Don’t you hate it when someone interrupts your story and cuts you off? Everybody does, including your prospects! In this episode of INSIDE Inside Sales, Darryl talks to Bruce Kirk, a prospecting, sales, and coaching expert at Slight Edge Selling, about the magic of story-listening. They will explain what this concept means, giving you a master class on becoming a great listener and storyteller. They also share how just being willing to give your prospects the floor can position them into sharing their pain points. Subscribe now and unlock the power of two-way storytelling in sales.






Host: Darryl PraillVanillaSoft

Guest: Bruce Kirk, Slight Edge Selling


Welcome Bruce Kirk

Darryl Praill: It’s another week, we are here. Can you imagine? I don’t know, it’s been great. Hey, had a question for ya. I don’t mean to jump into it guys. Do you listen to this as soon as it downloads automatically? Assuming you’re subscribed. Are you like, “Oh my gosh, it’s in, it’s in it’s in. Listen to Darryl.” ‘Cause by the way, nobody does that. Nobody, nobody says, “Let’s listen to Darryl.” Or is there a certain time of the day or week? That you like to listen to the INSIDE, INSIDE Sales show. I’d be kind of curious, drop me a line on that.

Darryl Praill: Because I’m trying to compare my listening habits to others, I wanna see there’s any kind of commonality. Talk to your colleagues on the sales floor, on the sales floor, the virtual sales floor these days, right? And see what they have to say. We can compare notes. I don’t know why I wanna know that. I think, and maybe I’ll do some promotion. Who knows? You can mention it going on LinkedIn saying, okay it’s that time when you’re all of a sudden listening to your podcast.

Darryl Praill: Did you know you can have all these cool features in your app player. You can increase the speed, get rid of the silences, all that great stuff. And by the way, if you don’t know that you should do that, ’cause there’s some really cool features there. With that all said, I wanna share a story this week that I’m sure many of you can relate to. This is an observation and some of you aren’t here in your life journey yet, but I am and I am at a point, as I tell everybody, I don’t have a problem telling you my age, I’m 53.

Darryl Praill: I’m at that point now where the kids are out of the house, they’re both on their own, gainfully employed, doing quite well. And it’s just the bride and I at home these days, just the bride and I. And the thing about the bride and I, is that we’ve been married, well, over 30 years, I know we got married young. And you get into it a rhythm. And so when the rhythm gets disrupted, you notice.

Darryl Praill: Aright, so that’s and everybody who’s married right now for an extended period of time is nodding their heads. And in my case, what I’ve noticed in the last year or two or three, I don’t get it. It’s just because maybe there’s no kids anymore, is that my wife will be doing something. Maybe, when my day’s done, I have long days, so I sit down in front of TV, maybe 8:30, 9:00 at night. Finally, I’m like dead. I’m like zoned up mentally exhausted. I talk nonstop. There’s conflict, there’s struggles. There’s all the usual sales challenges that you all know.

Darryl Praill: And I just wanna, not people. I wanna not people. And so she’ll not people with me and we’ll watch TV and then she’ll be flipping the phone looking at her Facebook or her talking to her friends or reading something. And then she’ll go turn to me and say, “Hey, you know what I learned today?” Or, “Hey, you, Oh, I meant to tell you about this.” Or, “Hey,” you know, you get which is what every couple wants. You wanna have that lovely chance to catch up on your day and all this stuff, that was notable, except she always does it at just that moment in a show, when, the main character’s gonna turn out to be a bad guy or when they’re gonna wrap things up.

Darryl Praill: Or if you’re a home and garden fan or I’m a garden TV fan she does it just as they’re doing the big reveal. You’ve got a half an hour or an hour into this show almost and they’re finally showing you the end result, and she wants to talk, kills me. Reminds me of my kids when they were young, my youngest had the hardest time reading the room. And they would just blurt out their story in the middle of somebody else’s conversation. ‘Cause it was firing on their mind mind right now.

Darryl Praill: And they know that’s cute when they’re a kid. Honey you got to read the room, you gotta interrupt, you gotta use your manners. you can’t just project. You know, when you do that you’re sending the messages that you’re not even listening to what they’re saying. You just wanna be heard. It’s all about you. Then the person gets put off and you don’t want to lose friends. Right, honey? So my wife is kind of going back in time to where my kids were. So as you start, it seems you have this problem when you’re young and you have this problem when you’re old.

