Article Summary: The best sales professionals distinguish themselves by their ability to build rapport with everyone they work with regardless of their initial perceived value. As such, treat everyone like a Key Decision Maker. Whether we can see it or feel it, most people treat others based on perceived “value” or “importance” to their goals. Whether you are on a call, networking at an event, presenting to key decision makers, or sharing a meal with a prospect, how we respond with our non-verbal communication, tone of voice, and words can make the difference between “Yes, let’s move forward” and “No thank you.” In this article I address three major points of 1) Improv is Just Like Sales, 2) Do You Have Status? Do I? What is Status?, and 3) We All Desire Appreciation. Also, two Smart Exercises are suggested to offer insights into the words you use in writing and verbally.
Treat Everyone Like a Key Decision Maker – How Improvisational Humor Training Helps You Sell
Copyright © 2009. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. and ThinkBusiness Magazine
Ira J. Koretsky
Whether we can see it or feel it, most people treat others based on perceived “value” or “importance” to their goals. Whether you are on a call, networking at an event, presenting to a key decision maker, or sharing a meal with a prospect, how we respond with our non-verbal communication, tone of voice, and words can make the difference between “Yes, let’s move forward” and “No thank you” in your sales process.
The best sales professionals distinguish themselves by their ability to build rapport with everyone they work with regardless of their initial perceived value. Someone seemingly uninvolved in the process may have unseen pull or be a quiet champion.
The best sales professionals are like improvisational theater (improv) performers making the most of every moment with customers, partners, and prospects. I know this from first-hand experience! Over a ten-year period, I performed in more than 1,000 shows live on stage with a national improvisational comedy franchise called ComedySportz in San Jose and Washington, DC.
Improv is Just Like Sales
Improv performances are live shows where the performers play unscripted games based on audience suggestions. As performers, we had absolutely no idea what an audience member would say next. Improv mirrors life. Most life experiences arise from random interactions with people.
Improv mirrors life. Most life experiences arise from random interactions with people.
In improv, you do not know who will be in the scene at any given time and you do not know with certainty what someone will do or say next. Sales is like improv. To help ensure your success in selling, let us explore status, one of improv’s foundation concepts. Used well, it can become a critical communication technique to help you deal with changing business environments with ease.
Do You Have Status? Do I? What is Status?
Whether your sales cycle is short, long, or complex, it is imperative for you to know who is involved in the decision-making process and the role each person plays. We all strive to spend time with a Key Decision Maker (KDM) and his/her staff.
Some sales professionals, consciously or not, exhibit obvious differences in how they treat staff perceived as having lower “importance” or “value.” In improv, this treatment is called “status.” Examples of treating someone with lower status include long response times to emails and telephone calls; discounting ideas, comments, or questions raised in meetings; and even more blatantly disrespectful actions that, sooner rather than later, everyone notices. We all have heard stories where disrespect of staff, subtle or overt, led the sales professional to be shown the exit. If I were a betting person, the poor behavior was rooted in perceived status.
Some of the greatest comedians use status. Rodney Dangerfield was famous for using self-effacing humor. He told jokes giving him lower status compared to everyone else. A classic joke is “I get no respect. Even as a kid. We would play hide-and-seek, and nobody would look for me.” Here is another example of human behavior in action. Imagine a movie with a pompous couple. We watch them treat everyone poorly. As they exit their limousine, a passing car splashes a large puddle and they get soaked. We laugh aloud because their status changes instantaneously, as we say to ourselves, “Justice served.”
Rather than choosing a status level, treat everyone like a Key Decision Maker. In this way, you will avoid many pitfalls and show yourself to be an attentive communicator.
Treat everyone like a key decision maker.
Treat Everyone Like a Key Decision Maker
Year after year, employee compensation surveys report, among the top responses for desired reward was appreciation for one’s contribution and recognition from superiors. It is one of the qualities of being human—our desire for acknowledgement and appreciation of our efforts and accomplishments. Given the impact showing appreciation has, use body language, tone of voice, and words to place each person in a high status position, like a Key Decision Maker.
Here are two exercises to help you improve your understanding and use of status as you face your selling situations and meetings with a Key Decision Maker.
Two Exercises to Improve Understanding of Status
- Exercise 1, Language Scan: Examine your choice of words in emails, calls, presentations, proposals, networking—everywhere you are telling your business story. Look for words and phrases you use often and the tone of voice used in your vocabulary, spoken and written. Are there patterns that emerge? How about responses from your listeners and readers? Are they positive and inquisitive or unresponsive and aloof? Learn what works for your audiences and then accentuate the language generating the results you want.
- Exercise 2, Yes And: Focus completely on what is being said and not on, what might be said. When on stage, improv performers respond to every communication nuance of their fellow performers. Yes And thinking forces you to listen and respond to everything someone says or does. This affords them high status. To achieve complete focus on the other person, mentally precede each of your responses with “Yes, and.” Avoid negative words like “but,” “although,” “however,” and “on the other hand.” Mastery of this technique dramatically improves written and verbal communication. Review a recent email where you used one of the negative words, most likely “but.” Delete “but” and either replace it with “and” or a period “.” Can you see and feel the positive difference this small change makes?
Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Every interaction, whether in person, by telephone, in writing, in email, or on social media, affects your relationships. By treating everyone like a Key Decision Maker, you will be on the path to building stronger and more profitable business relationships with everyone.
Perhaps in the near future, a staff person will become your next Key Decision Maker. Guaranteed, this Key Decision Maker will remember how you well you treated him or her.
This “Yes And” thinking and my approach to treating everyone like a Key Decision Maker, led me to develop my most requested Smart Exercise, Treat Everyone Like a CEO. I changed Key Decision Maker to CEO, as CEO is a more universal term. It is now, the number one leadership and strategy video on YouTube. Watch a clip from Treat Everyone Like a CEO TM.
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Updated Content 2012, Updated header photograph 2018
Photography Source: Ira Koretsky performing improv with San Jose ComedySportz, © Copyright 2018, The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. All Rights Reserved.