October 2019 - Striven

How Storyselling Empowers Your Sales Team

Storyselling is so much more than a trend in sales. It’s a philosophy of communication and an expression of your company culture. Most importantly, it’s a way to empower your sales team to speak from the heart.

Regardless of what product or service you sell, and regardless of your industry, there’s one thing all businesses have in common: stories. The members of your sales department tell stories to each other all the time: about customer calls, wins, losses, and unforgettable interactions.

But what about storytelling in the sales process? How can your sales team use stories to build trust with prospects? And do they know the right story to tell?

Why Does Storyselling Matter In Sales Conversations?

worker on laptop with brain background

Simply put, we believe in stories. Not because they’re fiction (“story” doesn’t always mean you made something up), but because they tap into emotion. Great stories give us insight about what we want and why we make certain choices. Told the right way, stories reveal truth and honesty.

That matters. As Smart Company reports, “91% of consumers rate ‘honest communication’ about products and services as the most important criterion for brand marketing.”

Great stories build trust between the salesperson and the prospect.

That’s why stories work in sales. But too many salespeople focus on products and services. Things. Instead, your sales team should sell the stories behind what they’re trying to convince others to buy. Hence the term “storyselling.”

The value of stories goes even further than that. As Katharina Cavano writes in Challenger, “beyond creating a meaningful connection, storytelling allows people to better comprehend and process complicated information and fully visualize an outcome.”

How to Develop a Storyselling Mindset

erp business management software

In order for your sales team to engage in storyselling, they must understand the story of your company and its culture. That understanding goes much deeper than your mission statement or what’s on the “about us” page of your website. It’s the reason behind what you do. It’s why you get up in the morning and want to come to work.

Maybe you started your business because you wanted to help people. You may have wanted to create change in the world, or just make other people happy. It’s important to tap into that reason— it’s the basis of your organization’s philosophy.

Make sure you share that information with your sales team. They need to not only understand what’s at the heart of your company, but they also need to believe in it. If they don’t, why should you expect their prospects to believe?

Whose Story Is It, Anyway?

As you focus on the story behind your company and culture, remember that sales come ultimately from conversations. Your sales department should, as practice, be able to access the same kind of emotion in a prospect that they convey themselves. 

When asking salespeople to reach the “why” of what they’re selling, ask them also to connect with the prospect’s “why.” There exists an emotion behind every choice we make, including what we purchase. Uncovering that reason can help forge deeper connections between sales and prospects.

Members of your sales department shouldn’t dominate a conversation with your own company’s narrative. However, it’s a great way to begin a lasting dialogue and customer relationship.

How You Tell = How You Sell

erp software

Much of a story’s power is in the way it’s told. The best salespeople are actors. Again, it’s not because they’re lying; rather, they have the ability to understand emotion and expression.

As Doug Stevenson writes in a popular LinkedIn post, “The best storytellers don’t simply ‘tell’ stories. They make their story come alive with physical animation, vocal interpretation and real emotion.”

It be worth bringing a theater coach in to do a workshop with your sales department. In fact, it might be the thing that awakens the storytelling power in future sales conversations.


Storyselling takes practice. If you’ve ever tried to tell a story and had your audience bored halfway through, you know that there are plenty of pitfalls to avoid in order to be an effective storyteller.

Learn more about this concept, then consider training your team on it. You’ll not only develop a better sales process— you’ll also create a more engaged sales department. When your employees access belief in your company and product or service in every sales conversation they have, the work they’re doing becomes far more meaningful.

Above all else, remember this: products and services are great. But stories sell them best.

The Advantage of Horizontal Leadership

What is Horizontal Leadership?

The concept of horizontal leadership is rapidly taking the place of vertical leadership models in many organizations today. But why?

Team Leadership

Think about a conference you’ve been to or a workshop you’ve participated in: you’re given a problem to solve or a discussion to have. At first, it’s a little awkward. No one in your group knows where the common ground is. But, gradually, as you collaborate on the idea or problem, you see the value in the other voices in your group. You feel good when someone whom you’ve just met validates your own ideas. Just like that, you’re part of a diverse team working toward a positive (and shared) outcome.

Now translate that feeling to your business. Think about teamwork where every employee participates, and divisions work together across their silos to communicate in ways they hadn’t before.

That’s the value of the horizontal leadership method.

