Skip to main content
Sales, Training

How Storytelling Will Up Your Online Sales Game

Jacco van der Kooij

Written by Jacco van der Kooij

Founder, Winning by Design


Wanted to share insights gained on the importance of using visual storytelling in a world where the buyer is online.

The “As a Service” Economy

Today, you can buy anything as a service—razors as a service, groceries as a service, carwashes as a service… The way that we are buying is rapidly changing, and this shift is shaking up the entire way that we sell. Not too long ago, a software sales professional would have sold a hundred thousand dollar software license with an 18% annual upgrade and renewal fee. That’s $118,000 for year one, with an additional $18,000 guaranteed every year after that. The software would be installed directly onto the client’s servers, and they would be made a customer for life—or close to it.


Today, that very same piece of software is selling at $4,000 per month and lives not on the servers but in the cloud. The customer gets to decide each month whether or not she wants to renew; and with a myriad of other options that are just as easy to “install” (i.e. access) as the current solution, the cost of switching to a competitor’s product is much lower.


The As a Service model is changing the way that we sell

The shift from three sales stages to five customer experiences

In the traditional sales cycle, there are three stages: awareness, education, and selection. A client becomes aware that they have a problem, researches materials that educatethem on what options they have to solve it, and then selects the solution that fits best. For decades, these three stages determined the entire marketing and sales process. In this approach the goal was to get a client to sign on the dotted line. Terms such as Always Be Closing stem from this age and still prevail in many sales organizations.

sales stages

Today, however, that moment of commitment—the closing of the deal—is spread out a much longer period of time, as buyers get to make the selection decision month over month. So, instead of a three-stage cycle, we now have a five-stage sales cycle.

The five stages of a Product-As-A-Service sale are:

  1. O’SH!T—the customer realizes that (s)he has a problem.
  2. AHA—there is a solution to the problem.
  3. WOW—the sales experience offers great insights that spur the first purchase.
  4. YEEHAW—the service works as advertised and solves the problem.
  5. OMG—the customer comes back again and again, continually purchasing the service because the experience is just that good. The customer shares the experience.

sales stages

The key moment of the sale, as many seasoned business professionals will tell you, is the “Aha” moment, when the client becomes aware of the impact of the problem while also learning about a solution that solves it. The challenge that sales organizations face today is that this “Aha” moment is most often taking place online, usually well before a client has contacted—or been contacted by—a sales professional.

Today many clients experience the AHA moment online

In other words, our customers are self-diagnosing their problems and self-prescribing the solutions. How can we fix this and insert ourselves into the sales cycle before our prospects have already made up their mind?


Want to close a deal? Appeal to your prospect’s emotions

Researchers have found that people first make their decisions based on emotional response, rationalizing the decision afterwards with facts and figures. (Reference:Research Paper). For example, when you are buying a house, you may find yourself saying, “This doesn’t feel right,” or “Nah, not my style.” These are emotional responses that, in all likelihood, get backed up by rational responses like, “It’s too expensive,” or “It’s too far from my work.”

Sales professionals have traditionally focused on creating this emotional experience in-person, in tradecraft this is referred to as Consultative Selling, and more recently Strategic Selling.

Sales teams have developed tons of content about the rational experience, like pricing options, specification sheets, and chart-filled slide decks. But sales professionals are, more often than not, lacking the content needed to provide that “emotional” experience that the prospect can consume online or virtually, at their leisure.

Case-in point: Have you recently visited a cluttered website?  You recognize them as deals are screaming at you.  Most people won’t feel compelled to provide their email to learn more about the service.  Why? It is too early in the stage to decide based on the rationale of price.  You first want to “learn a bit more about them.” It “Just doesn’t feel right.

Today this experience happens online, and even more so mobile. That means that a lot of the buying decision rests upon the emotional experience that your customer has during the AHA moment they experience early on in their decision process.

How to help customers experience the AHA moment online

Your can help customers make an emotional decision with visual storytelling— ONLINE. The results we have seen are staggering— from a few hundred views on SlideShare to thousands of views as your story spreads among clients who experience the very same problem you have a solution for.

Here are some examples to learn from

And a few templates to get you started

Oh and Blueprints for As a Service Sales Organizations

These and many more insights on how to build, and operate sales organizations can be found in the book, “Blueprints for a SaaS Sales Organization“.

This hardcover coffee table sized book (12″x13”) was entirely created in a Prezi and provides a series of detailed blueprints on how to design, implement and launch a scalable SaaS Sales organization. You can find the book onAmazon.

Blueprints for a SaaS Sales Organization