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An Acting Approach to Sales

Sales and Theatre – An actor talks about the sales profession…

In the acting profession, we are constantly told to be actively learning.  Every new experience and encounter is valuable information that will make you a better actor.  As the great actress and teacher Stella Adler once said, “Growth as an actor is synonymous with growth as a human being.”  As an actor, I approach everything I do as a learning opportunity.

In reverse effect, I often find that my actor training has taught me invaluable lessons that apply to more than just the stage.  I often hear a sales pitch referred to as a “performance.”  Building on this analogy, a sales pitch can be “played” just as a scene can.  Here are some simple acting techniques that can be effectively applied to sales.
1.  Play your objective

What do you want?  What is your goal?  The answers to these questions should be clear and concise in your mind.  Instead of approaching a meeting as just, “well, we’ll see how this goes…” be specific about what exactly you want to get out of it.  Even if your goal is small, being specific about it will keep you active and ensure progress.

2.  Achieve your objective through varying actions

One of the greatest mistakes an actor can make is to do the same thing over and over again.  Without using varying tactics or actions in trying to achieve the objective, the performance becomes boring and ineffective.  If your client can predict what you are going to do next, it means they are already ahead of you and will stop paying attention.  It also puts them in charge, giving them the power to run the show.  Often this means that they are ready to end the conversation before you have even gotten a chance to play any cards.

Using different tactics to achieve your goal also means being highly in tune with what your customer responds to positively.  No customer is going to be the same, so be aware that the same techniques are not going to be successful with everyone.  Not getting anywhere with a prospective client?  Think about the techniques you are using – maybe you need to change them.  Can’t get them to agree to a lunch meeting?  Don’t keep trying for it.  Suggest something different.  It might be something as simple as doing breakfast instead, or maybe you need to be more creative.  Are they a sports fan?  Suggest going to a baseball game, perhaps.  Maybe you have had trouble getting them on the phone, but notice that they respond quickly to emails.  Utilize that kind of information for your benefit.

3.  Get behind what you are saying

Nothing is worse than watching an actor you don’t believe.  Its impossible to buy into the performance if you aren’t convinced by the act.  From playing Hamlet to doing a laundry detergent commercial, an actor has to find some way to make whatever he is saying important to him.  If you don’t believe in what you are selling, neither will your customer.  This means that you have to really know the product you are selling.  Ask yourself the question, “why would I want to buy this product?” and “if someone were trying to sell this to me, what would they have to do to convince me?”  Find what it is that gets you genuinely excited about the product and share that with your customer.  If you are convinced of the product’s worth, chances are you’ll be able to convince your client of the same.

4. Every word you say has meaning

Language is a powerful tool.  Use it.

In a play, each word is chosen by the playwright for a reason.  Nothing is arbitrary and no words are wasted.  This is because a lot has to happen in a relatively short period of time.  The language, therefore, has to be efficient.  This is not to say that you should write out a script for your pitch word for word – since you can’t predict what your client is going to say this would be pretty impossible.  You could probably make a pretty good guess, however.  It is a good idea to write out an outline for your pitch, imagine the kind of responses and questions you might get and then write out the answers for yourself.  Choose your words carefully.  Whether we mean them to or not, our words are part of the impression we make.  Long pauses, “ums” and “uhs” send out the message that you are unclear on what you are talking about, making you seem less intelligent and therefore less convincing.  Use the right words to your advantage.  Long winded or vague descriptions of a product are confusing and uninteresting.  The more you can be specific and say what you mean, the more effective you will be.

5.  Listen

All of this means nothing if you do not know how to listen.  An actor who does not listen on stage is ineffective because he is not responding to his fellow actors.  Without listening to the customer, how will you ever know what they want?  Listening will allow you to get to know your customer better, giving you the information you need to use the right tactics to achieve your goal.  Listening to your customer also shows that you respect them, are interested in what they have to say and are willing to hear their perspective.  Just as in acting, active listening will allow you to build a stronger relationship with your customer.

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