SELL WITH A STORY: How to capture attention, build trust, and close the sale by Paul Smith

Book about selling by Paul Smith

Genres: Business, Sales, Nonfiction

Rating: 3/5

Recommend to: People in sales, marketing, HR, Project managers, Team leaders.

Number of pages: 304 pages

What kind of book would we read if we would get to read your life story? How many pages and how many chapters would the book have? How many twists and turns, disappointments, failures, successes, lessons and so on would we get to read about? Would you recommend your book/stories to other as a source from which they could learn from?

How we live, what we experience, how we face our problems and how we solve them or “cave in” is basically information from which you yourself and others can learn and grow. The whole point of stories and storytelling is to convey knowledge in a simpler form so knowledge is passed on to others and that they do not repeat the same mistakes as someone else before them did. As a result we as a society can grow. More and more people use stories as a persuasion technique in marketing and in sales. The reason is that with stories people get emotionally involved. They can imagine themselves as the hero of the story, and as the hero overcomes problems and conquers the day so can your listeners. So if you know your clients or at least listen to their problems and unwanted situations you can quickly find or creat a story with which you take them on a journey where once someone like them had the same problem, but with your help overcame that problem. Of course you have to make the story interesting, and the main hero has to struggle, fight/work hard to overcome all the problems they had. For you to become a master storyteller it will take a lot of practice and experience. Not just telling stories but actually listening to them and collecting them.


This is the second book I have read from Paul Smith and I was very excited to read it, as I loved his first book Lead With a Story. At the beginning the author talks about how stories should be structured, what kind of stories for what kind of occasions should be told and how they should be told. The author actually gives us free templates that we can download at You should definitely check that out. But if you have already read Lead With a Story, Sell with a Story will seem a little repetitive as some stories are from the previous book. And as you go through the book Sell with a Story the author uses only one story for explaining different points made from different chapters. Because of that I found the book a little bit repetitive and it made it a bit boring towards the end. Otherwise you will get to read quite a lot of different stories for different occasion. I loved the first story about the pigs swimming in the ocean. If this is the first book you will pick up about this topic then it’s definitely a great one, but if you read a couple of books about storytelling, then I would say that this one, is somewhere there in the middle. What I was surprised and happy to see was a list of recommendations by the author of which books you should also pick up if you are interested in storytelling. To sum up it’s a good book, but I expected more based on the excitement from the first book.

My top takeaways from the book are:

  • When telling a story be sure to include the basic elements of the story, and do not giveaway the ending until the actual end of the story. Keep the tension in the “air” as long as you can. The story losses its power if you give up the ending right from the start. 
  • Never ask for permission to tell a story and never apologize for telling a story.
  • Always get as much information about the person you are talking with before telling a story – because if you know what and how your listeners thinks about a certain subject you will easier know what kind of story to tell them to get them on your side.


