Sales staff may feel confident in the potential of their solution and in their own abilities, yet when it comes to giving demos they can tend to get stage fright. Others feel no sense of stage fright but still lack the energy, creativity and most importantly enthusiasm for telling stories that compelling sales demo strategies so often need.
Luckily for them, there is a group of people so devoted to an idea that it drives everything they do. Their own enthusiasm and dedication often pulls in others, helping them transform their lives and the way they see others as a result. These are the people who inhabit the wonderful world of improv.
Improv techniques can help reps break out of their old mental patterns and treat each sales demo as a unique opportunity rather than a time to rehash the same tired speech patterns. With these benefits in mind, here are 5 of the most critical improvisation techniques they can adopt to reshape the way they approach demos and sales in general:
Always Advance and Expand
The key to well-done improv is it tells a story that resonates emotionally with its audience. Often, this creates belly laughs, but sometimes it can elicit other emotions. Nostalgia, wistfulness, passion, excitement, love, justice, fear, frustration and more can all come out on the improv stage in recognizable ways.
What makes this brand of storytelling work is that it is always pushing forward. “Advance and expand” are two commands of many exercises. They instruct improv participants to either give the audience more through expanding — more details, more character, more environmental qualities to latch onto — or advancing — skipping the boring parts to get to a tidier, more impactful climax.
With demos, you should practice this by having teammates interrupt you with “advance!” or “expand!” while telling a recent story about your life. Feel free to have fun and make up details as you go, but when it comes to a real demo you should always separate lighthearted exaggeration with reality.
Emotions Should Be Felt, Not Described
Emotion plays a big role in storytelling and in sales. We often skirt around these emotions during demos, though, such as saying “isn’t that frustrating?” in a flat tone.
Instead, you should be able to have that emotion on tap. The best way to practice is to stand in front of a mirror and try to embody an emotion with your facial expressions and the tone of your voice. Get really into it, like over the top.
Later, you have that intense emotion as a benchmark, so you can scale it back a bit but still have it represented honestly in your speech and body language.
Develop the Characters in Your Story
Characters are what makes a story work. The best stories — Game of Thrones, the original Star Wars Trilogy, the current U.S. political scene — are all rich with distinctive characters who drive action.
Your own sales demos tell a story about real people. Even if they are not any one specific person, they reflect things we recognize. The boss resistant to change. The customer who is never satisfied. The person who got burned on their last vendor contract decision.
Try and capture the unique voice and environmental factors surrounding each character to show, rather than tell, their story using the same emotional techniques described above.
Always "Yes, and..."
“Yes, and…” is a critical rule of improv. It dictates that every participant must never say no to a suggestion. Instead, they should roll with it and push it forward, either by advancing or expanding.
For sales demos, saying “yes, and…” to questions, interruptions or suggestions from others means you can always stay comfortable, even as you acknowledge that many things are outside your control. Each demo is a story that is unfolding as it happens; let that story flow naturally, and don’t try to stop it when it does.
Feel Comfortable in Your Own Skin, and Invite Opportunity
The biggest connection between improv and demos is that they both demand the performer to commit 100% and sell. When you feel confident and energetic about your ability to respond to changes and still tell an interesting story, you sell yourself. Even if you make a mistake, it can become part of the performance and lead it to new, interesting places.
You can also use other tools in addition to improv techniques to push your sales abilities further. For instance, our free Do Tell! webinar can explain a crucial presentation and demo format that always leaves your audience clamoring for more. Explore these and other useful sales demo strategies by visiting our resources page.