With remote work and virtual communication now the norm, it’s never been more important for salespeople to establish credibility with potential customers. Buyers diligently protect themselves and are increasingly able to evaluate possible solutions on their own. To add to the challenge, executive-level buyers only view a fraction of sales meetings as valuable. As a sales leader, how can you help your reps get in the door? Value-based credibility introductions help salespeople capture a buyer’s attention, engage authentically and establish trust early in the sales process.

Value-based stories are the most important components of a credibility introduction. These personalized messages resonate with potential buyers because they are able to see themselves in the story and identify that the salesperson could bring them similar value. In fact, the best sales reps are also often the best storytellers — they draw from a thorough understanding of previous results to spark a prospect’s interest and communicate value. However, they may not be able to generate value-based stories on the fly, which is why it is vital to stress the importance of research and practice with your team. If they can deliver their introductions while exercising or wrangling children, they’ll be able to clearly communicate in any meeting.

How can you prepare your team to implement value-based stories to establish an effective rapport with executive-level buyers? Here are the answers to the three most common questions salespeople have when crafting value-based stories of their own.

1. What Are the Critical Components of a Value-based Story?

First, encourage reps to consider their audience. For a value-based story to be effective, potential buyers must be able to see the similarity between the rep’s example and their critical business issues. Next, salespeople must focus on understanding the challenges that the prospect is likely facing. The more clearly your sales team can articulate the problem, the more likely a potential buyer is to believe that the rep can identify an effective solution. The third and most critical component is value. Sales reps must be able to provide concrete examples of cases where the company’s solutions were able to add measurable value.

Remember, this story is not about the salesperson or your company but about the prospect’s industry and the challenges he or she is likely facing. When your sales team members are crafting value-based stories, be sure that they use the terminology that best fits the potential buyer’s role and industry.

2. How do Less Experienced Reps Craft Compelling Stories?

It’s common for salespeople who are new to the profession, an organization or a market to be more hesitant than senior sales reps. The good news is that sales leaders can help to alleviate this hesitation through coaching. Start by having a conversation, and prompt reps to visualize which area of the business your solution would affect. Then, help them practice articulating the value of that impact.

It’s also important to remember that while a rep may be new, your company likely isn’t. Past case studies are effective fodder for value-based stories and fill the gap between imagined impact and measurable results — providing the vital specifics that reps require to demonstrate that they understand the buyer’s critical business issues.

Keep in mind that virtual communication can affect our perceptions of how buyers receive credibility introductions. Coach your sales reps on the importance of active listening, empathy and leaving space for confirming questions.

3. Do Credibility Introductions Have a Time Limit?

The short answer is, “Keep it simple.” While there’s no hard-and-fast rule that says every credibility introduction must be under 30 seconds, consider the prospect’s perspective. Most potential buyers are prepared to listen for 30 seconds and will stay engaged for that length of time. However, if an introduction takes more than a minute to deliver, sales reps are expecting buyers to do a lot of listening without any interaction. Encourage your salespeople to focus on the prospect and foster engagement rather than including every relevant point in their value-based story.

Remember to practice, practice, practice. Consider having your reps write down their stories and time themselves to ensure they’re not straining a prospect’s attention. Holding competitions among your team members is another effective way to encourage ongoing improvement.

In a challenging economy, it’s common for prospects to guard themselves — which is why it’s critical to instill the importance of value-based credibility introductions in your sales team. Salespeople who are able to identify critical business issues, clearly articulate value and demonstrate empathy will be able to successfully differentiate themselves from the competition and drive results.