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Posted: February 25, 2015

Best of CoBiz: Five quick acting lessons for sales pros

Play the part, and close the deal

Julie Hansen

Unless they're Brad Pitt or Meryl Streep, most actors must audition for every role they get. When competing against hundreds of other actors, they have to find ways to quickly stand out and convince the casting director that they are right for the part. As salespeople, you are also on an audition of sorts and need to quickly convince the prospect or customer that you are right for the sale.

Against often staggering odds, how do successful actors land the part? What is their secret? Here are five quick acting lessons from my new book, ACT Like a Sales Pro, that will help you land the sale!

1. Make strong choices to reach your goal
Would you watch a movie about a character that "hopes" or half-heartedly "tries" to reach his goal? Probably not. According to Robert DeNiro, "The talent is in the choices." Good actors like DeNiro make strong choices. ("You talkin' to me?") Sellers too should find strong active words that motivate them to take action. Instead of wanting to make a sale, how about fighting for it? Try proving a point as opposed to just making one. Strong active verbs will keep you focused on and committed to your goal.

2. Raise the stakes to uncover prospect urgency
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. This is a classic example of raising the stakes in Hollywood. You can use this same model for uncovering the urgency within a prospect by connecting emotional triggers to potential outcomes.

3. Use unpredictability to get your calls taken
Lady Gaga wearing a meat suit. Lady Gaga arriving in a giant egg. What will Lady Gaga do next? Who knows?! But you can bet the world will tune in to see! Most salespeople end up doing the same thing in the same way. You don't have to be one of them. Unpredictability will get your calls taken and get you in the door. Do something new. Do something old in a new way. Meat suit? Probably not, but you get the idea...

4. Welcome obstacles to move the sale forward
Obstacles are a necessary part of drama. They keep the audience engaged and the action moving forward. According to one sales study, prospects that buy have 58 percent more objections than those that don't. I would much prefer to have a prospect throw out 20 obstacles than one "I don't care." Reframing obstacles as an important step toward moving the sale forward arms you with a winning attitude and leads you to discover an arsenal of actions to overcome potential obstacles.

5. Use your mistakes to keep prospects engaged
When a professional 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. Similarly, if you forget part of your presentation or have technical difficulties, don't make a big deal out of it. If it doesn't affect your basic message or intention, there's no need to draw attention to it. If you can incorporate it into your presentation to reinforce a point or make a new one, even better. Spontaneity can spice things up and add for some interesting impromptu moments. Remember to use it or lose it and keep your prospect engaged.

Julie Hansen helps sales and business executives differentiate their solution and deliver winning presentations by leveraging proven performance skills from film, stage and improv.  The founder of Performance Sales and Training, Julie’s techniques have been adopted by Fortune 500 companies across the globe, including IBM, Oracle, SAP and local Colorado companies to gain a competitive selling edge.  Julie is an international speaker, sales trainer and the author of ACT Like a Sales Pro!  Learn more about workshops and keynotes at, start a sales conversation at  or connect with Julie on LinkedIn.

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Readers Respond

Morning Julie, #3 is right on target. When you do something different than everyone else, your chance to get to the next step is infinitely higher. Keep saying the same thing and expecting different results is sales insanity. Thanks for always sharing your insight and expertise. By liz wendling on 2011 10 03

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