Why B2B needs more storytelling

Clément Hurstel
November 30, 2023

As a digital marketer, you know that B2B buyers are driven by rational decision-making processes. But there is another side to this coin and we need to understand it better if we want to be successful in the long term. A strong narrative can help us create emotional connections with clients.

The Power of Storytelling in B2B: How It Can Transform Your Marketing Strategy

The convention established that consumers buy on emotion and impulse while B2B buyers are driven entirely by rational decision-making processes is both an oversimplification and frankly false.

This dogma has led to a tendency to dehumanize transactions and relationships in B2B industries and creates a deep misunderstanding of how to leverage the power of a narrative for B2B customers.

To understand, a metaphor...

Use metaphors to improve your storytelling. It is significantly underused by B2B organizations when communicating with their customers.

Yet nothing grabs the attention of customers as quickly and powerfully as high-quality content whose narrative resonates on a human and emotional level. 

It sets the stage for content and messaging that will build trust and credibility for your brand and solutions.

Why and how is storytelling so powerful?

According to the emerging theories of narrative psychology, stories reflect the way we understand the world. They are constru

Therefore they become part of our language and influence our decision-making, shape our identity and allow us to integrate socially... Whether we are aware of it or not. Most of the time, we are not.

This dominance of stories and metaphors has flooded communication since the dawn of humanity (long before the concepts of Brand or Product existed).

Now, an example...

Consider, for example, the power of stories such as Homer's Odyssey, which has been used as a metaphor to promote the values of honor and perseverance, and the Judeo-Christian scriptures, which use metaphors as varied as the shepherd, the lion, the lamb, and the fortress to describe the nature and characteristics of God. 

This "metalanguage" did not disappear as the world evolved. It remains as powerful as ever, modern, and continues to transcend borders, cultures, and generations.

Two American psychologists, Mazzocco and Green, suggest that the human mind processes information in two ways: rational evaluation and experiential, emotional, and empathic response. In other words, we evaluate rationally but act on an emotional stimulus that triggers a kind of empathic projection.

Bringing the power of storytelling into the transactional process and the closing of a sale makes perfect sense. 

A combination of metaphors, storytelling, and supporting factual data will produce a far superior and more effective sales strategy.

A Stanford University study showed that only 5% of an audience remembers facts, but 63% remembers stories. Not only do stories help customers take ownership of the true value of your product, but they are also 12 times more memorable than simple facts.

The Benefits of B2B Storytelling 

Storytelling can be an extremely effective tool for B2B marketers, as it enables us to build relationships with our target audience and convey complex information more easily.

Rather than just relying on facts and figures to make your case, you can use a story to illustrate the point of view of your customer or explain how your product/service has helped them in the past. 

This will help you engage with them more deeply, making it easier for them to relate to what you are saying. 

Another benefit of using stories in your marketing is that they are easy to remember and share. Stories stick in people’s minds much more effectively than dry data or statistics – so if you tell a story that resonates with your customers, they are likely to pass it on to their colleagues or friends who may also find value in your message. 

Finally, stories have the potential to add emotion and personality to otherwise ‘dry’ topics like corporate strategy or business processes. 

By bringing some humanity into these conversations, you can make even the most technical subjects accessible and engaging for your target audience – helping you stand out from competitors who may be taking a more traditional approach.  

Buying Vision: Narrative and metaphor applied to B2B business

A survey of B2B buyers by Gartner confirms it: Numbers, proofs, presentations... are content to simply state facts, while stories sell. 

In this survey, 74% of B2B buyers believe that salespeople spend too much time talking about their products. 

So if salespeople fail, it's often because they leave it up to their prospects to understand why they should buy their products.

And they are not very likely to consider and evaluate products for anything other than their functional scope or price. 

So they have a hard time getting the necessary distance or refocusing to formalize their own needs.

So how do you determine that a solution is the right one when you can't even define and understand your problem?

The reality is that it is the mission of Marketing and Sales to build together the right Insights that will lead the buyer to the right perspective of your offer: build a buying Vision. A buying vision provides your prospects with your evaluation grid to decide whether or not they should buy your products.

5 questions to assess whether you need to work on your Buying Vision:

What percentage of your business opportunities end up as non-decisions?

What percentage of your sales team uses stories and metaphors to sell? Are they effective?

What percentage of your sales are value-based rather than price-based?

What percentage of your sales team can articulate an offer based on your company values?

What percentage of your salespeople are working on Insights to reframe and build a singular Buying Vision?

A story to understand the importance of buying vision

This is the story of a sales manager who was very excited to hire a salesperson with unique expertise in the industry he was targeting to sell his solutions.

But after three months, the new salesperson was achieving very little. 

So, one afternoon, he asked him how his last few meetings had gone and what he thought was wrong. The salesman told him, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink."

The sales manager then replied, "In our company, it's the telemarketers who take care of taking a horse to the watering hole. Your job is to make prospects thirsty."

Faced with the salesman's slightly surprised, the manager then decided to use a metaphor: 

"Right now, you're like a life preserver salesman, trying to save customers who have water up to their ankles. No wonder they don't consider our products. Instead of giving them a lecture on our product, why not tell them a customer story that changes their perspective? They need to realize that they are not up to their ankles in water, but are drowning in a lake of problems... before we try to save them with our solutions. That's when they can believe in the relevance of our products, not before."


We have all heard that today's buyer is the single initiator of their decision-making journey and that they have already completed 60% of their buying cycle before they even meet a salesperson. 

But if this "self-service" model worked so well, why do 60-70% of B2B buying cycles end in a status quo? Why would a buyer waste all that time and effort and end up doing nothing?

The reason is that buyers lack the time and expertise to formalize and document a precise, coherent buying vision adapted to their needs. Certainly, for less complex products, buyers can buy online successfully, because they can identify a reason to buy quite simply. 

But for complex products, salespeople must be able to deliver to their prospects a fresh and unique perspective on why they will perceive enough value to engage in a buying process.

Telling a story and using the right metaphor becomes a unique opportunity to build a Buying Vision that your prospect can grasp and share within the company because the story sells. After all, it is both its engine and its fuel to reach its destination.

At its core, storytelling is about creating meaningful connections between brands and customers; something that is essential for success in the modern world of B2B marketing. 

So if you want to take your marketing approach up a notch this year, why not consider adding some narrative elements into the mix? It could just be the thing that helps you stand out from the competition!

And, remember: B2B is the future! So bet on storytelling!