Selling with Social Proof - Your Master Key to Closing More Deals

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This is a podcast episode titled, Selling with Social Proof - Your Master Key to Closing More Deals. The summary for this episode is: <p>In this powerful sales Webinar, Gong's Chris Orlob teams up with Tim Riesterer of Corporate Visions to teach you how to tell customer stories that are so compelling, it'll feel like your using a flamethrower in a stick fight. These sales experts will go over a&nbsp;powerful&nbsp;five-step framework for telling customer stories that&nbsp;predictably&nbsp;win deals, with dozens of tips and tactics for using social proof to magnetically attract customers. This webinar is your key to closing more deals. </p><p><br></p>
The "Why Change?" selling framework
02:04 MIN
Proving that your customer has a problem that you can solve
00:54 MIN
Using social proof for existing customers
00:50 MIN
How NOT to use social proof during customer acquisition
02:10 MIN
Step #1: Invoke self-discovery
01:56 MIN
Step #2: Get their hopes up
00:42 MIN
Step #3: Get to the turning point
01:21 MIN
Step #4: The heroic feat
01:58 MIN
Pro tip: Watch how you use pronouns
00:39 MIN
Step #5: The happy ending
01:13 MIN
Bonus tip: Use "You" instead of "We"
01:13 MIN

Chris: Okay. Hello, everybody. It is 11: 00 Pacific Time, and we are excited to get started with this webinar. I don't like to wait too long for everybody else to roll in because that penalizes the people who got here on time. But we are going to wait 60 seconds. I'm going to put on my iPhone, and then we're going to get started. Just hang tight, and we'll get going in just a minute.

Tim Riesterer: Definitely room for some traveling music here, Chris.

Chris: Yeah, we should put some elevator music. I was going to ask where everybody's from, but I'm so not used to go to webinar. I'm used to Zoom and I don't even know what I would do with it. Got to-

Tim Riesterer: All right, we are working without a net clearly today.

Chris: All right, we are going to get rocking and rolling here. Today, as you can see on the screen, we are going to be talking about selling with social proof. By the end of this webinar, you are going to walk out with a rich list of techniques for telling customer stories that can help you close dramatically more deals. This doesn't just come from me. I like to think we at Gong are pretty damn good at this. But we have also been blessed with my friend, Tim Riesterer over at Corporate Visions, who many would say and have a strong argument that you in Corporate Visions are some of the world's experts in sales messaging that gets deals close. Tim, I'm going to let you introduce yourself and Corporate Visions for just a minute here, and then we will dive into the lessons.

Tim Riesterer: Sure. Well, I feel in some way, Chris, thanks for having me today, this is long overdue. Well, I've appreciated and enjoyed your research and the access you guys have to the information that you do, and then how you distill it into some usable information, for sure. On our end, we do think we're the experts in sales messaging. We study sales people with their lips moving, we like to say. The recognition that, because products and services are inaudible similar anymore, it's really the best story that wins, and then the best story told the best way. We help companies build stories and then teach them to tell those stories. But all of that's rooted in decision making science research. My work is in behavioral economics, social psychology and neuroscience, and we do actual simulation- based research to see how people actually react to different story types, different messaging frameworks, and then present back to the market at large tested, proven, and science- backed tools for building better messages and telling better stories.

Chris: Well, we're lucky to have you. I am not paid to say this. I have no affiliation or partnership with Corporate Visions, but one of your books, Conversations That Win the Complex Sale. I think most of the people who are attending this webinar know me to at least some extent, if you don't know me, consider yourselves lucky, I'm a very disturbed individual. But I love to read books and I love to read sales books, and Conversations That Win the Complex Sale, one of the better books I've read, especially when it comes to the area of sales messaging. We are going to dive right in. We've got this messaging framework that, Tim, you're going to explain, and we're going to zoom in on one of those pillars. Do you want to take the torch from me for just a second?

Tim Riesterer: Yeah, what people are looking at here is one of our selling frameworks called the Why Change story model. This is the customer acquisition story model. We've tested customer acquisition, and as you'll find out later, customer retention, customer expansion. What we've determined is the psychology of the buyer is dramatically different if they are a prospect doing something one way today and you're coming in to try and disrupt that, versus if they are your customer and you're trying to either renew them or upsell them. This is the customer acquisition Why Change selling model which says, here's how you tell a story to defeat your number one competitor, which is status quo bias. There are four causes for status quo bias, and there are four things you must do in a message to defeat it. Introduce an unconsidered need to destabilize their current preferences, that reveals a flaw in their current approach which shows them there's a cost to staying the same and they can't stay there, their status quo is unsafe. You then show clear contrast with your improved new way, your new safe alternative, and then finally in the story, you land on a proof point. Real quickly, a couple things here. One, we discovered that this is the model and this is the flow, that the proof point is the cherry on top. People aren't necessarily ready to hear your proof, your social proof at the beginning of the story, because they aren't there yet. Because here's the stat, on average 60% of new customer acquisition sales cycle end in no decision, meaning they stick with their status quo. The majority of the people you're talking to, and I would say higher in the funnel, that percentage is even higher. In certain markets, it's as high as 80% of the people you're talking to, have not made the decision to change yet, let alone made the decision to pick someone to do that with. Social proof is often misapplied in customer acquisition conversations because social proof is used to prove the claims of your solution. But 60% to 80% of the people you're talking to don't care about your claims because they don't believe they have a problem. They're trying to figure that out. " Do I have a problem worth solving? Here you're telling me about all the social proof points that validate your solution works, I'm not even there yet." One of the things we're going to talk about today is in customer acquisition, the mindset of the customer when they hear or are looking for social proof, is less about needing to hear proof about your claims, it's more really proof that they have a problem. Because when your prospects are in denial, you're... As I said, status quo bias and denial are really the two enemies. So your social proof has a different job to do. What we're going to do is we're going to zero down on step number four in the Why Change customer acquisition model, blow that up today, explode that today and say what do you need to do with social proof... which we call story with contrast, which we'll talk about. What do you need to do with your social proof to be most effective in the customer acquisition world? Then we're going to talk a little bit later about the customer retention and expansion world.