Darryl Praill: So my question is, how come so many of you have this problem when you’re not young? And you’re not old? You have this problem right now. You just wanna talk. You know what you’re not doing? Well, let me tell you what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to do some storytelling. And I’m a big proponent of storytelling but you need to maybe exercise a little bit of control and practice some active story-listening. You know what I’m saying? Do you see what I did there? So I thought who’s the right person to talk about the power of story-listening. Now, this is not a term I coined. I would just say listening, but I liked the premise of story-listening. Is it truly is, the opposite of storytelling and it really brings it to the next level. And that’s where I got my good friend, Bruce. Bruce Kirk. You guys know Bruce? He is the Slight Edge Selling.

Bruce Kirk: Hello everyone.

Darryl Praill: He’s here, Bruce. How you doing my friend?

Bruce Kirk: Doing fantastic. Fantastic Friday.

Darryl Praill: Fantastic Friday.

Bruce Kirk: Yeah.

Darryl Praill: If you can’t tell, we’re recording this on a Friday, we’re gonna wrap our week up hopefully and then my wife will probably interrupt halfway through. God bless her. And so Bruce is all about equipping business owners and sales teams. He helps them conquer all their greatest challenges and prospecting sales and sales recruiting, and really teach us how to go from good to great. And one of the skills that Bruce is a huge advocate of, if you follow them on LinkedIn and you should, by the way. Go follow him on LinkedIn. It’s literally Bruce Kirk, right. The classic Alright, B-R-U-C-E-K-I-R-K. And he’s talking about this a lot and I’m like I gotta get this cat on the show.

Storytelling in Sales: The Magic of Story-Listening

Darryl Praill:  So Bruce, I set the stage welcome to the show. How did I do in my definition? In fact, let’s just assume I sucked at what I was trying to say. And when you say story-listening for the audience, what is it that you mean?

Bruce Kirk: Yeah, so it’s listening to, it’s an advanced form of listening is what I call it. But it’s listening to the prospect to the client or whomever you’re interacting with to understand their context, what the circumstances are that they’re facing, challenges they’re facing, just how their day was. In terms of your wife, relating it back to your wife, she wants to tell you what her day was all about.

Bruce Kirk: And so it’s, listening to that story and it takes, takes concentration, right? And it takes focus and it, but in that concentration, in that focus, you’re validating your wife you’re validating your prospect, you’re affirming them. They recognize that you’re focused on wanting to understand them. And that is so powerful. And it’s, just say in any relationship but it’s immensely powerful in the prospecting and sales arena, so.

Darryl Praill: I wanna jump on that for a second. It’s funny, you, you said some things that the twigged me, one of them being, she wants to share, right? She wants to share. And now her timing sucks. But in my mind, I just, what I wanna do is go, Oh, like, Oh why are you doing this now? Right, but I know if I do that she will deflate and then she’ll stop sharing with me. And I don’t want her to stop sharing with me. I like what she shares with me.

Bruce Kirk: Yeah.

Darryl Praill: And I don’t know, I don’t wanna make her, I don’t wanna hurt her feelings. I don’t her to feel bad. She’s got to work on her timing. But the reality is I do wanna hear what she has to say. And for me, it’s the body language. And now in this scenario, basically for the audience you’re listening to me in that scenario I’m your prospect and for the audience, you’re my wife. The biggest thing I find is I hate when I’m the buyer, ’cause I, it’s part of my job is I buy and I’m talking to a prospect.

Darryl Praill: I hate when they just go off on a tangent ’cause their neurons are firing. ‘Cause all of a sudden they realize that they also want to say it, especially, or when they cut me off or they interrupt me to say something ’cause it just screams at me, you’re not listening to me. You just wanna sell me something. Is that normal?

Bruce Kirk: Absolutely, I mean, it’s the more seasoned salesperson the more a sales professional will recognize that the needs and the wants of the prospect have to come first. And when we’re telling and this is part of the point that I’m making is that when we’re storytelling, we’re putting our needs ahead of the time. And again, it begs another point Darryl that the timing of telling our story is key. So if we tell our story at the wrong time it loses all its power. So we wanna, and I’m a big proponent that we wanna first become great story listeners and then we’ll know how to become great storytellers. So, that’s what I have to say on that.

Darryl Praill: You see what I was doing there? I was actively listening. But actually, I love what you just said because it’s true. I have talked at length and Bruce you’ve even shared with me that you picked up on my advocacy for the power of storytelling. I am a big believer in storytelling will win you deals ’cause it helps establish rapport makes it makes what you’re offering relatable. It allows you to connect your prospect with what you provide.

Bruce Kirk: Absolutely.

