Using Improv to Improve Sales

12 Jun

As a small business counselor I’m often asked, “How do I increase my sales?” The short and simple answer is to improve your sales technique. And one of the best “sales” books I have come across is To Sell Is Human by Daniel H. Pink.

Everybody sells, but not everybody sells well. While the business of sales may have changed drastically in the past 20years – where we can research and buy just about any product online – 1 in 9 workers remain in sales (amounting to over 15 million people). And the rest of us are also selling – not just products and services – but ideas and techniques. We are pitching, persuading and negotiating on a daily basis to our bosses, co-workers, spouses and even our children. In fact, a study Pink commissioned showed that we spend 40 percent of our work time “selling” something.

Another reason we are all in sales is because the workforce has changed. With the rise in small businesses and startups – thanks to innovations like eBay, Etsy, and Apple’s app store – more employees wear more and different hats, including a sales hat. Even jobs at large companies are broader in scope and require some degree of selling – think of the intrapreneur (an employee of a large corporation who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services, systems, etc., and does not have to follow the usual routines or protocols). And the growing fields of education and health services (the largest job sector in the US economy) are all about selling: convincing students to enroll, attend classes and pay attention; or getting patients to take their medication and follow through with treatments.

Think selling is “slimy”? – Pink recommends overcoming the negative impressions of selling by applying the ABCs: Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity. More importantly, he recommends using improvisational techniques to build your confidence and make your interactions more productive:

• Hear Offers – “Once we listen in this new, more intimate way, we begin hearing things we might have missed. And if we listen this way during our efforts to move others, we quickly realize that what seem outwardly like objections are often offers in disguise”.

• Say “Yes and” – “Instead of swirling downward into frustration, ‘Yes and’ spirals upward toward possibility. When you stop you’ve got a set of options, not a sense of futility”.

• Make Your Partner Look Good – “Today, if you make people look bad, they can tell the world. But if you make people look good, they can also tell the world”.

Improv is a form of storytelling that revels in off-the-cuff honesty. As a substitute to prepared public speaking, it’s unconventional and free-flowing, and delivers imagination and laughter. And, there’s a lot that it can do for your confidence and to help you loosen up. And the benefits don’t end there. Improv can help you be more dynamic, more positive, more easily understood by clients, a better teammate, and, in so many words, much better at sales.

Curious what Improv is like? Check out the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP, no not THAT ASAP) – which was founded in May 2015 to empower Veterans, service members, and military family members to thrive in their communities through arts classes, performances, and partnerships. ASAP focuses on promoting artistic expression, skill-development, and camaraderie through classes in Improv, stand-up comedy, storytelling and creative writing. ASAP then partners with local colleges, arts organizations and performance venues to offer its graduates continuous opportunities for artistic and personal growth. In the process, ASAP provides participants with transferable life skills, a renewed sense of purpose and identity, and healing benefits, and leverages the arts to strengthen ties between veterans and their communities. Learn more at http://www.asapasap.org/

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