ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Lesson For Sales People - Some Techniques I Learned From The Theatre

Updated on September 9, 2014

Perfecting Your Craft

How would you like to hear about a few simple techniques that could help you close more deals?

I trust that you, like me, recognize that there are talented sales people out there. However let us remember that selling is, first and foremost, a skill. Once you decide to acknowledge that selling is a skill you must also then acknowledge that a skill can be learned and consequently developed.

Once again the lessons and skill sets that are learned and developed by sales people the world over will inevitably be transferable into any and all aspects of human interaction and communication.

With practice you too can become as skillful as the "talented" salesperson.

And that leads us to a great and powerful skill that I believe is often overlooked in the world of selling. Keep in mind, that we're all in the world of selling. If you'd like to look more into that concept, see my Hub called "Some Wisdom for Sales People - This Means You"

Now that we've recognized selling as a skill, we can then delve into perfecting the craft. "Perfecting your craft" is a term I first heard in the theatre. I studied acting in High School and College and then at an Acting School for several years.

Now some people partake in community theatre because it's fun and a nice way to socialize and get out. That wasn't me. I took it very seriously and quickly became almost obsessed with the craft and skill of acting. It was something that excited me greatly, yet my lack of self esteem at that time told me I wasn't any good. No problem, because I recognized that acting, like selling, like carpentry, like driving, was a skill that could be learned.

Once you choose to study and perfect a craft your outlook changes dramatically and you start to see many new and exciting possibilities. So it is for the sales person who commits to understanding and perfecting the craft of selling. It is with this in mind that I would like to share with you a skill and piece of wisdom I learned in the study of the craft of acting that will help you, the salesperson take your craft of selling to the next level.

Work off the Other Person

"Work off the other person" was feed back I heard more than once in the group acting class I went to in North Hollywood, CA. "Use what exists" was also a common critique and prompt. More often than not, if you heard one of these, the other one was right around the corner.

For the actor in the scene of a play or on camera, it is very important to work off what your partner is doing. How are they behaving? What is their emotion? For example, what if the line is "Oh boy are you gonna get it" Now if it is said with anger, there will be one reaction, but if it is said with a sultry little snicker, there's not only going to be a different reaction but a whole different meaning all together.

When you're acting, it's a good idea to recognize and react based on the behavior of the person you are playing opposite. When you combine that with how you feel about what's happening in the moment of the scene, you have a solid formula for a successful scene.

There's more to the equation of solid and successful acting, but I want to focus on this concept of working off the other person. When you watch this scene from "On The Waterfront" notice how Brando really pays attention to what Steiger is doing. Steiger's behavior determines Brando's reaction and vise-versa. Each actor "works" off what the other actor is "giving" them. They both are "in the moment" meaning they are present in the scene. They are not thinking about their next line or what they need to do later, but they are in the here and now "using what exists" and behaving accordingly.

Work off the other person
Work off the other person
Use what exists
Use what exists
Stay in the moment
Stay in the moment

Now What Does All This Have To Do With Sales?

So there are three themes I'm discussing here:

  1. Work off the other person
  2. Use What exists
  3. Stay in the moment

These 3 acting ques can go a long way for a person in the business of persuasion. So let's take a look at each one individually. From there we'll talk about putting it all together and wrap it up with a feeling of empowerment. Amateurs and professionals alike will have something to gain here.

1. Work off the other person: OK, you're a sales person. Your prospect is going to behave in a certain way. If your prospect responds positively to you, respond in kind. Generating momentum based on the other person. Pay attention to how your buyer is behaving. What is their behavior telling you about their mood, their attitude towards you? How do they feel about your product? What are they telling you? Not only verbally but physically? Are their arms crossed? What does that mean? Is their head cocked to one side like a dog? What does that tell you? What little ques are you getting?

A client in a good mood who is responding positively to you is easy to work with. It puts you at ease to move the process along and into an easy close. But what if their response is not so grand? I've been selling cars for 8 years now. Believe me when I tell you, not everyone's going to respond to you positively.

When that happens, you still "work off the other person." However, once you recognize the negativity, the first thing you must ask yourself is this:

What does this have to do with me?

When faced with a negative attitude from your buyer, as quickly as you can, ask yourself that question. If you just met this person and their treating you like you're some kind of jerk (and assuming you're not behaving like some kind of jerk) then clearly the prospect is reacting from a past experience while they are here in the present. It has nothing to do with you ! I'd say don't take it personally, but that's impossible. It's also a cliché that doesn't work. How can you not take it personally when someone's treating you like crap? So yes, take it personally. In fact, take it so personally that you actually empathize with them and find a deep desire to help this person through what must be for them, a difficult task at hand.

In my line of work, Automotive Sales, there have been more than a few bad apples that make it very difficult for some people to leave their past experiences behind and start this particular car buying experience fresh. We humans have this thing called ego which can flare up in defense of our self; asking the question, "What gives you the right to talk to me like that?" Well the reality is, most likely, your buyer isn't talking to you like that. They are talking to the scumbag they dealt with last time who wouldn't give them a straight answer and didn't show any genuine interest in helping them through the process.

At times I have had great success with this. Empathy, true empathy, can get you in to a place where you can build and establish rapport. I have also failed miserably at this and my ego has most definitely cost me a few bucks along the way.

That being said, when you can identify the emotion and behavior coming from your buyer, you are one step closer to putting yourself and the buyer in a safe and comfortable place for them to make a decision to buy and take action.

