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Try less, sell more…

Around this time a few years ago I signed up for my first Impro acting class. I figured I’d be pretty good at it. I also thought I could incorporate some of the exercises into my training and coaching. Wrong on the first, right on the second. Eventually…

My inclination was to try to impose a story on every scene I was in. Invariably they spluttered to a halt. The teacher explained that if I tuned in and listened to what other people were saying then that wouldn’t happen quite so often.

Basically I needed to trust the process.

Imposition is why scripts and structures seldom work. The most successful sales people I know are also the most relaxed. They understand that their job is to start a conversation and see where it leads. In short they are successful improvisers.

Here are my top 3 improv practices for anyone regularly or occasionally involved in the in the art of persuasion:

1) Ditch your shadow story.

A shadow story is the set of assumptions we bring to any transaction. We feel the client is going to respond in a certain way and therefore limit our approach (and often our optimism) to what we assume might be achievable.

The problem is that this frequently leads to a limited outcome. Dropping your shadow story is about starting the process with a genuine sense of enquiry and, as a consequence, asking intelligent questions.

 2) Don’t Block Offers

Blocking is trying to send a transaction in a way other than your partner intended. It can also be thought of as not building on the conversation. Some offers are blindingly obvious to spot and you’re hardly likely to block them. However others are subtler and can be easier to miss.

As a sales coach I see this happening most frequently around objection handling, largely as the salesperson doesn’t spot the offer. For example:

Client: We’ve always used X company in the past…

Salesperson: But think about all the things you’re missing out on…’

The offer was there – it was the client sharing information – but the salesperson blocked it by immediately moving to their own agenda. Far better to build by asking what the client’s experiences have been specifically with the other provider.

Moral of the story – virtually everything’s an offer.

3) Be changed by what you hear…

I love this definition of listening. Being able to absorb information is important for any salesperson. Being changed by what you hear is crucial. Basically this means the ability to redirect what you do, depending on what the client says, the way they say it and (equally as important) what they don’t say.

Instead of going into each meeting with a pre-prepared message or a groaning PowerPoint deck, you have a broad idea of what you want to say but find the specific story in the room.

For any of you who want to explore impro further, and live in the London area, City Lit runs regular classes. You can find more here:

The Power of Metaphor

You’re in front of what could be a lucrative client.

You’re one of six potential suppliers.

The decision is to be made in ten days time.

How can you be remembered in a churning sea of competing information?

Metaphor can be your anchor.

Metaphor is the substitution of one thing for another that illustrates the common characteristics of both. Images (including mental images) are processed 60,000 times more quickly than spoken facts, numbers or abstract information alone.

Or as Sheryl Sandberg said about being offered a job at Facebook: ‘If you’re offered a seat on a spaceship, don’t ask which seat.’

People recall less than 10% of orally delivered information after 72 hours. This rises to 65% when a picture accompanies it. So if speed and memorability are important to you when communicating, metaphors should be too.

The Metaphor Generator

  1. Decide
  2. Choose
  3. Bridge
  4. Test

1) Decide on your message.

What’s the core of your pitch?

What’s your point of difference?’

If your client could only recall one thing, what would you like it to be? read more…

Your Dream Pitch

I’ve struggled with sleep for as long as I can remember.

Sometimes it’s waking up early; sometimes it’s struggling to drop off. There are no shortages of Apps to help. One of the best is Calm

Particularly effective are the ‘sleep stories’. Stephen Fry describes lavender fields for 24 minutes while Jerome Flynn takes half an hour to detail a trip down the Oxford Canal. I’ve never heard the conclusion to either.

They’re a bit like certain sales stories I’ve heard in that respect. Apart from the Sleep stories are purposely boring – sales stories aren’t meant to be. What they have in common is excessive detail. What they lack is rising action.

Here are 5 tips for more effective story-based pitches.

read more…

Do you know your why? (and does it really matter?)

My first novel was published three years ago. Along the way I’d written four books that were rejected, and had the book that was eventually published turned down by at least thirty agents. So when it came out you can imagine how jubilant I was.

Apart from I wasn’t jubilant at all.

Don’t get me wrong. I was very pleased – just not swigging Champagne straight from the bottle, or God you can take me now type pleased.

read more…

Quest or Order?

Successful pitching is about ensuring that your story mirrors your client’s story more effectively than your competitors. Christopher Brooker maintains there are seven different story types. In business it often breaks down to two. Respond with the appropriate sales story and you enhance your chances of winning the deal…

read more…

The Man and the Butterfly

I like this story. It’s usually told to illustrate the difference between coaching and teaching, or just plain jumping in and doing something for someone…

A man found a cocoon. He watched a butterfly struggle to force its body through a small hole. It appeared to stop making progress.

The man decided to help the butterfly and cut the cocoon open. The butterfly emerged with a swollen body and shrivelled wings. The man expected the butterfly to take on its correct proportions. Nothing changed.

read more…