Chris: Yeah, I think you made a really interesting point, which I'm excited to get into. We're going to get into this about in the middle of this webinar, which is using social proof to, and I love the term you came up with, which is invoke self discovery. Instead of just using it as the cherry on top, the proof point, use it in a way that helps customers realize they have the problem that you're looking to solve here. Now, you also said something a couple minutes ago. You said a specific word, you said misapplied. Social proof is one of the most commonly used but least understood sales techniques, and because it is spectacularly misapplied in sales. Everybody knows Robert Cialdini, or at least most people know, Robert Cialdini and his work with influence the psychology of persuasion. He really coined this term social proof, and every sales trainer worth his or her salt teaches their reps to use social proof in the sales process. But our thesis for this webinar is most of the time that is being misapplied, and we're going to show you how to do it in a way that closes deals. I would imagine at least half of the people in this webinar probably learned about this webinar through the article we published last week, which is this surprising insight that not only is social proof not working, okay, not only is it not working, it's actively causing damage in deals. It is not a neutral sales and marketing technique. If you use it wrong, it can unravel deals. The stat here is, in general, social proof techniques are leading to a 47% plummet in close rates in a typical B2B deal. Now, that is not me or Tim saying you should not use social proof. The conclusion you should draw is that social proof is spectacularly misapplied in sales. We're going to show you how to avoid that misapplication and how to do it in a way that is insanely persuasive. That's our research. Tim, I know you've got some research over at Corporate Visions on social proof. Do you want to explain some of that for us?

Tim Riesterer: Yeah. I want to draw a contrast, because we talked about misapplication or appropriate application. Social proof is necessary in customer acquisition, but its job is different than proving your claim. Its job is to overcome denial. The framework we're going to teach you in a little bit is designed specifically for that. Here's what we most recently tested though. When we do customer acquisition and people say, " Hey, the Why Change model is great," I've got an upgrade sale to an existing customer. Do I use the Why Change model that you just showed me also on an existing customer? We wanted to know, so we came up with this hypothetical framework concept called the Why Evolve Test, because it's not Why Change. It's kind of evolve. You already work with us. It's all about, in this case, we have so many customers as I'm sure you do, we're trying to upgrade their current customers from old platforms to new platforms. We created a scenario, a simulation of a company moving from a nine- year- old on- prem platform to the cloud, and we tried different messaging test conditions against our audience. There were five conditions specifically in the next slide that we put people in. We recruit hundreds and hundreds of would- be B2B buyers and we put them into a scenario. The scenario we recruited is we got at least 100 people in five different test scenarios, so 500 people total. They were put in a scenario where we were saying that you currently have an existing piece of equipment, it's a business intelligence analytics platform, and all the new great stuff is moving to the cloud and you should go there. But we told that story in five different ways. One group heard that upgrade story told most commonly like a product is hero. New and improved, everything cool is happening on the cloud, and all the things you're going to want to do in the future are on the cloud, not dissimilar to way many people would promote that to their existing customers. In the second test condition, we recognize the historical partnership we had, documented the results we've had to date, the progress we've made so far, but then began to emotionally engage them in the idea of the need for change. It was really the idea of partnership relationship paired with an emotional change story. The third test was the straight up Why Change formula that I showed you guys earlier. Just come in and say, " Hey, there's new research, there's new problems, there's new opportunities, and you're missing it. Surprise! Here's some new things you need to do to fix it." The fourth one I don't have a ton of time to go in today is we tested a straight up renewal story and we have another framework called Why Stay, and I will tell you there was no social proof required in Why Stay because it's all about what you did for them and how well you did it and whether they want to keep doing it with you. But then we tried something new here, social influence. Because, I'll be honest, back when we did the Why Change study, social influence and social proof was just getting a lot of traction in academia, and now it's exploding, right? With all of the social tools that are out there. We built a storyline, a test condition straight up on social proof, " Hey, why don't you upgrade to cloud? All of your peers that we're working with are already doing it." It was a peer pressure thing that most of our other customers, four to five of our other customers have seen the value in the cloud and already have made this move. It was a bit of peer pressure and a risk of falling behind. Straight up social proof, social influence in the upgrade condition. Here are the results. We asked them a series of questions, and the question was how convincing was this case that your company should now move forward with this upgrade? What you see is the social proof performed second worst. The only one that had performed better than was the one that we all probably should know is bad by now, which is the product is hero story, all feature benefit oriented. In second place was Why Change, which makes some sense because it's an upgrade and there's some influence there. But ultimately, it was this hybrid of recognizing the partnership, the progress that we've made to date together, the evolving trends and new pressures that have shown up since we've been working together, and here's what it means and what we should do next. It's a very familiar, very productive partnership foundation layered with some emotional change risk of no change in what they can do different. In the next question, because we want to make sure people are thinking the same way that this is legit, is that again we asked this question in this case. Then if it's compelling, how willing are you to move to this upgrade? Again, the emotional relationship foundation partnership with the emotional need to move because of the risk, one again. Social influence, second to last again. The peer pressure appears not to be as powerful as the message of change, and that one's not as powerful as the one that's changed contained in the partnership. Here's the third final question we asked, how likely then are you to purchase it? Because we want to make sure they're giving us straight answers. Again, remember, these are very conservative measures because each test condition only saw the one story. They didn't get to compare these stories. Again, social proof, more or less, finished second to last. The clear winner was this combination of acknowledging the partnership and then with an emotional Why Change story in it. Why Change alone wasn't enough, Why Stay alone wasn't enough, product is hero sucked a lot, social influence was second place. Here's what my takeaway from this is, when you were talking to existing customers, the most powerful proof there is your partnership, and that partnership trumps peers, and that really social proof and the use of peer examples is most effective in customer acquisition, and that you should be leveraging the power of your partnership and the performance to date as the reason people want to keep working with you and doing more with you and upgrading with you, versus trying to convince them others them are changing. They don't seem to react as well to that, because you know them, right? Here's what I want to say, for social proof, you're misapplying it if you're leading with that with your existing customers. Let's take that off the table, and now come back and talk about how to apply best in new customer acquisition because that's where it has the most power. Chris, I don't know if you have any thoughts or comments on that or any reaction to that?

