Every seller has been there. It’s the meeting with eight stakeholders, no one’s on the same page, and half the group is glancing not-so-furtively at their phones. Perhaps it’s the prospect so far down the buying process that your call is just his excuse to hammer you on price.

Both deals die painful deaths.

Improvisation is about adapting in the moment, changing on a dime, and knowing how and where to pivot when somebody throws a curve.

And the selling process can involve a whole bunch of curves — whether it’s the meeting agenda that goes sideways or the eleventh-hour revision to contract terms. We’ve come to see that sales professionals who develop improv skills are more flexible and adaptable to a constantly changing customer landscape.

It is also a fact that the average sales training curriculum – including post-training reinforcement – doesn’t build enough muscle around change and adaptability. The mere mention of “sales training” to most sellers prompts a blank stare – or, at most, a compliant nod of the head.

Think of the last training program you rolled out or participated in. More than likely, it was PowerPoint-based and struggled to keep reps away from their email. It took place in a windowless conference room, somehow as far as possible from the world where reps and customers interact.

Sales effectiveness pros know that sellers make important choices in key moments of the sales cycle. How you reinforce critical behaviors at those moments is important – especially if you can bring them to life for sales reps to see in vivid color. Unfortunately, there’s very little out there to do that in ways that are engaging, fun, and that deliver important micro-learning anytime and anywhere when your sales reps need it most.

Why do we tolerate this? Most of the time the reason is that the status quo is hard to break. We go for what is known, what is trusted, even as our customers’ world demands a new skill set. Our learning and reinforcement tools need to reflect a new digital reality, with sellers accessing content on-the-go when they need it. No matter how much we arm reps with sales process or account plans, there will always be the unanticipated twist.

Improvisation and Sales Effectiveness

Now, let’s replay the scenarios from the beginning of this article and look at how an improv skillset can fundamentally drive the sales process.

You listen actively to your advocate about the competing interests at play to find areas of stakeholder agreement. Rather than presentations, you shift to working sessions, inviting the customer to co-create. You bring an authenticity that subtly challenges the status quo.

With improv in the mix- delivered in person and digitally – sellers build the agility and resiliency needed to navigate a customer-empowered world.

Every sales rep needs to improvise in most sales situations – whether they’re aware of it or not. So how do you bring improvisation to the world of sales training and reinforcement?

  • Ditch the deck! Say hello to experiential learning with group exercises designed to heighten sales rep authenticity and bring a ‘yes’ philosophy to the sale. Creating memorable customer interactions begins with creating memorable live learning that forces each seller outside of the traditional paint-by-numbers approach.
  • Make it short and impactful!  Sellers need quick-hit, digestible content that they will actually want to use at the precise moment before a critical customer interaction. Tackle both parts of micro-learning, not just the micro part.
  • Go for laughs. Drive reinforcement higher with short, funny, sharable content delivered on any device. You’re looking to change behaviors – but you need to change attitudes first. Combining short and funny drives attitude change faster. When you make people laugh, you make them think, and as a result they’re more likely to embrace the very improv behaviors sales people need to succeed.
  • Keep it real and relevant! Include high-energy videos in your digital sales tools showing what could go wrong and how to recover when it does.

This combination of live learning with ongoing bite-size social reinforcement makes improv come to life, with sellers becoming more agile in meetings, resilient when challenged and successful when looking to close. We all know that, in sales, you can stick to the script or you can have a conversation – but you can’t do both.