Most actors have to audition for every role. In fact, even Marlon Brando had to audition for his iconic role in The Godfather. Although he was a very successful actor at that point in his career, there were a lot of qualified actors competing for the part. He knew he couldn’t go in and do the same thing his fellow actors did and be guaranteed the part. So what did he do? He stuffed cotton balls in his mouth and invented the famous Godfather mumble. It wasn’t in the script, yet it was so critical to the character that it was written into the movie.
Like an actor, salespeople also must audition for each selling opportunity. And like Brando, when there’s a lot of competition, when you can name a feature and a competitor has it – or soon will – you must bring something extra to the table to stand out as well. So how do actors do it? What is their secret? Here are 7 quick acting lessons to help you stand out and land the sale!
1. Warm up your instrument
A good actor would never go on stage without making sure they are physically, vocally and mentally warmed up. Yet how many of us go out on the business stage without making sure we are at our best? Take a cue from performers and practice proper breathing, release hidden tension, energize your body, strengthen and add variety to your voice with vocal exercises. A short daily warm-up will go a long way toward communicating at your highest potential call after call. Check out my resources page for a free, quick warm-up you can do on your own.
2. Go all in
Nobody would watch a movie about a character that “hopes” to achieve a goal or half-heartedly “tries” to pursue an objective. Good actors make strong active choices. Sellers too need to find strong active words that motivate them and their prospects to take action. So instead of wanting to make a sale, how about fighting for it? Instead of “telling” your audience about your product “surprise” them with what it can do! Strong active verbs will keep you—and your audience–focused and engaged.
3. Create urgency by raising the stakes
If the hero doesn’t capture the villain by midnight he will detonate the bomb. If he detonates the bomb the city will be destroyed. If the city is destroyed the country will go to war. A classic example of raising the stakes in Hollywood. You can use this same model for identifying and ratcheting up authentic urgency with prospects by connecting emotional triggers to potential outcomes.
4. Get your calls taken by being unpredictable
Johnny Depp as the over-the-top Captain Jack Sparrow. Johnny Depp as the mad, Mad Hatter. Johnny Depp as the unforgettable Edward Scissorhands. What will Johnny Depp do next? Who knows? But you can bet the world will tune in to see! Take a lesson from the best and don’t be a one-trick pony. If you do the same thing in the same way every time, you are no different than any one else. Unpredictability can get your calls taken and gets you in the door. Do something new. Do something old in a new way. Drunken Pirate? Stuff cotton in your mouth? Probably not, but you get the idea… For more ideas on setting yourself apart, ready my post “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn…your presentation is so boring.”
5. Listen for your cues to close the sale
A cue in acting is about knowing when to enter into a scene, when to leave, and when to listen. Missing your cue can mean missing closing signals or overstaying your welcome on the sales stage. Focus on active listening, or as famous actor and teacher Uta Hagen put it: “Listen with your entire being.” Slow down and process what the other person has said before throwing out our lines. Active listening is compelling to watch. Some of film’s greatest moments are when an actor is simply listening. If you’re too busy rehearsing your upcoming line in your head, you’re missing the real action. For more tips on active listening, read my recent post: “catch a cue.”
6. The sale must go on! Use your mistakes
Whether an actor drops a line or a prop, they follow this rule of thumb: use it or lose it. Drawing unnecessary attention to mistakes takes the audience out of the story and the actor has to work twice as hard to get them back. Whether you stumble over your proposal or your technology fails you, don’t make a big deal out of it. Use it or lose it and keep your prospect engaged.
7. Always say yes…and.
The improv technique of saying “Yes, and…” is an excellent way to diffuse objections and arrive at new solutions. Saying “Yes” to your prospect takes them off the defensive and acknowledges their perspective. Saying “Yes and” offers fresh, new ideas and opens the door to possibilities that may not have been explored. For more on how to use “Yes and” and other great tools of improv, read my post “Tina Fey’s Rules of Improv for Sellers.”