Chris: No. I mean, my initial reaction actually has less to do with social proof. I just had this epiphany where if we're having this renewal conversation with our customers, or anybody listening, if you're having renewal conversations or upgrade conversations, my gut intuition would have told me that the Why Change story selling model is probably going to be most effective, but it turns out that that's not the case and you want to rely on the track record you built with your customer, and really reinforced that message and put everything else on the back burner.

Tim Riesterer: Yeah, I would say simply put that that's your advantage. If status quo bias is real, then you should lean into your status quo bias because you are the status quo. Why Change story is designed to disrupt status quo, so you probably shouldn't disrupt yourself is the point. Because if you are terribly disruptive with your upgrade message, people are like, " Oh, I have to change that much anyways, I might as well consider other options." What you want to do is include that sense of change in an evolutionary, that's why we call it the Why Evolve message, as opposed to the Why Change message, is a continuous improvement on the objectives you set out to fix together and continue the progress you've made, because no one likes to stop progress. As opposed to going surprise, we got this whole new thing that you should consider because then you're basically saying the same thing as all your competitors, and they're going to be, " Okay, I might as well take a look at them all. Now's the time to change." Just enough change to get them to change, but not too much that they think they can open this dialog up.

Chris: Fascinating. One of the things that we've been talking about, and you listeners, this is going to be important, is this theme that social proof is misapplied in sales. We've talked about the first scenario where that's misapplied, which is customer acquisition versus customer upgrading. But there's a second way it's misapplied, and it's zoomed into the area of customer acquisition. The message I would like to get into before we get into this five step framework is do not misapply it in the customer acquisition space either, and we're going to talk about how that typically happens, and here's how it does play out, here's how social proof is misapplied in customer acquisition, and it's what I call generic social proof. You're selling to, let's say, a marketing technology software company, and you start rattling off irrelevant customer names like we work with Walmart and Mariya and Nike and Twitter, and all these... just the bigger names that marketing provided you with, and maybe marketing gave you a bunch of case studies too, but they're not tailored to either the industry that you're selling into or the business problem that your potential buyer's having. Another example of how social proof is misapplied, I love the way you guys said this in Conversations That Win the Complex Sale, is customer stories these days are not stories at all. They're just data dumps. We just talk about the end results that we helped the customers achieve, which is not a negative thing unless it's used in isolation by itself, and we're going to talk later about where you use and results this. Now when you miss approach social proof and customer stories in this way, you get reactions like this. Not only does it not resonate, okay, not only does it not resonate, it actively alienates your buyers. They feel like, " They work with customers like that, but I'm like this. Whatever solution they have must not be for me." In a good scenario, they add some friction to the sales process and say, " That's a great story. But our situation's a little bit different than that," and a bad scenario, you get kicked in the teeth. I've been there before where it's just like, " We're nothing Google or Walmart. So I don't know why you're talking about them to begin with." Now, on the other hand, some of the highest earning sales professionals in the world get customer stories right, and they get reactions like this from their customers, which is can you please send me that case study, or whatever story that you just verbalize, because that's exactly what we're going through right now. That's the effect you want to have. Let's get into this five act framework for customer proof stories that sell. This is a five- step process that, by the end of this webinar, you'll be able to go apply this or maybe you'll have scripted out or something that first, but this is extremely actionable, and this is a five- step process from beginning to end. We're going to start with step one, which is I personally think is the single most powerful principle on here, invoke self discovery. Okay, invoke self discovery. This is where everybody gets customer stories wrong. Tim, do you just want to maybe voice over what we're looking at here? You talked about this in Conversations That Win, where we lead with the end result. Maybe you want to give us a sense of why that's not an ideal way to approach customer stories.

Tim Riesterer: Yeah, again, in customer acquisition, the majority of what you're doing, let's say it's in your marketing or early stage sales discussions, are talking to people who are not convinced they have a problem, or if they have a problem, they're not convinced that problems big enough for them to make a change, because, frankly they have a problem but they're not dead yet. The change might kill them. So they're maybe willing to admit they have a problem, but not big enough to change, and you want them to change. What happens is we continue to jump on this as if the first best thing we can tell customers is an outcome of an existing customer of ours as proof that our solution works as advertised. What you realize is, again, 60% to 80% of the people you're dealing with, you should just accept are in denial that they have a problem, so this is meaningless to them. The job you have to do is to overcome denial. They're not ready for this example yet. This is where we start talking about the perception of value. You have to create enough value for them to see the move to change. I always do this with my hands, right? If this is what I'm doing today, and what you're telling me is I should do something different tomorrow, if I can't see the difference between the two really, there's no reason to take the risk of change to get more or less the same. What you have to do is clearly establish what they're doing today and why that may be isn't working, and get them to see their current status quo is leaking and squeaking and things like that before they believe that maybe they need to fix it. Then you show enough contrast between the two for them to believe they need to move. I always say value lives in the contrast, and it's perceived between your solution and what they're doing today. The phrase no contrast equals no values. When you come in with your solution and say, " This is great, and people get a 26% ROI or 150% ROI," and they're like, " Wait. Wait. I mean, sounds a lot what I'm already doing." Right? You have to uncouple that, because our hubris and our lack of desire to change will immediately try and reinforce and restabilized our current position and our current preference, and that's what happens when you just talk about you and how great it is. I think I'm doing that today. Yeah. Go ahead, Chris.

