Once you understand how our brains react to storytelling, you'll wonder why you ever tried a different way of selling.

Through his research, neuroeconomist Paul Zak found out that the brain produces two hormones during storytelling: cortisol and oxytocin. The brain produces cortisol when there's a particularly tense moment in the story, because it allows us to focus. Our brain then produces oxytocin when there's a feel-good moment, because it promotes connection and empathy.

Zak conducted a study where participants watched an emotional story about a father and son, which was intended to induce cortisol and oxytocin. Afterward, the participants were asked to donate money to a complete stranger. Those with higher levels of oxytocin were much more likely to donate.

In other words: when people hear stories, their oxytocin levels increase, making them much much more likely to give money to strangers - fairly important when it comes to selling.

But what kind of stories should you tell?

After helping more than 450 companies write more compelling sales emails, we uncovered some lucrative insights about incorporating storytelling into sales emails. You can use this same information to instantly build rapport with strangers and get them to trust you:

1. Use your customers' stories as social proof

Humans are, at their core, social beings. We're interested in what others are doing, especially when we can use that information to help ourselves.

But without trust, your prospect has no reason to believe in the benefits you're promising them. This is why social proof is essential when it comes to sales emails. You've had no prior contact with the buyer and they have no obligation to you, unless you can offer them a tangible example.

For example, which of these sentences is more credible and worthy of your trust:

"Our company will help you hire candidates much faster than ever before."

"Our client was looking for a VP of Sales for 6 months without much success. Once they started using our product, it took them 2 weeks to get 5 ideal candidates."

Even though both are true, the one that uses a story with social proof wins out.

2. Make your stories relate to the buyer

The storyline and characters from the hit tv show The Office are fiction, and therefore an environment we'll never experience. So why is it still so popular even after all these years? It's relatable. You probably (hopefully) don't know anybody quite like Michael Scott, but we can all relate to having an incompetent boss. And most likely don't know anybody quite like Dwight Schrute, but you can relate to having annoying co-workers.

So how do you use relatable stories in sales emails? Let's say you're selling to marketing directors. You could use a story something like this:

"I was speaking to a director of marketing last week, and they said it was so frustrating when sales didn't use the newest (and best) marketing materials. I told him that with [my company / product], you'd have total control over which marketing materials sales had access to."

Not only is that relatable, it also creates intrigue, which brings me to my last point:

3. Tell stories that have cliffhangers

You start watching a new series on Netflix. Despite telling yourself you'll watch one and then go to bed, you find yourself watching 5 episodes back-to-back because the end of every episode leaves you hanging. And you can't help but watch another one.

It's the way we're wired. No matter how many times we're exposed to cliffhangers, we can't seem to get over wanting to know what happens next - which is extremely useful when it comes to selling.

For example, here's what a sales email to a Head of Sales could look like:

Subject: "idea to help {!Company} boost sales by 78%"

Hi {!First}

How good would it feel to be the one responsible for an extraordinary increase in sales?

After [company] started working with us, they boosted their monthly sales by 78%.

And that's just the beginning. Would you like to have a quick call about what we did and how it could work for you?

Thanks,

[Name]

Ending your sales emails with a sense of intrigue, or an unanswered question the reader continues to think and wonder about, is a great way to get prospective buyers to start a conversation with you.

Have you ever used stories in your sales techniques to help you sell more? I'd love to hear about what you did and how it worked out for you.

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Published on: Feb 16, 2017