Data-Driven Storytelling: 5 Tips for Using Research Effectively

May 21, 2019
Data-Driven Storytelling: 5 Tips for Using Research Effectively

As a sales leader, you're always looking for ways to use data to sell. Read on to learn how to use data-driven storytelling to help your sales team reach new heights.

With ever-changing technology in the increasingly competitive business landscape, incorporating research into your pitch is crucial. Data-driven storytelling is a powerful tool that everyone must leverage to differentiate themselves from the competition. Here are five tips to keep in mind when you’re using data to tell a story:

Data-Driven Storytelling: 5 Tips for Using Research Effectively

1. Know your data & control the narrative

This one seems self-explanatory, but it is imperative that you truly understand the data you are working with. This way, you can anticipate and prepare to answer any questions that may come up. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the data and crafted your presentation, you'll be in great shape.

Then, as yourself some questions.

For example:

  • Are you working with data metrics that the prospect is familiar with?
  • Are you presenting syndicated research from a third party?

Be ready to answer basic questions about methodology if this is not data that your prospect is familiar with. If there is a question whose answer you are not 100% sure of, don’t get stuck on it!

Make a note and follow up with them later that day or week. Reporting correct data is crucial to maintaining a trustworthy reputation, something all successful business relationships rely on.

2. Let the data craft the narrative

Sales executives need to be flexible when working with data. Frequently, it is tempting to craft our story first and find research that fits our mold. Unfortunately, that’s not how data-driven storytelling works.

If the research is telling a different story than you anticipated, find a new angle! Let the data craft the narrative, then work the positive stories into your pitch.

3. Know your audience

Are you presenting to someone with a strong research background? Or are you presenting to someone with a very top-line understanding of data? These are questions you should answer before presenting to tailor your presentation to your prospect.

If the latter, integrating sales friendly visuals into your presentation with easy-to-digest data points would be the way to go. If the former, that approach may seem oversimplified. Feel free to go into more detail, spending less time explaining the basics.

Whichever it is, the aim of data-driven storytelling is to make sure you are effectively communicating the benefits of your product or service.

4. Data Visualization

Data visualization is key with data-driven storytelling. Incorporating the right visuals will help you better communicate the data-backed reasons your prospect should do business with you.

Since you’ve already familiarized yourself with the data, what seems straightforward to you might not be as clear as you think. If you’re not sure that your visuals are as straightforward as they can be, run them by someone on your team and see what reaction you get (hint— ‘What am I looking at?’ isn’t what you’re aiming for).

5. Keep it Conversational

Remember to keep an open dialogue! It can be easy to get caught up with the data you’re presenting but be sure to continue keeping this conversation two sided when you can. Cramming too much information in at once isn’t fun for anyone, and maintaining a dialogue helps you build a personal relationship. Be in control of the narrative, answer any questions they may have while asking them questions as well.

Ultimately, there are countless ways to incorporate data into your sales pitch.  Be strategic about how you do so and keep these tips in mind to ensure that you are telling your story as you want it to be heard!

Do you have any other ways to incorporate data-driven storytelling into your sales process? Let us know in the comments!

Nora Vulaj
Nora is a Research Analyst with a focus in entertainment media. Currently at Discovery Communications, she supports the Ad Sales team by providing consumer insights related to audience behavior. Nora graduated from the Fordham Gabelli School of Business with a Bachelors in Marketing. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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