Chris: Well, yeah. Well, I wasn't saying yeah that you have this hubris or anything. I was saying yeah in agreement of everything you said right before that. Just let the record show. I want to be clear with everybody what... We see these slides that say point A and point B. You can think of any at least true customer story as a journey your customer went through from point A, which is the status quo, to point B. The point that Tim and I are making is that the majority of" customer stories" exclusively focus on point B, which is the outcome, the benefit, the achieved result. But if you haven't built the context of point A, then point B is not going to have a fertile spot to land and it's not going to resonate yet, and the key word there is yet.

Tim Riesterer: Yeah, from the fourth bubble on the Why Change model we showed at the beginning, it simply said proof story with contrast. Now I'm going to bring that to life. The premise is your proof story must start with how an existing customer... I'm sorry, a successful customer felt, what they looked like at the beginning. In other words, what was the before? The idea is you need to create a sense of... We talked about invoke self discovery. The most powerful form of persuasion is self persuasion. You can't tell somebody they got a problem, they have to believe they have a problem, they have to identify and persuade themselves they have a problem. The best way to do that is to begin to see themselves and their current operation in light of someone just them. Again, they're not ready to hear about the B, how things are resolved, they first have to understand they're at the same risk as somebody else who identified themselves at risk. You have to do a lot of wallowing in the before of your successful customer for someone to identify with that and even gain agreement that they're seeing themselves in that. That seems a lot similar. Yeah, I'm certain, yeah. Are you seeing things like this? They'll often say, " Well, not that bad, but we are seeing it," right? They're more willing to admit pain, and even pain that needs to be solved when somebody else looks even worse off than them, but it's familiar to them. All of a sudden, you just... Our research has shown they start to be willing to admit more. Then when you show the resolution to that, they start to see the value of the change because there's enough contrast between their current state and the future state. Value lives in this contrast. That's the key right there as far as your story with contrast, your proof story is a story with contrast.

Chris: Right. Yeah. That's why I love storytelling in sales so much because it does invoke that self discovery. You can be telling a story and you're painting a mental picture in your buyers mind, and if you're telling a targeted enough story, they're nodding their heads, they're saying, " Yep, yep, that's me. That's exactly what I'm going through." For everybody listening, we're going to give you an example of a story that does that in just a minute here. But before we do, I would recommend everybody watching, take a screenshot of the screen you're looking at right now, or write this on a sticky note, because it's one of the most powerful principles of persuasion out there. If your story, and this goes beyond customer stories, if your story describes your buyers problem better than they can describe it themselves, they'll automatically assume that you have the best solution. The process is automatic. I'm going to give you the example that I just talked about a couple minutes ago so that you understand what it looks like to invoke self discovery. This is an edgy example, so we want to be cognizant of that. Apologies are set forth already, but Tim and I couldn't find a better example to present here. Alcoholics Anonymous invokes self discovery better than anybody. Now what you won't see, in terms of a" customer testimonial" that AA presents on their website or other materials, is just a point B, an end result. You won't see things like AA changed my life, my career is back on track, and my family life is better than ever, because to Tim's point a minute or two ago, somebody with a drinking problem, who has not yet admitted to becoming or being an alcoholic is in a state of denial. There is natty fertile spot for this type of testimonial quote, to land yet. What you do see them do is they invoke self discovery by telling" customer stories" in the point A, the before part of the customer story. They tend to sound like this, " It started with a few drinks on the weekends, that soon became a few drinks every day. Eventually, I couldn't even relax that night with four or five glasses of scotch, and my family avoided me actively in the evenings." Now, if you have a potential or if you have a drinking problem, but you have not admitted yet to being an alcoholic, your heart might sink a little bit, in a good way when you read that, but in a good way because you're seeing yourself in the story. This is one more slide that I would recommend that everybody take a screenshot of because it's incredibly powerful. If you can get customers or buyers to see themselves in the story you're telling, they'll automatically come to their own self discovery. That's what Tim and I mean when we say invoke self discovery. Now, Tim, do you have anything to add before we move on to the last part of this and get into the step number two in this process?

Tim Riesterer: Yeah. I think this just solidifies the point we made earlier that the majority of the people you're speaking with are in denial. They have a problem or a problem that's big enough to change and your proof point, social proof, must connect to and overcome denial. When we wrote Conversations That Win, we looked at Alcoholics Anonymous because we said, " Okay, let's look at an organization that has spent their entire history dealing with denial and helping people overcome that," and we happened upon Alcoholics Anonymous. One other phrase that they often say, instead again is AA saved my life, they go, " I didn't think I had a problem," and then all the other things that you identified there. Having the customer admit, " I didn't think I had a problem." In Joseph Campbell's Hero model, which some of the audience might be familiar with, it starts with the world is fine and then something changes. There's a sudden realization that it'll never be the same. But they start by saying, " I thought I was okay too," because there's an element of you may be thinking that, but not listen to my story. Anyways, again, we're invoking self discovery which basically makes self persuasion activate, and everyone will tell you that's more... You can't just tell somebody they've got a problem. You can't point at them and say, " You fit the profile." They have to figure it out for themselves.