Why Organizations Are Moving Toward Horizontal Leadership

Simply put: vertical leadership models offer less opportunity for innovation. When initiatives are dictated solely from the top down, employees work on them without a high level of investment. Often, their mission is to do, not necessarily to think or feel.

On the surface, it seems like vertical leadership makes employees more productive because they are given tasks, and they complete them. But that model also removes agency, thought, and talent from the people who are just crossing work items off of their lists.

 In a popular LinkedIn article, Félix de Andrés describes the vertical model this way: “employees,” he writes, “are considered ‘Human Resources’ because they are part of the production chain, as a raw material or an auxiliary service.  

That’s hardly a model that works in a modern, globalized, and information-rich economy.

A Recipe for Horizontal Leadership

hands forming a lightbulb

The horizontal leadership model is an ideal alternative to the mechanistic and regimented work structure of what came before it.

The workplace environment that horizontal leadership produces has been described in many different ways, including “democratized” and “flattened.” What these blanket terms describe is an organizational structure where decisions aren’t just made at the top, and where employees who work in divisional silos have the opportunity to collaborate more.

According to Vishal Shah of TatvaSoft, “Horizontal Leadership can help teams be more dynamic and communicate more productively.”

The goal of horizontal leadership, then, is to give all employees an active voice in projects, company initiatives, and in the ways they work on a daily basis. 

The good news is that changing the leadership paradigm from vertical to horizontal doesn’t ultimately require a great deal of time or resources. Instead, it takes two essential ingredients: empathy and information sharing.

The Role of Empathy in Horizontal Leadership

Happy employees produce great ideas. That’s because their happiness is often related to the investment they feel in the work they do. They find a greater sense of purpose in collaboration with others, and a deeper joy in working toward a shared vision. It’s not a vision that has been given to them; they have not been told what their beliefs should be. When employees feel personally attached to work in this way, they come up with new, innovative solutions. 

Horizontal leadership assumes, of course, that there is value in a collective voice. On the most basic level, the value in sourcing ideas from every employee is obvious. Why hire someone whose ideas you either don’t value, or aren’t interested in hearing?

Realizing the power in shared ideas means that you trust your employees to act and think in the best interest of your business. And if they are happy, that’s exactly what they’ll do.

Information Sharing Enables Horizontal Leadership

An article in Trusted Advisor notes that horizontal leadership can be defined as “persuading others over whom you have absolutely no direct control to join you in a common cause.” 

Indeed, great businesses are built on common causes. But most organizational structures are not set up to cross silos. It’s rare that a single project will touch every division (or even most divisions) of a company. And when we talk about restructuring, horizontal leadership looks a lot less appealing.

employee collaboration with icons

So consider the way your organization shares information. The trend in storing data across multiple software applications, for example, has only reinforced siloed practices and knowledge. 

When financial data is separated from customer data, you’re almost guaranteed that your accounting and sales departments will never collaborate.

And when do they need to collaborate? As it turns out, all the time. Consistency between sales estimates and company budgets are essential to recognizing profitability. And profitability, after all, is a great example of a shared goal between the two departments.

“Being profitable” isn’t the kind of common cause most employees are as enthusiastic about sharing as leadership is. However, it underscores the importance of data sharing. As a business leader, you should be asking yourself: when I open up my company to information sharing, how else can my divisional teams collaborate?

Combining Empathy and Data Sharing

man and woman sharing ideas against a chalkboard

Empathy and information, the two key ingredients for effective horizontal leadership, don’t happen in isolation. Think about the ways you disseminate information throughout your company. Consider news, updates, promotions, outings, community service, and more. Sometimes, simply being able to involve employees in shared conversations across your organization can deepen investment and relationships.

An article in the Harvard Business Review advocates “set[ting] up cross-silo discussions that help employees see the world through the eyes of customers or colleagues in other parts of the company.” These discussions can even happen online, through either a message board, chat, or discussion system. There are plenty of tools to make it possible.


Horizontal leadership isn’t a passing fad in the business world. It’s a way to strengthen employee engagement, create more collaboration, and pass information seamlessly through silos. In our connected world, it no longer makes sense to follow vertical-only structures.

If you’re thinking about trying a horizontal model, consider what needs to be in place, internally, to make those improvements. Yes, there’s often a shift of values that goes along with it. But software can play a vital role, too. 

Because horizontal leadership isn’t just a concept, but a method to practice, it’s worth exploring how you can make it an integral part of your company’s operations.