Darryl Praill: Through personal anecdotes. But the challenge with storytelling is that I’m I can be so busy telling my story or wanting to tell my story that I’m actually not paying attention to the signals that the prospect is giving me which is maybe my story is shutting down them. They don’t want to talk.

Bruce Kirk: Absolutely.

Darryl Praill: And I, and I need to stop talking so I can listen to them.

Bruce Kirk: Absolutely, I mean, that just reminded me of the show up and throw up concept, if you’re but listening and pausing and taking the time and actually being curious and wanna understand slows us down so that we can listen. But you brought up a good point that we need to have really acute situational awareness.

Bruce Kirk: So like, yeah, you want it. In your example with your wife you’ve had a really, really challenging day. You wanna sit down and just unwind in front of the TV and yet she starts talking to you. Well, that your antennas are up and they’re buzzing, and they’re saying, well, wait a minute, she needs me to listen to her right now. She needs to be heard and she wants to be heard. So that by you putting her needs first and her wants and her desires then you become a good listener and a good partner too.

Darryl Praill: And that everything you just described works and we’re talking obviously about a marriage but it works the exact same way in a buying cycle. That you are partners-

Bruce Kirk: Absolutely.

Darryl Praill: In a dance, right? Your prospect has pains. And if you’ve done your job right through discovery and qualification is you’ve poked and prodded and provoked them to start sharing about their pains. And all of a sudden this goes this may turn into a venting session, a bitching session a “Oh my gosh, you just, you happen to be the guy who came along and asked the right question and blah I’m just telling you everything going on.” Which of course for a sales person is dynamite. That’s what you want. That’s how you get all the information to know how to better position your offering. But I find too many reps are thinking about the next thing they wanna say and they’re not listening. And most prospects pick up on that.

Bruce Kirk: Exactly. I mean, I assimilate storytelling to an advanced form of presentation, the advanced form of telling. So story-listening is an advanced form of fact-finding. I mean, it’s advanced form of discovery. I mean, you want, if somebody’s starting to vent with you and starting to to share what their situation is, I mean they’re gonna tell you just gold. They’re gonna give you gold in terms of what’s going on.

Bruce Kirk: And they’re gonna, I’ve found in many times they’re gonna tell you how to sell them and tell you what’s gonna make all the difference for them in terms of them becoming a buyer. And that’s why it’s another reason it’s so vital to just pause back and let it rip and listen to understand. I mean, listening to understand is a big part of story-listening, clarifying like “Did you mean this?” So that you clearly understand and that’s part of the affirmation, the validation process is communicating to the prospect that you wanna understand and you wanna get clarification so that you’re aligned with what they’re facing and what they’re telling you.

Darryl Praill: You, you’ve reminded me. I think I’ve shared this before on the show. If I have guys and gals, I apologize for repeating myself. My wife and I went to a marriage course several years ago. And one of the only thing that’s memorable to this course about me and how bad is that. The only thing that’s memorable in this course, was the one line about communication and the one line was listening.

Darryl Praill: And it was to play back to your spouse ’cause they wanna feel heard and understood. Especially if you have a disagreement or a you’re not aligned, shall we say. And what I’m supposed to do as the person who’s actively listening is first you listen to them and then you play it back along the lines of, so what I’m hearing you say is if I were to stop leaving the toilet seat up, so you don’t fall in in the middle of the night, that would make you happy, right? So.

Bruce Kirk: And they actually doing it, actually do it, yes.

Darryl Praill: Yeah, and then actually following through on it. But in sales it’d be saying, so what I’m hearing you say is if you could eliminate this block, that’s stopping you from all this process improvement that it will increase your output and you will be a happy camper. Is that what I’m hearing you say? And they will correct you if you’ve got a wrong that’s the beauty of that playback technique. They will say, “Oh no, close but what I really said was this.” Oh, okay now we’re aligned. Now, I truly, that nuance was important.

Bruce Kirk: And if you would ask an additional question or how would it, how would it improve your? I mean what difference would it make in your process improvement?

Darryl Praill: Right.

Bruce Kirk: So you’re, you’re digging for-

Darryl Praill: Now you are getting them to quantify it.

Bruce Kirk: Yeah. So you’re getting your-

Darryl Praill: Yes.

Bruce Kirk: If you think about story-listening as an advanced form of fact-finding, advanced form of inquiry, advanced form of discovery, that that has helped me and just advanced my ability to do this. ‘Cause I wanna be heard too. I mean, I’m a human being, but I want, selling is all about going to the bank. And so I want my prospect to be heard. I want them to be validated. But I wanna do that sincerely and authentically too, but.

