Did you ever watch the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” with Steve Martin and John Candy?  In the movie, John Candy’s character is named Del Griffith and he is a shower ring salesman.  He is also a blabbermouth that tells one boring story after another, oblivious to the fact that he is boring the hell out of his audience.

How many Del Griffith’s do you have on your sales team?  I can assure you that as a long time VP of Sales, other than missing your sales number, the only thing more painful is to be part of a key customer stakeholder meeting and watch your sales rep flail away with incoherent, rambling stories that bore the crap out of the customer.  You can actually see the exact moment at which the customer execs mentally “check out” of the conversation.

What’s worse?  When you go through the debrief with your sales team and they think that they “knocked it out of the park”.  This is a huge and brutally costly disconnect between reality (the only one that matters is the customer execs) and fantasy (sales teams tend to have “happy ears”).

How do you fix this terminal problem?  Oddly enough, a great start is to listen to the admonition that Steve Martin’s character gave to Dell Griffith after reaching his boiling point.  It’s also a classic movie scene so I’ve included a link to the movie clip at the end of this blog post.

Steve Martin’s character says: “By the way, when your telling these little stories.  Here’s a good idea, have a point!  It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!”  I recognize that sounds painfully obvious, but the reality is that a lot of sales people struggle to tell interesting stories. They often fail because they don’t have a point.

Successful sales reps tend to be great story tellers.  If you think about it, all net new customer wins start with a compelling story that engaged the customer.  Show me a customer deal loss and th emajority of the time it can be traced back to not engaging the customer in an interesting and relevant story.

Sales VPs can’t be in every customer meeting, that simply doesn’t scale.  But they can assess and teach their sales teams to tell great stories.  It’s a worthwhile investment of your coaching time.

Disclaimer: There is a 15 second ad that you need to run through prior to the movie clip starting. The entire movie clip is 1:46 minutes long.  The quote that I cited starts at the 1:07 minute mark and goes until 1:15 minute mark.