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updated 1/28/2013 10:23:18 AM ET 2013-01-28T15:23:18

We've all heard of the elevator pitch : Explain your business in 30 seconds or less, the time it takes to get from the lobby to whichever floor your prospect is going. But what if your pitch is, shall we say, a little dull?

Kambri Crews is a renowned storyteller, and the owner of Ballyhoo Promotions, a New York City public relations company that specializes in stand-up comedy. In her memoir, Burn Down the Ground (Villard, 2012), she recounts her chaotic upbringing in rural Texas as the child of deaf parents. Crews began performing in storytelling events in New York City as an opportunity to work on her book and to practice what resonated with an audience.

We caught up with her to find out which storytelling tips can help small-business owners engage with prospective clients and secure the sale.

Related: 5 Foolproof Ways to Boost Your Public-Speaking Skills

1. Practice your message. Writing for the ear (think: television or sales pitch) is very different than writing for the eye (think: newspaper or ads). Adapt your message so your sales pitch doesn't come across as wooden or generic. You shouldn't have a one-size-fits-all approach to selling your product or service. While continuity is important, your elevator pitch shouldn't be a verbatim recitation of your sales materials. 

2. Use bullet points. You never want to be fully scripted. "If you sound rehearsed, it turns people off and they tune out," Crews explains. "You want a spontaneous moment [that] you're experiencing with the audience. You won't get the same response [if you memorize everything] as if you're going off-book (not following a script),” she says. Speak naturally, try to be relaxed, and maintain eye contact with the people you're speaking with. In your preparation, the act of writing down what you want to say may help you remember it better, Crews notes. Carry your bullet points with you on an index card so you have something to refer to if you need it.

3. Have a solid beginning, middle and end. The beginning should hook your audience, while the end, the call to action, must be clear, Crews says. The Moth, a storytelling institution founded in New York City and performed worldwide, has featured thousands of spellbinding tales since 1997. Moth producers suggest that each story performed on its stage have stakes such as: What is there to gain or lose? Why should the audience care?

4. Make the story personal. Crews recommends getting prospects to connect on a human level with whatever product or service you're selling. For example, if you're selling cochlear implants, you could cite research, case studies, and list pros and cons, but if you show a video of a child getting their cochlear implant turned on and their reaction to hearing their mother's voice for the first time, customers will remember that. "A personal anecdote sells a little better," Crews advises.

Related: 9 Proven Sales Tips for Introverts

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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