Darryl Praill: So there you go, folks, one of the tips you’re gonna be a better listener, confirm and clarify. It’s also do your, either will feel heard. B you’ll have ensured that you got to right, and C if you got a wrong, they’re gonna correct you, so that you can better position your solution. But you also touched on another thing beyond the confirming and clarify approach. You talked about discovery and what people may not understand is when you say something like, okay so we’ll start off with confirm and clarify.

Darryl Praill: So I heard you say, so that I got rid of this obstacle, you could get rid of this. You could produce more output. Is that correct? Yes. Now you said discovery. Why is that? Why will that? By getting rid of that why does that increase your output? Help me understand that. I just don’t understand it. And then shut up again. So it’s the classic discovery and Bruce you talked about being curious. But the reason we wanna be curious, reason we wanna do discovery so we can understand all the symptoms and grow the size and scope of the deal and better tailor our proposal to fit their exact needs.

Darryl Praill: So there’ll be happy and they’ll become a customer and there’ll be sticky. They’ll stay with us for a long time. But that act of doing that discovery help me understand why? Tell me about that. Explain that to me, describe how that would affect you. T-E-D, Ted and then shutting up T-E-D. That was the fourth part which was shutting up. Is all about story-listening. Wouldn’t you agree?

Bruce Kirk: Absolutely, man, as I was, prepping for our talk today, going back, you had a post that I had originally commented on that’s how you and I met, was the difference between marketing and selling. And one of the key points you put on there is marketing is one to many and selling is one to one and there’s nuances there, but in general. And you mentioned the Ted Talks, and there they tell a lot of stories in the Ted Talks. And that’s one to many.

Bruce Kirk: So storytelling is, I think more applicable to one to many, but it’s applicable to the presentation phase. But if you’re in the discovery, in the inquiry, in the fact-finding, if you’re able to listen then you’re able to save time and money. Because when you get to your presentation phase, you know exactly what story to tell. You can tie what you heard in the story-listening phase and tailor your story to exactly what the most frustrating part of their job is, that your product or your service can fix. So it’s actually, just in general, I think it’s genius. Story-listening is the magic of storytelling. How do you like that one?

Darryl Praill: Wow. No, I mean that. If you’re watching this video, as opposed to listening on the audio only version, you would have seen this like huge grin come across my face. And it wasn’t a very smug, satisfied, like the the cat just ate the bird grin, it was a epiphany grin ’cause you’re right. Because I am a huge believer, an advocate, an evangelist around storytelling. Kids, I open every single podcast episode telling a story literally, alright. And yet you-

Bruce Kirk: But you were that’s one to many Darryl, that’s one to many.

Darryl Praill: And so I know, but yet you rock my world. You just told me, ’cause I have a whole bunch of stories. I have a whole bunch of stories, right. And you’re right, it’s one to many ’cause I’m talking to the whole audience. But if I was talking to you, Bruce, the story would be very different. ‘Cause then it’s one to one, but what you rocked my world on, was you just said, Darryl, you it’s in your own fricking best interest to do that.

Darryl Praill: Listening and that story-listening, because they’re gonna give you all these signals and then you can go in your bag of many, many stories and say, this is the story. I haven’t told this story in a while, it’s not my favorite story, it’s not my go-to story. But because of all of the stuff, I just listened and heard this is the story it’s gonna get me this big ass deal.

Bruce Kirk: You’re learning, you’re learning it, man. You’re learning.

Darryl Praill: Dude, you’re a good teacher.

Bruce Kirk: But again, so listening, I just wanna drive that home. So listening is the magic of telling but taking that first story-listening is the magic of storytelling. So I’m tying that back to, all the rage was of storytelling and tying it into, we have two ears, one mouth. So we wanna be listening obviously more than we’re telling, but we wanna be story-listening more than we’re storytelling.

Bruce Kirk: And, frankly, we’re gonna be able to tell much better stories in the eyes and in the ears of the prospect and client when we first story-listen. So my big stick for salespeople, sales professionals is that you need to first become a great story listener before you become a great storyteller. And in fact, if you actually become a great story-listener becoming a great storyteller will be easy, because it’ll just flow, ’cause you’ll know what to tell what to talk about in the ears of the client.

Darryl Praill: So kids, what’s the flow, to see you know? If you do discovery properly they’re gonna tell you a story, this discovery where you’re asking the questions they’re gonna tell you a story. Then you do the clarification. So what I heard you say is this, and they’re going to say yes. But when they told you the story, right you were actively listening. You were story-listening.

