There’s really no way you can blow your credibility with buyers faster than the four words, “But wait, there’s more!” We all know what’s about to follow: Listeners are going to be sold something.

Nobody likes to be sold to—they want to feel engaged, respected, and treated like rational human beings with many options and the right to walk away. Yet, when salespeople are new to video, they can come across like late-night infomercial hosts pitching some sort of slap-chopping kitchen appliance.

To hook your prospects and actually close deals using sales videos, you’ll have to learn the nuances of video storytelling.

5 video storytelling techniques for sales teams:

1. Hey! Start with an abrupt lede

David Ogilvy, father of modern advertising once said, “Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.” The same principle holds true for storytelling, where people really do judge books by their cover, and for video, where research shows that you only have a matter of seconds to capture your viewer’s attention. Hook them early with a powerful lede.

What makes a great lede? It should be abrupt, attention-grabbing, concise, and talk benefits, not features. Here’s an example:

2. Show, don’t tell

Who’s more credible, you or a research firm like Forrester or Gartner? Our point precisely. Let them do all the talking and rather than telling customers how they’ll benefit with phrases like “I promise you’ll see results,” or “It will work for you,” show them by citing research. Use statistics and quotes in your video, and even highlight them on your whiteboard.

3. Omit ‘filler words’

Umm…well…like…these are what linguists call filler words and people use them to fill conversational gaps while they think. These words are perfectly natural—practically everyone defaults to them—but they can slow your storytelling to a crawl and make it difficult for viewers to understand you.

Eliminate fillers from your vocabulary by recording and watching yourself over and over, and learn to be comfortable with pauses. In your head, silence may feel like it lasts for an eternity but when you watch yourself, you’ll find that it looks quite normal. You can even emphasize these pauses as a storytelling technique to create anticipation right before or after key points. To see this in action, watch how the late Alan Watts punctuates his speeches with silence:

Once you think you’ve got it down, have all the other salespeople around you commit to calling each other out when they hear filler words. You can even create a communal ‘filler word jar’ for frequent offenders.

4. Foreshadow

Great storytellers keep audiences interested by introducing questions through foreshadowing, or hinting at what’s to come. Will Luke finally confront Darth Vader? Will Jay Gatsby ever win back his lost love? Will this movie about emojis ever come to an end, please oh please?

You can create the same addictive anticipation in your sales videos by describing the problem and the benefit but leaving out details on how that actually works. For example, saying “Healthcare companies like yours struggle with compliance, but that’s why we help them reduce paperwork and liability through a proprietary technology.” What technology, the listener wonders? Well, they’ll have to schedule a call to know more.

5. Use analogies

Great storytellers move the narrative along by shortening things up with analogies and you can do the same with sales videos. Analogies break complex topics into very simple ideas that anyone can grasp instantly. It’s why entrepreneurs sum up their companies as “the Uber for this” or “the Airbnb of that,” or screenwriters pitch their scripts as “The Godfather, but set in X” or “This generation’s Casablanca.”

What’s a well-known product, service, or idea that you can relate your company’s service back to? Come up with an analogy and instead of saying “It’s a business-focused multi-sided software platform,” just go with, “It’s Amazon for business.”

All good stories come to an end

How do all good stories end? Right where they began. Frodo returns to the Shire, Simba becomes king of the savannah, and all great sales videos summarize the lede that they began with and offer a call-to-action. Be specific with the date and time that you’d like to connect, and even tell them when you’ll reach out again if you don’t hear back (a little foreshadowing, anyone?). Once you’re done delivering your message, say thanks and sign off. As long as you’ve told a great story (and aren’t selling some slap-chopping piece of kitchenware) there’s no need to ask them to wait—this time, there isn’t more.  

Want to really master video sales? Watch 3 Sales Leaders Give Their Video Selling Secrets.

Chris Gillespie