The line between improv comic and salesperson is very thin.
I can see the furrowed brows and confused looks now – ‘what on Earth does spontaneous comedy have to do with making deals?’
There a number of tenets that are directly applicable to sales, so let’s start there:
Know Your Audience
Skilled improv comics have the ability to read their audience within the first five minutes on stage subsequently tailoring their performance to those preferences. Do they appreciate quick, clever wit and more complex scenarios or would they rather watch something more in line with the 3 Stooges and slapstick. Much akin to tailoring your presentations to meet your audiences needs.
Don’t Try Too Hard
Ever watch a comic try to be funny? Painful wasn’t it. This same holds true in sales. The minute you start regurgitating facts and figures and using jargon that your audience isn’t receptive too is the moment you lose them.
Relax and be relatable. Use honesty and when you don’t have the answers tell them you’ll have to get back to them. Appearing fallible makes you human.
Make Others Look Good
Improv comedy is only successful when everyone on that stage is performing their part. This requires dedicated support from your fellow players. As a sales person, your job is to make your company, your team and your target look good. This keeps you dynamic and effective.
There a handful of others but I don’t want to lose track of why I brought you here in the first place.
Arguably the most important thing a salesperson should take from the improv actor’s handbook,
That’s right, when to STFU. Look, I get it, part of what makes you a kickass salesperson is your ability to talk. But there are always two sides to a coin and in sales the other side is definitely listening. And sometimes a prospect just needs a quiet moment to absorb and reflect on what you just said.
As an experienced improv comedy trainer and show director, I would often instruct my students and performers to “wash the dishes” when they were unable to quickly respond to a prompt or needed to allow the audience to digest the scene that just unfolded.
What do I mean, ‘wash the dishes’?
Exactly that! Literally pretend to wash dishes on stage or DO ANYTHING for that matter that prevents you from talking about doing something because there is nothing worse than a ‘talking head.’
The reasons that salespeople struggle to STFU varies; some of you give into nerves, others are uncomfortable with silence, and more of you than not, just like to hear yourselves talk. Yeah I said it.
An expert over at Sales Hacker did a study where they examined over 25,000 B2B sales conversations and discovered that the top closers adhered to a 43:57 talk-to-listen ratio.
In a 30 minute conversation with your prospect, you should only talk for about 10 minutes!
In a hour long chat? About 25 minutes.
Are you talking more than that?
Try STFU & ‘Wash The Dishes’.
And no, in sales, I don’t mean that literally. Unless you’re selling dish soap, dishwashers or water faucets you probably shouldn’t take up randomly pantomiming dish washing during sales presentations.
But there a couple of things you could do:
Take an awkwardly long pause (the recommended time is 3 seconds) to respond after your prospect is done speaking. More often than not, your prospects will give you a verbal postscript and that extra information could be pure gold.
Restate Using ‘It Seems Like You______’
This is a favorite of Chris Voss, in his book Never Split The Difference he called this ‘emotional labeling.’ Hello, empathy. And if you label the ‘emotion’ correctly, your prospect will feel understood and therefor more comfortable providing even more information.
Commit to Listening
Whether you repeat a mantra or replace your computer screensaver with the words “I will listen” you have to consciously commit to listening to your prospects before EVERY touchpoint.
STFU & Wash the Dishes is going to look a little different for each of you and may take some time getting use to but I promise, perfecting your ability to STFU will have a huge impact on your sales game.
Use other tricks or tactics to stop talking? I’d love to hear about them!
Think you need more help?