Bruce Kirk: Yep.

Darryl Praill: And then the clarification just confirms what you thought you heard. And now you have what you heard, clarified and confirmed. And now you go in your bag of tricks and now you do that, this is the one, two punch. You started off with a discovery, boom, you come back with the story telling. Story-listening drove, storytelling.

Bruce Kirk: Absolutely.

Darryl Praill: This has rocked my world.

Bruce Kirk: Yeah.

Darryl Praill: This is rocked my world, I’m really excited about this. Okay, I got to ask a stupid question. How do I know if I’m crappy at story-listening?

Bruce Kirk: Alright. So I got, I’m gonna rephrase that. How does your audience tell? How can we tell that you suck at story-listening? Now-

Darryl Praill: There we go. What you said.

Bruce Kirk: So, if you have these symptoms it’s a pretty good indicator that you know you’re gonna be a turnoff to your prospect. So A, number one, you’re hungry for approval. You wanna be validated yourself. And that’s, goes into the role of the sales leader, the sales manager, that they need to be validating their salespeople so that when they go out into the field and talking to the prospect they’re not seeking validation from their prospect.

Bruce Kirk: Because the prospect wants validation themselves. So if the salesperson and the prospect both want validation, then there’s going to be a little war going on there. So you always want to defer your hunger for approval to the prospect. Another indication that you suck is story-listening is that you think you’re the smartest person in the room. Even if you are, you can’t, you have to act like you’re take interest, genuine interest, curiosity in the other people that you have so that they can, ’cause you can always learn something from someone else. So even if you’re the smartest dude, Darryl please learn from other people which I know you do.

Bruce Kirk: Another reason, so if you are doing most of the talking and your prospect’s doing most of the list listening, well you suck at story-listening. If you’re in a hurry during the meeting, you’re gonna just default to be a bad story-listener. Because story-listening takes time, but it actually, it’s an investment, ’cause it’ll shorten the sales cycle. So if you’re in a hurry, you know you’re gonna suck at it.

Bruce Kirk: So if you’re distracted, put your cell phone away don’t text during, when you’re, when someone’s sharing something with you be focused, be attentive. So if you’re distracted, then I mean you know what it’s like when you’re giving a presentation or you’re telling a story and somebody’s answering a text or they’re answering the telephone or they’re not listening to you, it’s annoying. Well, the same thing with the prospect, if you’re distracted you’re not listening, then that’s annoying to them.

Bruce Kirk: Another, and then a real key aspect to know that you suck at story-listening is that you have a personal agenda, going into the meeting other than wanting to clearly understand the parameters and the circumstances and the frustrations and the struggles that the prospect is experiencing. And typically related around that the general product and service and category that you’re selling.

Bruce Kirk: But if, if you have commission breath going into a meeting you’re not gonna be a very good story-listener. ‘Cause as you’ve pointed out you’re gonna be thinking about what’s next. How can I lead this person? How can I? What am I gonna tell? No, you’ll listen first, you’ll validate, you’ll affirm. And you’ll get all the clues that you need on how to, how this person wants to buy, so.

Darryl Praill: Alright, there’s more. Bruce is an expert of this, as you can tell. The best thing to do is connect with him on LinkedIn and continue some storytelling, some story-listening and then maybe he can help you about and hit your goals. ‘Cause he’s already said, if you do this man, you’re gonna build better relationships. You’re gonna build better trust. You’re gonna have shorter sales cycles. You’re gonna have more profitable sales cycles. You’re gonna save time. You’re gonna save money. And he’s already told you all the symptoms that if any of those resonated with you, well then you’re a good person to consider story-listening.

Bruce Kirk: Yes. So when you reach out to me, if I could ask, when you’re reaching out to me on LinkedIn, if you wanna connect or follow, it’s just a simple click of the button. But if you wanna connect, put a personal note in there that you were on this podcast or heard the podcast and that’ll help tie me in. I don’t accept many blind invites, Again, it’s all related to I wanna understand the context of why. And that’s brings back to story-listening. You wanna understand the context of what your prospect is experiencing, so you can tell a better story, and a more relatable story from the prospect’s perspective.

Darryl Praill: Perfect. Alright guys, that’s it. You need to do a couple of things. Share this episode with your colleagues. I guarantee you there’s somebody out there on your team who could be, shall we say better at story-listening. My name is Darryl Praill, that my friends was Bruce Kirk, and we’re out of here. This is another episode in the books of the INSIDE Inside Sales show. Take care.