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ATD Blog

Success Stories Accelerate Situational Intelligence

Monday, March 26, 2018

The more I create sales training content and tools, the more I realize that people respond the strongest to two critical ingredients: context and storytelling. It doesn’t seem to matter how many clever frameworks, models, or acronyms I string together; salespeople want practical learning that will increase their situational intelligence.

Success stories have long been the source for recognition and celebration after winning a deal. Salespeople can relate to their colleagues who have endured the various stages of the sales cycle and battled the same obstacles that they face in their interactions to come away with that coveted signature. These tales of success are rich with context and storytelling, making them ripe for repurposing to enhance our sales training toolbox.

I follow a four-part process for turning success stories into training content:

  1. Select
  2. Capture
  3. Enhance
  4. Deploy.

Selecting the right story is a critical first step because not every story will translate into something worth scaling to the rest of the salesforce. Look for these key attributes when selecting stories:

  • Element of success – stories need to have a happy ending where the sales professional was able to use skill and knowledge to persist and achieve a win.
  • Relevance and relatability – stories need to be helpful to the majority of the salesforce or the segment you wish to target.
  • Evidence of skill – interviewed subjects need to have clarity and specifics on the sales journey, particularly what the client said and did and what they said and did.

Let’s say a skill gap facing your salesforce is the tendency to present solutions more generically instead of integrating your organization’s value-add throughout the pitch. You might want to talk with the sales managers and ask them to identify a recent deal where someone did that reasonably well.


After capturing the sales scenario with an emphasis on the presentation part and documenting the eventual close, you may decide to enhance the presentation portion of the story with some added skills content. For example, perhaps your sales training curriculum outlines how to organize the presentation using the solution elements in priority order of client needs and distinctly connect the dots during the sales delivery. This skills content is the added layer you might include within the story you captured to enhance the real-life details as you move to finalize.

Armed with a newly enhanced success story based on a client situation that the salesforce can relate to, featuring a known skill gap, you are ready to deploy. If you need microlearning solutions, you could slice and dice the story over a week-long period to generate conversation about value-add. For example, on a Monday morning, you might email the opening part of the story stopping short of sharing the details around how the salesperson led a value-focused presentation effort. This approach creates a bit of a cliffhanger and can lead to dialogue if you include a question like, “This is a highly competitive situation. If you were creating a presentation for this meeting, what would you do to stand out?” Then on Tuesday or Wednesday you could email the rest of the story which shows how the salesperson delivered a presentation chock full of value-add. You could link to a sample presentation deck, or you could invite people to a lunch and learn webinar at the end of the week to discuss the application of the story to one of their upcoming deals.

There are many ways you can use the context and storytelling dynamic from this learn-by-example format to engage sales professionals and increase their ability to make small adjustments for the acceleration of bigger wins. To learn more, please join me at the ATD 2018 International Conference & EXPO for the session: Frontline Learning: Engaging Salespeople Through Success Stories.

About the Author

Dayna Williams has been supporting sales enablement leaders for the past 20 years, focusing primarily on sales talent selection and development initiatives. She has written sales training programs, led the creation of technology-enabled products to drive field adoption and is now currently working with investor funded companies that need to stand up their sales enablement functions from scratch. Dayna is also the co-creator of SELL and has been instrumental in guiding the focus of its programming to ensure its relevancy to the enablement profession.

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