Chris: Yeah. I've been asked a few times when I talk about AA being a great example of this, they say, " Well, do you have an example of B2B?" This is just an example of a customer quote that would resonate. Here at Gong, we sell software that helps people have better sales conversations. A way we could use this for a customer testimonial might look this. I had 70 reps handling 70 calls in 70 different ways, and it was chaos. Surprises were the rule, not the exception. Now, if you're a VP of sales dealing with a similar situation, your head is probably gone, " Yep. Yep, yep, that's actually pretty close to what we deal with," versus leading with something that said, " We increased close rates by 25% within 90 days. That's interesting, but we have not created a fertile ground yet for something that to resonate." That leads us to step two, and I'm glad you brought up Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey model because this is very similar to that model. It seems like we're probably just overlaying our own words on top of it here. But step two is to get their hopes up. The effect you're going for, and this does not have to be long, but it should look like your customer in the story you're telling found a light at the end of a tunnel, but it turns out that it just turned out to be a freight train coming their way. And no, that was not a Metallica reference. I realized I just quoted their lyrics pretty much word for word right there. But the point is you want to position conventional solutions, stuff that you compete with, not directly but on a status quo level, as a solution that your buyer tried but it ultimately didn't work out. In our case study example that we're talking about with Gong, that would be recording GoToMeeting calls. In this situation, Paul was very excited to find out that you could automatically record your sales meetings in GoToMeeting, and he thought that was the end of it. He thought he would solve this inconsistency problem, but what he ended up finding out is it was infinitely unscalable. His sales managers were spending 80 hours a week at work just to get through some of these meetings and coach to the level they wanted, and ultimately, they had to go back to the drawing board because that solution was not going to work. Now, before we get to step three, this was a short one, and that's the point because we want to make sure these customer stories are short and concise, Tim, do you have any thoughts to add on step number two, which is get their hopes up?

Tim Riesterer: Yeah, I think what... There's always an obvious answer, and people will start to say, " But I am." What you want to do is anticipate the but I'm doing this, and anticipate it because you see a lot of people who are doing things, so you can say, " Most companies we engage..." We'll talk about we work with 150 different companies every year to try and fix their message and help their salespeople. I will say, " In the 150 companies each year, we typically see them try these three things. What they don't realize is that it's these three things that are making the big difference." Right? There's the idea of here's the known need, everybody tried to solve for that. But here's the unconsidered need, the thing they didn't see coming, the thing they didn't think, so they tried this and tried that, and everybody can... The story continues, " Okay, I think I got a problem, but I've," and then you can go tried, tried, tried, and they go, " Oh, yeah, that's what we've been doing." What you anticipate is their first response after that, and be able to share in your story, your proof story, that somebody tried some of the same things, the usual suspects, right? In the movies, it was let's round up the usual suspects. See, my references are way older than yours, Chris. inaudible just bridge the generation gap here.

Chris: I may have been just learning to chew solid food around that. But I don't really know.

Tim Riesterer: Thank you for that. My life was lived in black and white. But the premise thing is that you can pretty much predict the kinds of things that they're going to identify, and you're going to want to move beyond those. What you want to highlight in your social proof or story with contrast is the surprising things your customer found out. To your point, the obvious was, oh, I can record my calls. Well, that wasn't the real problem. The real problem is no one was going to take the time to listen to them. Right? That reveal there of the problem behind the problem, the unconsidered need, the counter intuitive problem, the one they didn't read. You pulled back and said, " You thought the problem was recording, but the problem really was, tada, this." That's a moment of truth in every customer success story is when they discover something they didn't expect.

Chris: Fascinating.

Tim Riesterer: That is the moment they reveal that to your customer, to your prospect.

Chris: Excellent. Well, that leads us to step number three in this execution journey, which is the turning point. This is the pivot point in your customer story that changes the trajectory from for inaudible and in this problematic situation too. We haven't solved the problem yet, but we're sure on the path to doing that. My favorite example of this, mainly because I'm a huge nerd, is if you've seen the movie, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which is the second movie, there's this battle of Helm's Deep. The Battle of Helm's Deep is where the people of Rohan retreat to this big protected fortress called Helm's Deep. But 10,000 orcs... Not orcs. Uruk-Hais. See how true of a nerd I am, are on their way to basically wipe that race off of the planet, which is the race of men. The people of Rohan pretty much think that it's the end for them. A lot of them are just hopeless and they're accepting that it's the end of life as we know it. But before the 10,000 Uruk- Hais get there, they're all waiting for them to arrive, the Elves of Elrond, the Elves of Elrond, who they haven't been on speaking terms for 100 years or something crazy like that, just pop out of nowhere and they have this conversation where it's like, " Hey, we heard you guys were being attacked. We once had this alliance between elves and men, and we're here to reestablish that." This was the true turning point in the Battle of Helm's Deep. At first, it was they were just waiting for annihilation. Then suddenly, these elves pop out of nowhere and decide to support them, and it gave them a glimmer of hope, a true glimmer of hope. It was the turning point in that battle. That is the effect that you're looking to have with step number three. You want to introduce either someone your customer met that changed their perspective, they learn something new, or they had some sort of epiphany, usually that was triggered by an external event, where it put them on a different path in the story you're telling. Now in just a second, I'm going to give you a specific example of how we do this at Gong. But before I get into that, Tim, do you have anything that you want to comment about this pivot point in the customer story?

