Crafting a Great Story

A great story makes it easier for sellers to talk about their partners.

The dilemma that most sellers face when preparing for a call is they already have partner marketing and enablement materials with which to start. Believe it or not, that makes story-craft more difficult.

When a seller already has copy to work with, that usually becomes their starting point - and it’s a logical starting point, but a flawed one. The problem is that partner enablement materials are often not well curated. The partner messaging is either too generic and incomplete or the opposite - there’s just too much material to go through which can overwhelm the seller.

Preparation should not start with what already exists. This approach is backwards.

Instead of starting with the materials they have, sellers need to begin their preparation process with the one component of the story that they know best - and that is their audience (which in most cases is their customer). Stories must be written with the audience in mind so that the message is relatable and re-tellable.

It doesn’t take long to organize thoughts around the intended audience and it will save time later when combing through existing marketing materials because there will be a better sense as to what is needed.

Starting with the audience in mind is like making that grocery list before going to the store. You will be less tempted to grab things you don’t need, and you won’t forget anything while you’re there.

Nancy Duarte, in her book Resonate, lists excellent questions that can help sellers to be laser-focused on their audience. Included here are a few of Duarte’s questions along with others that can be helpful in this first stage of story-craft. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to get the ideas flowing.

What does a typical day look like for the audience?What do they already know about your topic?What are their expectations in meeting with you?What are their previous experiences?What biases do they have?What are their needs / desires?How do they spend their money and resources?What are their priorities? Why those?How do they make decisions?Who or what influences their behavior?What unites or incites them?

Workshop it with peers

This activity is most effective when written, and within a small peer group. Writing helps to clarify thought and can serve as a reference when the time comes to look through existing partner enablement materials. It also makes it easier to collaborate and share within a peer group. The activity can be done during a meeting on a white board, or virtually within a shared document, it doesn’t matter. it should not be just a thought exercise - deep thought is facilitated via writing.

The peer group is key, and it doesn’t have to be a large group. Just one other person in the collaboration can help to bring out more insights. The peer group can also help with motivation and accountability to complete the audience prep questions

For some sellers, Trying to answer these questions without a sounding board may actually hurt their preparation. These question can act as a mirror and show how much or how little a seller may know about their customer.

Some sellers may feel like they don’t know enough about a customer to have an effective conversation which can undermine their confidence - a sellers biggest asset. This can happen especially with sellers that are new and still in their learning ramp.

Working with a small group can keep the motivation high and help the ideas flow. At the very least it helps to identify what sellers may NOT know about the customer and then the sellers can plan the presentation accordingly. Maybe that means some industry research ahead of time or some key questions to include during the meeting.

In partner enablement environments, the very best peer group a seller can have is one where there are peers from other partners in the ecosystem.

Notice the questions are not focused on any sort of product or service, use cases or benefits. The questions are completely centered around who the audience is and what motivates them. It’s a safe conversation for sellers to have because there is no sales pitch or strategy established yet - which means no jockeying for position in a potential co-sell. This is a preparation phase.

The insights another partner can offer about an audience can help to fill in the gaps on any unanswered questions. More importantly, it can start to form relationship bonds between partners should a co-sell opportunity come out of the sales call. The activity can strengthen the bonds of trust between partners early on which can open the doors of possibility for partner opportunity during the sales call.

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