul Smith

Author: Paul Smith

Book Rating: 4 out of 5 head tilts



About 2 years ago I took a sales aptitude test by Sandler Sales Institute.  If it’s possible to fail an aptitude test, I did.  While they never came right out and said I failed, I saw them scratching their heads several times during the assessment and after I left, they’ve never called me back.  So forced to learn how to develop my sales skills on my own, I’ve been reading sales books ever since.  A lot of them.  And this book is one of my favorite sales training books.

Here’s why I like it so much.  Too many sales training books have all these steps you need to memorize.  Catch phrases you need to listen for or use to pin people down to a yes, and those types of techniques are the very reasons I tend to resist sales in the first place.  If you hate traditional selling like I do, you will probably love this book as well.  Smith does a great job giving you the flexibility to sell your way, with the process you’ve already been trained in, but helps you become better because he gives you a process to communicate persuasively through the addition of stories.  Why are stories so important?  Because, as NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt observes, “The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.”  So if you are using logic to sell, you aren’t being as effective as you would if you sold through story.

Here were some of the highlights in the book that I enjoyed.

“You can’t beat a story with a fact.  You can only beat it with a better story.”  

Think about the power of that.  Most objections from prospects are stories about why they can’t buy your product or service.  And how many times do we try to overcome that objection with a fact?  It’s pointless; instead, share that fact through a story that illustrates how the same objective was overcome by someone else and the benefit they received when they did.

“When you’re telling an emotional story, you can’t play it emotionally.  You have to be as flat as possible.  The more emotional it is, the more neutral you have to be.  Otherwise it’s so corny… Let the story do the work, not the delivery.  This is a sales call, not an acting class.”

I needed to hear this because as a professional speaker, we often incorporate acting skills to tell stories and keep them entertaining.  That’s great on stage, but not great one on one when selling.

“Human beings are naturally more passionate about pursuing their own ideas than they are about pursuing your ideas.” 

Stories are great, but stories that get the listener to be thinking “me too” will demand greater attention, and move your prospect into the decision making process more effectively.

In the appendix, the author provides 30 story topics that every sales person needs in order to be fully prepared during a sales meeting.  I’m thoroughly enjoying going through my memory bank to develop real-life stories in each scenario so I’m fully prepared in any situation.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  It’s an easy read, and you’ll be creating your list of power stories as you’re reading the book.  Get it.  Read it.  Do it.


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