  • Stories have six identifiable features. A time, a place, a main character, an obstacle, a goal, and an event.
  • Sales stories help capture your buyer’s attention and build your mutual relationship (a 1999 New York Times/CBS survey asked how many people are trustworthy. The answer for those they do not know was 30%, but for t hose they know 70%.)
  • Telling a story can help you build a connection because it provides a personal, intimate, and perhaps vulnerable glimpse into your world.
  • Much of the cognitive science in the past two decades tells us that human beings often make subconscious, emotional, and sometimes irrational decisions in one place of the brain and then justify those decisions rationally and logically in another place.
  • Stories create scenes. Facts don’t.
  • Storytelling highlights your main idea by moving it to another context.
  • The earliest opportunity you have to tell a story is the moment you introduce yourself to a potential new customer.
  • The way you answer the question about what you do will determine how much interest your prospects have in listening to anything else you have to say.
  • When creating an introduction story start by inventing a main character who’s in a typical industry you serve. Then describe a plausible series of events that results in the problem your product or service is designed to fix. finish with a one-sentence description of what you do to solve that problem.
  • People want to hear stories which will help them understand 1. Why and how your company was founded, 2. Who you are and what your values are, 3. How and why the product you’re selling was invented, 4. Stories about how the product is made, 5. the level of integrity they can expect from you and your company.
  • When you are in the introduction faze your goal with your stories is to entice the prospect into meeting with you – give them a glimpse of what they’ll miss out on if they don’t talk to you later.
  • Your first objective in a sales call should be to get buyers to tell you their stories, not the other way around )if you don’t hear their stories first, how will you know which of your stories to tell?)
  • If and when you get your customer to share the problems they’re facing it helps you understand the context, characters, and complications you’re up against and helps you present your solution.
  • One way of getting people to tell you their story or at least something is to shut up and listen. People are desperate to fill the void with something.
  • Ask your customers about specific events in time. People don’t think about their stories as “stories”, rather they think of them as events in their lives. You can always ask “can you tell me what a typical day is like for someone like you in the position you are.”
  • A great way to get a glimpse of the buyer’s vision for the future and how you might be a part of that is by asking him/her “A year from now, if everything is going perfectly, what would your day be like? Walk me through that.”
  • There are three degrees of connections: First you need to get to know each other. Then you have to earn each other’s trust. And then over time you will build a lasting relationship and friendship.
  • Customer success stories are most effective when they’re written or recorded in first-person perspective, told by the customers themselves.
  • Customer success stories are stories, not statements. Remember the key elements of a story.
  • A “Two roads” story strategy – You tell two stories, both tell the same events but one story i when a customer decides wrong (cheap product/or competitor) and the other when they decide right (for you). And then ask them which road they want to take.
  • If you can keep the stories flowing while you talk about price with your prospect you are more likely to be successful.
  • One of the most powerful uses of storytelling to resolve objections is to settle them before they’re brought up in the first place.
  • Never apologize for telling your story. never ask for permission to tell your story. Don’t undermine your own authority as the salesperson by asking permission to do your job.
  • When telling a story don’t introduce the story by giving away to many details, or the ending, or even the specific lesson.
  • The more your audience can see themselves in the hero, the more interested they’ll be in your story.
  • If your sales stories are written with your product as the hero, consider recrafting them with your customer or buyer in the role of hero.
  • There is a risk that the audience may not draw exactly the same lesson from the story that you intended them to. It’s usually a good idea to clarify what you think that lesson should be. “What I learned from that story…” by telling them what you learned from the story, you’re giving them the freedom to draw their own conclusions, but guiding their thinking in the direction you want it to go.
  • After telling a story shut up and listen. Give your listener a chance to respond.
  • Enormous amounts of research in psychology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience concludes that human beings make rapid, subconscious, and emotional decisions in one place in the brain (the limbic and root brain areas), and then justify (or possibly adjust) those decisions more slowly, logically, and rationally in another area of the brain (the neocortex).
  • Research by Kerry Mallan showed that “emotional engagement is why information presented in the structure of the story is more easily remembered.” And since good decision-making requires accurate recall of permanent information, emotion again plays a positive role in the decision-making process.
  • A story is a fact plus emotion.
  • Be aware that all effective storytelling needs an emotional component but how much and how it’s delivered can vary by culture – intimacy threshold.
  • A surprise at the end of your story helps your audience remember it better because adrenalin will be present in the brain during the important memory consolidation period.
  • Studies have shown that story details (especially sensory details like sound, smell, and fell of the scene) make a story more memorable. Details also lend credibility and authenticity to a story.
  • Whenever possible, refer to your characters by name instead of just job titles. It’s easier for you audience to care about “Julie from accounting” than it is to care about “the accounting payable clerk.”
  • Use metaphors. They help your audience understand an abstract idea in concrete and more familiar terms.
  • A story should blend into the conversation seamlessly, without drawing attention to the fact that it’s “a story” that’s being told.
  • Human beings are naturally more passionate about pursuing their own ideas than they are about pursuing your ideas. Try turning your idea into their idea with a discovery journey story. Let them struggle with finding the right answer.





Thank you for your time. I hope you have found this book review helpful. Talk to you in the comment section.

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