Have you ever watched a comedy improv show? The actors on stage aren’t working off a memorized script. In order to be really funny, they have to use their wits and fly by the seat of their pants, deeply tuning into their fellow players and the situation onstage. I recently read about an improv company in Chicago whose director said, and I paraphrase, “Make others look good and the whole company and scene will look good. Focus on yourself and the troupe looks bad.”
Comedy improvisation is highly competitive and collaborative; the same could be said about selling. Great selling is about doing your best to make the client or prospect look good. You can make them look good by helping them sort, distinguish, select and chose what will work well for them. Helping others make smart decisions and avoid stupid ones might mean you may not sell as much or as fast as you wanted or hoped for, but only in the short term.
Improvisation is intuition in action. Practice first and it becomes a habit. You become so tuned in that you can easily respond in any moment with what you feel is needed or right. You’ll know what to do with that customer, who to call or visit, or what to focus on today. Even if you work in a structured way, you can begin to invite in miraculous surprises. What if— you listened to your hunches? What if—you responded to information as if there were nothing to lose or gain? You’d begin to flow better, connect the dots easier, make interesting choices. You’d begin to notice you already have a guidance system that is quite accurate. You begin to sell and live like an artist—expressing your voice and coming from your heart.
Know your stuff very well, then throw away all your preconceived ideas of how things should unfold. Keep your formulas in the beginning, but throw them away as soon as they start to feel like straight jackets. Then you can begin to “play jazz, ” and amazing alchemy will happen. Do what feels right, right in that very moment and you will not only amaze yourself but also interact with others in ways you couldn’t really plan.