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Just Wing It In Sales? Ugh...No

prepared improv actor is like a salesperson

Have you ever watched an improvisational comedy show and marveled at how performers create laughter out of thin air, without a script in sight? As someone with a background in improv and theater, I've spent countless nights on stage, weaving improvised comedy gold on the spot. It's an exhilarating experience but let me tell you – it's not as unprepared as it seems.

This brings me to a fascinating paradox I've observed in the world of sales. Many salespeople, when I describe my experiences in improv, express terror… sheer terror. The thought of performing without a safety net horrifies them. Yet, ironically, in their daily interactions with customers, they often choose to "shoot from the hip," improvising their way through client meetings.

Now, you might think, as an improviser, I'd advocate for this approach in sales. But here's the deal – I believe that sales thrives on preparation and a solid game plan. While improvisational skills can be a valuable asset, relying solely on them in sales is a bit like swimming with sharks without the cage.

A Method To Our Madness

In improv, although it appears spontaneous, there's a method to our madness. We train extensively, learn techniques like active listening and intense collaboration, understand our teammates, and read the room. This preparation is what makes the performance seem effortless. But in sales, I've noticed a tendency to truly "wing it" – and not in the structured way we do in improv.

When salespeople improvise without this background of preparation, they're not just risking a less-than-stellar performance – they're potentially jeopardizing the sale. Why? Because effective sales are not just about being quick on your feet. They're about understanding your product, knowing your customer, and being able to tailor your approach to their unique needs and pain points.

A Structured Game Plan

Preparation in sales doesn't mean memorizing a script. It's about having a structured game plan. We use a document called the “Client Meeting Plan” and it includes researching your client, understanding their industry, setting goals, crafting questions ahead of time, and anticipating potential objections. It's about practicing your pitch, refining your message, and being ready to pivot as needed – but always within a strategic framework.

Don't get me wrong, improvisational skills are a boon in sales. They help you think on your feet, handle unexpected situations, and maintain a conversational flow. But these skills should complement your preparation, not replace it.   You really can’t improvise effectively unless you’ve effectively prepared!

At Butler Street, we live by the mantra,

“If we solve our customer’s problems, we will solve our own.”

This problem-solving approach requires more than just improvisation; it requires understanding, empathy, and a well-thought-out strategy. It’s about bringing value to every interaction, and this value comes from preparation and practice.

So, my fellow sales professionals, while I encourage you to embrace your inner improviser, don't forget the power of preparation. Use your improv skills to adapt and engage but let your well-honed game plan be the star of the show. Remember, in the high-stakes world of sales, the best performances are those that are impeccably prepared, yet executed with the ease and flair of a seasoned improviser.

You can do this! Start by examining your current approach to sales. Are you leaning too heavily on improvisation? Or are you striking the right balance between spontaneity and strategy? Just like improv, the key to success in sales is all about preparation, preparation, preparation coupled with practice, practice, practice.  In sales, losing is easy…winning is hard and takes work.  Great salespeople often work with a great system. If you or your team depend more on a just-winging-it approach to sales and could use structured repeatable processes for success, contact us to learn more.


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