Tim Riesterer: Yeah, this is the moment that you have to recognize that you have to hit a turning point, that somebody wants to know there's a way out of it. This is called a customer proof point in success story for a reason. Once you've got the person surprised by a need they hadn't discovered or didn't know, and now realize the way they've been trying isn't going to work, you have to provide a new safe alternative. The brain science basically says this, that a person makes a decision to change, more so to ensure their survival than to achieve some sort of gain or thrive. But once they know there's a risk and once they know their survival is at risk, the next thing the brain wants to know is where's the new safe. If you don't bring that at some point in your proof point, if you just allow them to wallow in the bad news, that just makes you a jerk, right? I mean, at some point, that's bad. You have to pivot like you said. Now you have to show the new safe. Because if you don't do that, then people will decide their best opportunities just to retrench and stay where they are and hope this too shall pass. What you have to do is now you have to show the way out. Absolutely, the cadence of this is laid out for a specific reason. It's at this moment people now need to know there's a new safe alternative or new safe path.

Chris: Excellent. Now, here's the example following on along with the case study that we've been discussing, is the customer in our story, after having tried GoToMeeting and failed, they took the train ride home. They're in the Toronto area, and they happen to sit with another VP of sales on the train. That VP of Sales opened up his laptop and he started using the Gong product. It's very intuitive. You can see what Gong does immediately by just looking at a screenshot, and our VP of sales in this customer story, he looked over and he said, " What the F- word is that? That's exactly what I've been looking for." This was the turning point in his story where he met somebody who introduced him to a" tool" that he could use to change the trajectory of the story that we've been talking about. That leads us to step number four, which is the heroic feat. This is essentially the implementation of your solution. But there's something that we want to be cautious of here, and I think this is the most dangerous part for you as a seller or a marketer because so many get this wrong. Tim, you used these words earlier in this presentation, which is product is hero. It is very important not to devolve your customer story at this point into positioning the product as the protagonist of the story. The way you want to position the product is it was a lightsaber. It was just a tool that the protagonist of the story, which is your customer, hopefully, is using to achieve an outcome, but the product itself is not the central aspect of the story.

Tim Riesterer: Yeah, the Joseph Campbell model, it says at this moment the mentor enters, right? And helps bring experience and knowledge and awareness to the hero of the story, which is the customer. You don't want your customer story at that point to devolve into a discussion of your products and its features and benefits at that point. At best, it will be the customer success story of how they worked with you and the experience to make this a success. But it's them describing their success, and what it looked like, what it felt like. It's like what did they do different? What did they do better? Not what is it that you provided, and what inaudible that you do? It's tricky in that moment, but in the story, the customer success story again, your customer's voicing their story, they have to express this in terms of what they did differently, and what they did better and how they experienced it. Because customer success stories are all about getting your audience to try on the story and take ownership of the story. As soon as it pivots to your product, they're like, " Whoa!" They got to continue to live in the shoes of or the story of or the sandals of the person doing the talking, which is your customer. Again, this point, the heroic feat is, and here's what we did different and what we did better as a result. Not I got a new whiz- bang tool, but this is how our process change, this is how my experiences changed, this is how the reactions changed. People can start to see their own environment shifting, and how good that would feel to be in that environment versus the one they're currently in.

Chris: Now a quick tip for getting this right, making sure you don't devolve into a product discussion is pronoun control. Is the pronoun you're using your customer or your customer's name? I don't even know. I'm not an English major, maybe I'm butchering this. The point is, are you talking about your product or your customer? You can see here we're talking about Paul. We've written the word Paul, which is the customer's name. Paul did this. It does not say Gong helped Paul do this. It says Paul used Gong to do this. That is a very subtle change, but it paints a totally different mental picture for your customer. That brings us to step five, the happy ending. This is the fifth and final step to telling an insanely powerful customer story. This is the" cherry on the top" or cherry on top of the cake. Now, now is the part that you already know, now you can talk about these end results that you've been waiting so patiently about. Results you've helped your customer achieve or percentages that the customer achieved, percentage increases or decreases and specific dollar amounts that they either gained or saved. Now, I have a quick thought on this, and then I'll pass the torch over to you, Tim. But when you have gone through the previous four steps, the previous four steps that we've talked about here, you've created a fertile garden or fertile ground for step five to land, these benefits, these outcomes, and now they're going to resonate with the context that you've built up so far.

Tim Riesterer: Yeah, the goal has been to overcome the denial so that they ask the question, so how did that work? How does that happen? Then you tell the part of the customer story, like you said, of the heroic feat, and then they're ready to know, " Well, all right, so how big a deal was that?" Believing in the contrast, there's a quick bit of brain science and decision making I need to share. There's really two decisions the brain must make, an emotional intuitive one to leave the status quo to keep and ensure survival, and then ultimately a rational and logical one to explain that decision to themselves and to others. The journey to unhinge the status quo is the journey through the emotional intuitive part of the story that we talked about, but it's got to land somewhere so that when somebody says, " So why did you do that," they would be able to justify it, rationalize it, validate it, explain it with data. It's funny, the rational part of our brain is the explaining part of our brain because it has the... That's where language resides. So whenever we tell a story of why we did this, we go, "Well, here's the numbers." But the reality is that's the finishing point. As we just said, it's the... That part of the brain needs to be able to feel good about it and needs to make others feel good about it, so it needs the numbers, but it first needs to unhook itself from its current position. It's a powerful model that we've talked about here. But it's rooted, not just an opinion, your studies, our studies, and just the brain science that's out there in general about how decisions are made.

Chris: Fascinating. Now, this is the example since we've been following a case study from beginning to end here. Now we have, not just gained permission, but built an effective context to share the end results the customers achieved, and in this case, it was increasing 10... or close rates by 10% across an entire sales organization within the first few months there. The final thought and we've got a little bonus for you coming up in just a second, so don't leave just yet. But told correctly, customer stories can become your most powerful sales tool if you add them to what you are already doing and you follow the five steps that we outlined here to a wake up at the end of 2019 to a completely different sales and marketing career. Now, Tim has something to give away here. Tim, do you want to talk about this?

