How to Make Great Customer Stories

Originally posted on LinkedIn by Eric Janssen, who is a member of Founder’s Only and occasionally guest posts here.

A problem I’ve seen often in high-growth companies is an inability to scale storytelling. Typically a founder is the first sales representative at the company, and they’re selling their vision which is easy to articulate because it’s all in their head - they made it up.

Pitches don’t sell, stories do.

However, as even the first sales hire comes on board, getting those stories out of the heads of the founder and into a format that is easy to share and re-tell the story is difficult. Even more difficult is actually getting those stories out of a constantly growing team. How does sales make sure to keep in sync with Customer Success and get the ‘real stories’ from the frontline? How can you translate that into a story that everyone in the organization can tell? Here are a few practical tips that we use at Intellitix.

Stay Close to the Action

Every new member of our team, no matter the role, has to spend time in the field. This isn’t time as a casual observer, this is time actually working in the trenches: building up the site, deploying, working customer care, tearing down, packing up.

It’s early mornings and late nights but at the end of the event, they have an appreciation for the work required to execute an event. This is a short version of Hubspot’s onboarding where every new employee has to create their own website and actually use the Hubspot product.

Only when you’ve spent a week in the trenches can you appreciate the work that goes into what event organizers do, and how we work with them. It also makes my team think twice about discounting when they see how hard our operations team works! At the end of these weeks, stories emerge from the front lines. It might be a customer interaction, patron experience-related, or vendor feedback but there’s no greater feedback than hearing it first-hand.

Schedule a Monthly Sync

To keep our Sales and Customer Success teams aligned, we host a monthly team sync. Each month, topics, ideas, irritations, everything gets put into a shared slack channel called #sync. We then join a 90-minute call where the person who input the topic gets a chance to talk about it and encourage discussion. Action items are logged, stories are shared, irritations get addressed, and we’re all better for it.

Close the Loop

We use a project management software called Teamwork. Teamwork provides our teams a daily update of on-site deployment status, as well as a post-event summary, and the sales person who closed the deal is included on all updates. Often, there are small cookie crumbs, or threads that emerge in the updates that lead to incredible stories.

One example was the mention of a person that we recently caught at one of our deployments who had become quite famous for sneaking into high profile events: Zac Alsop.

In the post-event summary, Zac’s name was mentioned briefly. I caught the mention, and when I started asking questions about who he was, and what the back story was, I came to learn that he was a big motivating reason why we ended up working with that partner. Zac had produced a counterfeit pass at an event months earlier and we were brought in to make sure that didn’t happen again. It didn’t. I couldn’t help but poke the bear afterwards.

Campfire Stories

We use our annual Sales Kickoff as a ‘forcing function’ to hunt for these stories. In preparation for our SKO, I had each member of the sales team pair up with a member of the operations team to dig for front-line customer stories. Each person had to come up with their best customer story of the year and share it literally around the campfire at Sales Kickoff which I hosted at our cottage. First, the team broke off into groups of three to share the first version of their stories. They received feedback, and tweaked the message so that when the entire team gathered around the campfire, we all got the best version of the story.

But it didn’t end there. Our marketing team built a template for each story so that they could be consolidated, documented, and shared with new team members and potential partners. At the end of SKO, each person had ten new stories to share with potential customers.

While it takes some digging, and some effort to find, share and codify these stories I can tell you it’s been well worth the effort.

Written by Eric.