At its core, sales is about connecting with people. You connect with prospects in real time, trying to tell your story and build a relationship with someone who has unique motivations, needs and objections. At its core, improv is strikingly similar: you have to flesh out a story, build character relationships and handle and obstacles that might come in real time.
Improv, unlike sales, teaches these skills in isolation, zeroing in on each participant’s ability to interact in a constructive way. It’s no wonder then, given the transferability of improv’s skillset, that sales team leads are starting to encourage their reps to try improv. But can it really help?
Yes, it can. Whether you’re an account executive looking to improve your in-person meeting game or an SDR hoping to hone your phone prowess and step up your voicemail marketing efforts – whatever sales role you occupy, improv has a thing or two it can teach you.
One of the key tenets of improv, the one they teach you on the very first day, is “yes, and.” It’s so ubiquitous, in fact, that’s it has become a verb: you need to “yes, and” your scene partner. What it means, basically, is that you have to greet their attempts at steering the conversation positively, and build upon it; you cannot shoot down their suggestions, and continue with your own course.
In improv, it might look something like this: Two clowns meet at a child’s birthday party, and one says “hey, I know you from somewhere,” and the other says, “didn’t we go to clown school together?”, and the first one says, “yes, we took remedial balloon animal twisting together.” It’s a silly example, but you see how each builds off the other. Likewise in sales, if a prospect steers the direction of the conversation to price (to use a common example), you have to be ready to accept their course change and build on it: “Yes, the product is great long-term value for the price – and the best products often do cost a bit”.
Actively Listening, Actively Contributing
You can’t fall asleep during the wheel at improv – you have to be actively listening and processing what your scene partner says, as well as contributing to the scene. The same is certainly true of sales. Active listening a key component in good sales calls, as it demonstrates to the prospect that you understand their needs and empathize with their challenges, and actively contributing allows you to figure out how your product can solve their problems.
Helping Out Your Scene Partner
Finally, a fantastic takeaway from improv – one that any SDR should understand – is that when you enter a two-person scene, your job is as much about helping the other person out as it is about helping yourself. It’s a subtle shift in perspective, but it makes all the difference. In improv, you check your ego at the side of the stage. In sales, you don’t sell a product, you sell a solution to your prospect’s problem.
Aside from the aforementioned points, improv is helpful because it requires you to stay on your toes. It requires you to sell the scene, even in the absence of a script. Next time your sales team lead or manager, asks you to try some improv, tell them: yes, and…