Indiana State University Newsroom

Mike Bosworth: A new way to sell through stories

April 17, 2013

"I usually don't get a lot of hands but, how many of your mothers wanted you to be salespeople when you grew up?" asked Mike Bosworth. After a few seconds and a raised hand, he went into his story of when he was a child and talked about how he didn't want to go into sales.

He has incorporated storytelling into selling products - with enviable results.

Bosworth, founder of Solution Selling and co-author of "What Great Salespeople Do," presented "Building Trust One Story at a Time," at Indiana State University on March 27 as part of the State Farm Circle of Influence Speaker Series.

Bosworth discussed the success behind his storytelling sales approach and how people can utilize it. Salespeople need to reframe selling, Bosworth said, by helping customers achieve a goal by using their product.

"You are influencing people to make changes beyond their current beliefs, attitudes and assumptions to something that will benefit them," he added.

People buy things because they are in control and want to satisfy a need.

In order to be a great salesperson you have to tell a story. Thirty-nine percent of buyers don't trust sellers, said Bosworth, adding that sellers are trying to change that by telling a story.

People have been hearing or telling stories for more than 190,000 years, Bosworth said. When you hear someone tell a story the critical side of your brain shuts down and your emotional side opens up, he added. When you tell a story you have to be vulnerable first, as this will give people the opportunity to trust you and open up to you, the sales expert added.

Bosworth, who began his career at Xerox, made more money within the first five months than anyone did in a whole year.

Eventually he started to provide sales training, became a venture capitalist and then started on his own. He later wrote "Solution Selling," about a sales process commonly used in the technology industry, said Jon Hawes, director of the Sales and Negotiations Center, which organized the presentation.

Bosworth also worked with Neil Rackham, who studied one company's workers fresh out of college. He noticed after 18 months, their sales would drop. Rackham and Bosworth concluded that after a year and a half, the young workers thought they were experts and when potential clients would call, they would not give them an opportunity to talk. Instead, they would just tell them what is wrong.

The sales expert said that companies he has worked with lately have been hiring people with good character.

Hawes agreed with what Bosworth had to say in his speech. "He is a brilliant man, he has come up with new thoughts on issues that were new to me," the Indiana State professor said.

Hawes, who has known Bosworth for more than 20 years, thinks he is a good role model and very successful.

"This was a wonderful opportunity for Bosworth to come and speak. He has a major impact on how sales are done," Hawes added. "His impact focuses on how selling works and he made it happen."

It was very encouraging for students to understand they can do the exact same thing Bosworth did, said Dale Varble, a marketing professor at Indiana State.

The biggest thing my students took away is that salespeople have to be vulnerable first, said Varble, who added that Bosworth provided a good example of this by talking about how he has failed in the past.

"Students need to be exposed to excellence," Varble said. They need more opportunities to meet professionals in the careers they would like to pursue, he added.

Photo: Mike Bosworth, founder of Solution Selling and co-author of "What Great Salespeople Do," presented "Building Trust One Story at a Time" at Indiana State University as part of the State Farm Circle of Influence Speaker Series.

Photo: Hawes, director of the Sales and Negotiations Center at Indiana State University

Contact: Jon Hawes, director, Sales and Negotiations Center, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 812-237-2286 or

Writer: Beth Pickerill, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, at or 812-237-3773