Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

How inside sales people can use storytelling to stand out


May 10, 2017

Email, Sales, Workflow

You might care about this article if you are:

  • an inside sales person
  • an sales leader

Inside sales people, of course, are those sales teams that place outbound phone calls and send emails to prospective clients. In many regards I’m a bit of an inside sales person myself actually: I email event producers and potential clients all the time. I even have a template that I use for some of the more routine emails and follow-ups. But here’s the problem with templated communications: They are not personalized and don’t always apply to the person I’m trying to sell to. And many of the people reached aren’t ready to buy that second anyway. But they might be later, which is why a helpful story can do much more good than a lame and standard marketing pitch.

One example comes to mind just about anytime I speak at conferences. Even as a speaker, I often register for the conference. That means vendors and sponsors get access to those lists and then send out sales-y emails like this:

(AFTER): Christoph, it was so good to see you at the conference. Here’s something you might be interested in buying from us NOW!


(BEFORE): Christoph, our fantastic VP is speaking at this time about this fantastic topic and we should you would be interested because … (well, we don’t know, but you are on the list.)

That’s where those standard messages break down. They are taking a stab in the dark and sometimes they work because when we sent enough of them enough receivers will end up being in the dark so to speak. But we could do better by personalizing our stories for those people that we actually want to work with.

I find some of those standard conference invite emails interesting because often:

  • the topic is of no interest to me
  • I fly in to speak and then out before that specific session actually happens after I leave
  • I have never ever even seen booth numbers. (Stop by our booth in stall 12)

So how can we actually use better storytelling in our inside sales process? Here’s a start to a draft of a plan:

Step 1: Use automation

This is the step where most of the emails up above most likely come from.

  • Load email list into email marketing system
  • Write a message that works most likely for many on the list
  • Send
  • Hope for responses

Step 2: Customize

Review who engages with the message sent above. Then figure out what they care about specifically. Who are they in an organization? Depending on the size of your list, pick a few highly engaged users and maybe even google them. For example, people can learn so much about me just by reading my blog – even just a few posts. When sales people message me with a specific comment that was obviously based on a problem I shared in a blog post it gets me to listen – at the least a bit longer than for a cold call that is highly unrelated to me. I know that some sales people even have alerts out for certain topics and then reach out. I’ve called that reverse content marketing in this blog post. 

Step 3: Send targeted messages

Then send highly targeted messages to those people that engaged with your initial message. Customize the message without being creepy!

Step 4: Consider integrating offline approaches

While sending emails to large groups of likely relevant people does get us some results, interacting with a small group of a highly engaged group can also lead to results. Maybe even more so.

When I speak at conferences I always invite people to connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and whatever other network is currently important. I also follow up with them later. I let them know about current offerings, when I release a new book, and even offer speaking at their conference or company event.

I make it easy to work with me, but I also try to customize the story I can share with them. Sometimes I send them links to stories on the blog, but only if it fits whatever we just talked about.

Struggling with captions on Facebook? Here’s a link to that story.

How to add the CONTACT button on Instagram? Here you go!

Not all of our stories need to be personalized, of course. And many content producers share content that feels personal but is actually talking to the masses. That’s one way, but takes practice and a certain skill. When people do this well, consumers can’t tell. It feels one-on-one to them. A good sign of this is when people reply to mass emails like they were replying to a friend.

Whatever way you choose to go, the more the story can be personalized or made relevant to the specific reader, the more likely it is to have an impact.


Cliff notes from the video can be found here.

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Christoph blogs on The Authentic Storytelling Project and is a globally recognized content marketing expert. The IMA named him Internet Marketer of the Year in 2015. He works with healthcare organizations and other brands around the globe.

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