Tim Riesterer: Yeah. We continue to do research in this area to help you do something different and better. We call this research you verses we. Chris had brought up the idea of pronouns, that it isn't Gong di this or Corporate Visions did that. It's Joe or Mary or Sally did this or that, or the customer company did this or that. We were supporting that, we were an enabler of that. Right? Well, one of the things that we hear all the time in the way people write emails, make presentations, or tell stories is they use the word we. It's not obvious, right? One form of we is we've been in business as long, we have a lot of great customers, we have these innovations, we're the best in the world. People have started to move that out of their vocabulary, but they still use the word we because they're like, "Yeah, but I wanted to sound like it's a partnership. I wanted to sound like it's teamwork. It's like we're in it together." So we we we we all have our presentations hoping the customers hears partnership, but what the customer hears is you. Because if you just hear somebody saying we, as a listener, you're hearing them say you, and you can stay back and say, " Interesting," but you keep an arm's length distance. Replace everywhere where you use the word we and insert the word you, and you will see a psychological shift in difference. We've done that research and it's available to you here. Here's a link, especially to the listeners of this webcast, to hear the latest research on how to use the word you as a pronoun in your marketing and sales conversations to replace we and the dramatic difference that can have on people taking ownership of the story, trying on what you're saying, feeling they are responsible for that and taking action. In the spirit of proof points and social selling with proof, recognizing using the word you as to convey ownership as opposed to we to keep that for yourself is a powerful, simple, simple tool that you can add on top of this five- step social proof story model we've given you today to change the game dramatically.

Chris: Now, everybody listening, go ahead and go over to that link that you see on the screen and download Corporate Visions report. It's absolutely fascinating. Now before we take just a few questions, and we don't have a ton of time so we can only field a few, there is one more message that I'd to like leave you with. Listen up sales managers and sales leaders specifically, you all know that customer stories are just the piece of a bigger puzzle of having insanely persuasive sales conversations. Now, if you're blind to what's happening during your team sales conversations, you don't really have the power to change those for the better. You don't know if your sales methodology is being adopted, if your reps are backpedaling against competitors, or differentiating crisply, and of course, you don't know if they are telling effective customer stories. Go ahead and do yourself a favor, request the demo of Gong. It's going to blow you away. It is really the hot new kid on the block in terms of sales technology, and it will help your reps have insanely persuasive customer conversations. But with that little commercial toward the end of the webinar, that hopefully we've earned at this point by delivering value, hopefully you've walked with a rich list of techniques and tactics that you can go apply on your next sales call or go teach your reps. I think we're ready to take just a few questions here. If you have any questions, go ahead and write them right now in the question box, and we're going to see if we can field a few of these before we close out. Okay. Everybody's crosstalk Yeah. We did, didn't we? We are very verbose. Everybody is asking for the recording. I've gotten about 17 questions that looks just on that theme. Yes, a recording of this webinar is going to be sent out to everybody who registered or attended. You'll probably get it early next week. Okay.

Tim Riesterer: crosstalk that.

Chris: I mean, that's how I went for school, and I got here somehow. One question, what if all of your customer stories are from different industries than your prospect? I'll actually give my thoughts on this. Tim, if you have additional thoughts, I'd love to hear it. The goal of your social proof is your buyer should feel that they are in the same" tribe" as the customer that you're referencing. Industry is only one tribe that they may or may not be a part of. If you don't have customers that are in the same industry, you can still tell resonant customer stories as long as your buyer feels that they are somehow connected to the customer you're talking to. That could be a shared business problem. It could be industry, but if you don't have that, there are others. It could be a similar process that they might be going through, and it could even be similar geography, in some cases, as long as the other variables aren't too different.

Tim Riesterer: Yeah, I would agree. I'll give you a hard example of that. When we were talking to banks for the first time about how to improve their sales messaging, we didn't use bank examples. In fact, banks didn't want bank examples because they thought banks sucked, right? They didn't think they could sell well. When you think about the treasury management and commercial type B2B activities at a bank, they want to sell... They're selling technology more than they are selling the service. We started talking about, " Hey, you want your salespeople to perform the highest performing sales professionals in the world," and those are people who worked at Oracle and Salesforce and SAP, and those are the salespeople you want your people to start to look like. You don't want them to sound like more banks. They're like, " Yeah, yeah," and I'm like, " Okay, now we have, because we now have some case studies," because I'll be honest, we hadn't worked with any banks before. What we had to do is make a connection to the challenges and almost the aspirations of that customer and make some connections back for them to some case studies to support it, because frankly, this was a new vertical for us and it worked, right? Eventually, you're going to run into people who want to know you're working... By the Eighth Bank, they're the laggards on this, so they want to know there's other banks doing this. But those first few people, they're going to be happy to know that maybe they're stepping up their game because they want to be just somebody else. It can't be so far afield like you said. If you're talking to a certain kind of B2B, and you're like, " Hey, look at what Walmart does," and they're like, " Can't even get there." But contextually, you can try to get it as close as possible by talking about shared problems and challenges and shared aspirations in terms of who you want to perform like. Sometimes it's like, " You don't want to be like everybody else in your industry. You want to be different. Which industry do you want to be like?" Maybe you have a reference there.

Chris: Now, Tim, I got another one for you because I think you're going to be able to provide the most insightful answer here. Somebody is asking at what point in the sales cycle specifically are customer stories most impactful to talk about?

