How to Use “Sell with Storytelling” to Boost Retail Sales


When you use storytelling in retail, it helps shoppers engage quickly.

In retail, this is especially important because people are loyal to people, not products. And during tough times, they often want to escape the news.

The purpose of storytelling in retail is to invoke an emotion and use it to influence the customer’s buying decision.

Storytelling helps people connect with success, fame, prestige, a revelation – you name it.

Anything But Logic

Remember how you felt as a child when you heard those words, “Once upon a time…”?

You were open to possibilities…to magic…to wonder.

Just like with a child, when you tell a story to an adult, you engage the heart, which leads the buyer to the highest level of the brain, the prefrontal cortex; it’s the wonder part of the brain. This is where we are happiest, most comfortable and most open to new ideas.

People forget facts, but they remember stories. It’s important when you’re selling.

But the sellers don’t tell stories. Instead, they vomit unnecessary fact after unnecessary fact. (Maybe it’s because they were taught not to talk to strangers, or they were taught not to talk about themselves.)

On top of all this, without understanding the power of storytelling, some people tell stories that have no interest, or at least not in terms of sales. So they never learn how a story can help them sell. So when selling themselves, their website, or their products, they stick to a fact-filled analytical approach.

If this is you and you want to increase your sales (and who doesn’t?), you need to change your thinking. Storytelling in retail is the most effective way to move beyond someone’s logical mind and appeal to their heart.

What’s wrong with a “just the facts” approach?

Using an analytical approach means you use the logical part of your brain, the neocortex or as I call it, the “critical parent”, providing fact after fact when trying to justify your price.

For this reason, your potential client, whom you have forced to stay in their own critical parental part of their brain, judges and analyzes everything you say to check its accuracy and relevance. And God forbid, say something is a bargain because they’ll have to check it out for themselves, whether it’s on their smartphone or on a trip to a competitor.

No one is inspired to act on facts alone, because logic tells them that, just like a missed bus, another deal will come soon if they wait.

A well-structured and engaging story during a sale helps your customers experience what happened to a stranger as if it had happened to them too. When they hear the positive result, it removes their fear of buying.

The 5 elements of in-store storytelling

1. A brief setup

Just saying you’re a family business or a fair value doesn’t provide an emotional connection that makes someone want to visit your store. Tell a story about your family or how another client found value in a similar situation. Use lots of detail. Where did it happen and when?

2. Who is it?

Was it you? Was it a customer? If you know their name, use it.

3. What was the conflict or problem?

Be as specific as possible.

4. What was the solution?

Again, be specific. For example, when a previous customer used the best product, it saved time, effort, and ultimately money.

5. What were the results?

The problem was solved, they had a nice house, they became loyal customers, they told their friends.

An important point when storytelling is that your story should be real. Hypotheticals land as misfires. It’s because people buy from people they believe in.

Three places to use storytelling in your retail business

1. On your website

So many companies leave a story, but it should definitely be included in your About section. Why do you do what you do? What makes you different from someone else? What obstacles did you have to overcome when you decided to open a store?

Just saying you’re a family business or a fair value doesn’t provide an emotional connection that makes someone want to visit your store. Keep it short, stay real, and it will help customers choose you over someone else.

2. In your sales process

Stories come in the fourth part of the sale where you describe what a product will do for them, or near the end when you need to overcome an objection. This is sometimes called the Feel, Felt, Found method of selling.

Tell the client that you understand how they feel, that you felt that too when you were looking for something. Do it by telling your own true story. Or share a relevant customer story.

Describe how you or this customer felt (frustrated, angry, confused, overwhelmed with the price, etc.).

Then describe what they or you found upon purchasing it, that their initial shock at the sticker was unfounded, at all that the product did, how easily it solved their problem or met their need, and how they felt when they got what they really needed. It is crucial to describe the results.

Your story should be relevant and shared at the right time. Once you build enough of a connection, they’re likely to listen and not think it’s irrelevant or wasting their time.

3. During a Zoom event

So many business owners feel uncomfortable when someone asks them, “What do you do? in a business meeting or even on a Zoom call, especially if they have a retail store.

Tell your story of frustration working for someone else, taking the leap, and the excitement, success, fulfillment you found. It will make you stand out much more than just a factual business card.

People are sold to people first

Using the right story makes the details of the product and the experience memorable. Remember that people are not loyal to products, they are loyal to people.

So what stories do you – and your staff – have to tell your customers?

Bob Phibbs, ‘The Retail Doctor’, is a 30+ year retail expert with a proven track record of helping brands increase sales, turn their retail staff into real salespeople, and get the most out of leveraged their store traffic through innovative retail marketing tactics. Contact him at 562-260-2266, or visit his website.


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