2. Use what exists. Using what exists is an expansion of working off the other person. If they're happy, use that. If they're not so happy, use that too. If your customer's in a bad mood, how successful do you think you're going to be by trying to bulldoze them with the happy go lucky approach? Instead, listen to him, hear what he's saying and then respond based on the feedback he's giving you. Do so with a smile...

Customer: "I don't have a lot of time, I just want your best price!"

You: "I understand you don't have a lot of time sir, so let's use the next few minutes to figure out exactly what features are important to you so I can price this out accurately."

Customer: "Well, I need to make sure it has a whatca-ma-call-it."

You: "No problem at all. Hey, just curious, why is a whatca-ma-call-it important to you?"

Customer: "I need a whatcha-ma-call-it because..."

And now you're talking. As you'll remember from "Some Wisdom for Salespeople ", selling is a conversation. Power comes from the words you use.

When you use what is right there in front of you, many times an objection or condition magically disappears. What does your customer mean when they say I don't have a lot of time? Believe me, they will find the time when they realize you're all about them and not all about you. Combine working off the other person with using what exists to help you identify what's really going on and then respond accordingly.

3. Stay in the moment. Being in the moment can mean a few things. Most importantly it means acting, reacting and living in this present moment. Just because it went down bad last time doesn't mean it has to go down bad again. Each moment, each sales call is a unique experience and opportunity. Work very hard at not allowing a negative past experience to dictate how this new, fresh situation is going to play out.

People in sales are constantly worried about wasting their time. Ironically this can result in a lot of wasted time. Selling successfully requires a process. Basically, there's a greeting, then you try to determine the buyers needs, from there you present and demo, then close and deliver. So being in the moment means committing to your process and staying in it regardless of any outside influence. And regardless of any inside influence too. In fear of wasting time, we sales people will take short cuts and try to second guess who's a buyer and who's not. How the heck do we truly know? You don't. Commit to each client regardless of how they look, how they behave or what they say.

So when the inner voice (read ego) starts to tell you you got nothing here, it's time to stop and sell yourself real quick. Acknowledge your objection (which is really a complaint) recognize where you're at in the process and then re-commit to moving forward one more step. What step are you in right now? How do you get to the next one? Stay in the moment you are in and work towards getting to the next moment. Don't start closing at hello. Gentlemen, when you meet a girl at a bar, do you immediately ask her to get into bed with you? Of course not. Same thing for sales. Be present, in the moment you are in. Work from there.

That's A Wrap!

Now putting this all together; by being present in this moment and no other; and by working off the other person, you take the attention off of yourself and the little voice in your head that may mean well by trying to save you time, but it may also very well be costing you money.

What specific situations have you experienced in your recent past where you could have faired better had you acknowledged and worked with your prospect's behavior? How could you have moved to the next step by simply staying in the present moment? What if you used what was there to help you? How many times have you neglected to empathize with your client?

When you listen to your client, when you observe their behavior and their body language, when you use what exists and when you stay present here in this moment you will find yourself empowered and in a much better position to guide the process along and into the close.

So many times as sales people we try to force an outcome when we very well might fair better by allowing the close to unfold naturally. By that I DO NOT mean to not go for the close. For God's sake GO FOR THE CLOSE every time. But you need to work off your buyer. They're constantly giving you valuable tools and feed back that can help you move the process along. Have you ever closed a deal that just flowed? Where you didn't think, you just went with it? Isn't it a thing of beauty? That perfect feeling of win/win?

Successful selling requires that the sales professional becomes signifacantly more flexible than the buyer. You can do this by following these "acting ques" and incorporating it into your sales process and cycle.

Now do you know what the best part of all this is? These techniques will also come in handy when you need to get a raise, a job, a loan, or even something as simple as what restaurant you want to go to.

Coffee Talk!

So, what do you think?  Sales people from all walks of life, chime in!  Was this helpful to you?  Did you learn something new?  Do you have a question?  Did I miss something?  Let's talk shop!  Leave a comment below...

Let me know what you think!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Jarrod 6 years ago

      Good stuff David! Very well written and insightful! We were just speaking the other day about how selling and acting shared more in common than people realize.

    • David R Bradley profile image

      David R Bradley 6 years ago from The Active Side of Infinity

      Thanks for chiming in Jarrod. A lot of those theatre skills really helped me stay afloat in the beginning and still help me out on a daily basis.

    • vrbmft profile image

      Vernon Bradley 4 years ago from Yucaipa, California

      Love this hub, Dave

      Enjoy how you weave you life experiences together into a fabric of knowledge and skill that you carry with you everywhere you go.

      Oh, how I enjoy hanging out with successful people like you.


    • profile image

      marco 3 years ago

      Great stuff David. I shall plan to share this with my salespeople.

    • David R Bradley profile image

      David R Bradley 3 years ago from The Active Side of Infinity

      Thank you Marco!

    • chinaeyes profile image

      Joan Locel Lugod 24 months ago from Philippines

      Really enjoyed reading this!

      I'm just starting out my sales person career and I am constantly looking for things to read to help me be good at it. Will surely practice these and see what happens :)

      Thanks for the great entry!

    • David R Bradley profile image

      David R Bradley 23 months ago from The Active Side of Infinity

      @chinaeyes, feel free to email at if I can help further

    How DO you get to Carnegie Hall?

    A marker881 7th Ave New York, NY 10019 -
    881 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10019, USA
    get directions

    Click to Rate This Article