Tim Riesterer: Yeah. I would say, we use customer stories as one of those emotional grabbers, we call them. It's often best when you either have to validate the thing you just said, because they're like, " Wow, that's interesting, freaky," and they don't believe you almost, and you got to give them a story. Or maybe there's been a little lag in the sales cycle, and you got to introduce some more emotion. A good customer stories important there. Again, it's sort of a proof point at some point that says, " This is a real problem. We aren't just making this up. Others like you are suffering with it and needed to fix it and fixed it." Or, " We've had a couple conversations, and we've presented a proposal, and it just seems really stuck," and you launch a great customer story with contrast. So they start to go, "Well, this is something we should deal with now because others are dealing with it." Those are two primary moments for me, that you need to validate the problem you've put them in and said is real, and a good customer story with contrast does that, and you need to emotionally keep engaging them throughout, and a customer story with contrast is a very emotionally attention grabbing opportunity. Have a few of those ready to launch as maybe a deal starts to slow down, and I think you will see that that picks it back up. Ideally then maybe with an offer to have a conversation with that organization.

Chris: Now here's a quick one. I'll take inaudible The question is, how would your advice differ if I'm selling a service versus selling a product? I think we would have to go back to I think it was step four, which is the heroic feat, and the point we made about the lightsaber. Now, the product or service is just a tool. It's just a detail in the customer story. Your customer, though, is the protagonist. Because your product or service is playing a secondary role in the service, albeit critical one, it should not change as to whether you're selling a product or service. If it does change, then that means you're telling customer stories incorrectly. crosstalk We've gotten more questions than we can possibly answer. I'm just going to go through a couple of these and make sure we answer a couple that I think will be massively applicable. Give me just a second. All right. There's some funny things in here. Can you share some proven ways to collect stories that can be shared across the sales team? I don't know if these are proven ways, but I sit next to customer success in our organization, and I'm making sure that I know what's going on. I don't know. Tim, do you have anything else to add there? I wouldn't say I'm particularly good at it. But I'm just intentional. That's the only advice I have, is be intentional and try to collect them.

Tim Riesterer: Yeah, I think that there's ... We're discovering this as we deal with more customer success organizations to help them improve the conversations in their QBRs and in their upsells and their renewals and their price increases, that the number one most effective thing in telling a story is to document the business impact and results. What we've been finding is many companies struggle to document business impact and results. If your company is good at that, I would start there, and that usually happens in customer success. In our case, right? Every after 90 days of using our stuff, we have a third party come in and do a measurement and objective measurement, and so we get those reports, so we see all the fantastic results, and we go, " Oh, we got to get a story there and get a story there." I would say where in your organization is somebody collecting success story... I'm sorry, business impact, and it might not be that they're packaging for success stories. It's simply to report back to customers in the form of adoption and customer success. But maybe you can mine that for some people who are really doing off the charts good work, and then go solicit a story from them. It's really hard to just canvass the field and say, " Hey, anybody got any success stories?" Because you'll get stuff, but do they have a good before and after story? Are they willing to tell that story? Because again, the key is both the before and the after, it isn't just that you got to deal with them, and it isn't just that you really them. I would go to where you're doing some sort of documentation of business impact, in some way, shape, or form, and look for those companies that are spike in your dashboard and say, " Maybe there's a story there."

Chris: Yeah. We have one more question that we can answer here, and I'm going to take a shot at this one. Tim, if you have additional thoughts, by all means. It says, " How do you balance the dynamic between telling a customer story and a product demo?" I'm guessing what they meant is what role do each one of those play. Here's my opinion on this. The customer story is the final part of a broader strategic sales narrative that you have told, which typically does not include the demo yet. It's usually a messaging narrative, it could be a first callback, and you end it with the customer story. The product demo is a byproduct of telling that entire sales narrative effectively. You've just told your five- part customer story, and it's so compelling that your potential buyer says, " Okay, how does all of this work?" The answer to their question, how does all of this work is your product demo. That's my thoughts. That's how I interpret the question. Tim, do you have anything to crosstalk

Tim Riesterer: Right. But all too often, the product demo seems totally disconnected from the customer story. If you told the customer story that said, " These are the things I was struggling to find, these are the things I didn't know, these are the things that I was misunderstanding," your demo should sort of mimic that flow. So here's where we find these things, here's where we identify those things, here's where we reveal these things. I believe the thing that could fix demos would be if you would create a demo that better reflects the things that a customer story represents because the person listening again is not going to be... They want to see the thing that solves the problem. If you now go into a feature function dump and say, " This is how it works," you're going to have lost the threads. I'd reconsider the demo script and the screen captures or the way the demo path that you take them through and do it in light of, " Hey, most companies we go into are doing it this way. But look at how you can do it now," so that they can see that contrast, right? Just a suggestion. That was a riff, and that was free.

Chris: Well, we have come up on time. Tim, thank you so much for taking an hour out of your day and all of the prep work we put into this. This was an amazing webinar. I hope everybody listening has really come away armed with a bunch of tactics and techniques that you'll be able to use immediately on your next sales call, or your team will be able to use on your next sales call. Once again, thank you everybody for joining. These are always an absolute blast, and we will see you next time.


In this powerful sales Webinar, Gong's Chris Orlob teams up with Tim Riesterer of Corporate Visions to teach you how to tell customer stories that are so compelling, it'll feel like your using a flamethrower in a stick fight. These sales experts will go over a powerful five-step framework for telling customer stories that predictably win deals, with dozens of tips and tactics for using social proof to magnetically attract customers. This webinar is your key to closing more deals.

Today's Guests

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Chris Orlob

|Sr. Director, Product Marketing
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Tim Riesterer

|Chief Visionary at Decision Labs