How CPAs Can Benefit From ERP Software

If you’re a CPA, you know how important it is to build trust between you and your clients. After all, you’re not just a financial advisor. You’re a business advisor. That means your clients look to you for help beyond tax season. They seek your advice and guidance about technology, growth strategy, and staying competitive.

CPA Illustration

At least, they should.

When you consider your value as a CPA firm, or as an individual, think about how you can rise above your competition. Why should clients come to you instead of someone else? What kind of value can you provide that others can’t?

Value exists in some of the deeper pain points your clients regularly face:

  • Outgrowing their accounting software
  • Inability to handle a growing customer base
  • Uncertainty about moving their business to the cloud
  • Frustration with the feature limitations of their accounting software
  • Confusion about alternatives to financial management technologies

These challenges are real. But how often do you know how to help them? If you find yourself occasionally going through the typical suggestions, but secretly wondering if there are better options, it’s time you looked at ERP software.

The ERP Software Solution for CPAs

erp software diagram

ERP, or enterprise resource planning, was a term that applied mostly to the manufacturing industry. Now, ERP software solutions have adapted to the business processes of many industries. As Ted Needleman writes in Accounting Today, “…ERP software is moving downward into the space of basic-level software, at least in affordability.”

If your CPA firm hasn’t spent much time with ERP systems, it might surprise you to know how well modern ERP technologies can solve your clients’ pain points, especially those around accounting and financial management.

Here are 3 ways CPAs can benefit from recommending ERP software to their clients:

1. ERP is a powerful QuickBooks alternative

Not every client is ready to, or interested in, leaving QuickBooks. It’s the gold standard among accountants and CPAs, and that may not change anytime soon.

However, many of your clients are frustrated with QuickBooks. Whether they’re looking for features, support, affordability, or data integration, it’s important to have another solution ready to recommend.

That’s especially true if you know the solution can help your client with more than just accounting software.

Needleman writes that “not every ERP application is going to be affordable to a QuickBooks user.” That’s true, depending on the size and goals of the company. But at the same time, many QuickBooks users are looking to grow and finding that they’ll need another accounting software in the process.

2. ERP is an all-in-one business management solution

As Kathleen Hoffelder writes in an NJCPA article, “surviving and thriving in a world of consolidation and challenging economic times means bringing a cohesive set of service offerings to the client’s table.”

cpa using erp software on a tablet

Integrated solutions are essential to any CPA who is looking to offer their clients valuable, modern technologies. Too often, businesses are working off of spreadsheets. Or worse, they’ve purchased dozens of software subscriptions and licenses that create data silos and hide crucial company data.

ERP systems exist to uncover and share that data, with the overall goal of helping business leaders make informed, insightful decisions.

Because financial data affects sales, projects, orders, services, inventory, and nearly every other aspect of a business, it shouldn’t be locked away in software that only handles accounting. Rather than try to cobble together software solutions, CPAs can offer a single, all-in-one solution.

Unfortunately, many ERP systems don’t have a native accounting system. In fact, many try to connect with QuickBooks and causing many of the same issues your clients are looking to avoid.

However, there are other solutions that have a complete accounting system built into the software. Integrating accounting with a CRM system is essential for many businesses. And further integration with HR, projects, inventory, and operations is even more beneficial.

3. Modern ERP software is based in the cloud

Many of your clients who are not currently on the cloud are probably asking you whether they should be. Often, this a generational question. Businesses that have operated for decades may have software and data hosted on-site.

erp cloud software solutions

But operating in the cloud is the future of business. It’s not only more secure (contrary to the belief of many companies), it’s far more agile. Imagine giving your clients a way to access all of their company data on any device, anywhere they are.

It’s true that not all ERP software is cloud-based. Just like any other type of software, especially in older versions, there are plenty of downloadable, desktop products. However, those will become legacy products, if they aren’t already.

Part of a cloud-based software’s agility is the ability to provide updates and improved user experiences on a regular basis, not just once or twice a year. Best of all, these updates happen without any interruption to the user experience.

Cloud ERP software, especially those with the capability for full financial management, is the kind of technology that many of your clients are asking for, even if they aren’t yet saying it by name.


As a CPA, your ability to thrive among your competition doesn’t just mean having another tool to offer clients. It means being able to give them the entire toolbelt, full of everything they need to scale and succeed as a business.

ERP software manages a company’s financial data, but it does so much more. And the ability to do more is exactly what makes you valuable as a CPA.

Start doing some research about how ERP solutions can benefit your clients, and how they can make you more competitive.