Do you have a problem being authentic with your prospects? If the answer is yes, sales improv is the word!
In this episode of INSIDE Inside Sales, Darryl teams up with Gina Trimarco, a rockstar Master Sales Trainer at Sales Gravy, podcaster, improviser, and the Oprah of Outbound, to teach you how to bring the power of improv into your sales process.
The two of them will explain why going off the script is actually the willingness to fail, what it means to let go of your ego, and how this can completely transform your sales mindset for the better. Subscribe now and unleash your authentic inner salesperson.
Darryl: Good afternoon, good morning, good evening, no matter where you are folks. I'm here and I'm talking to you and I'm excited and I'm thrilled and I'm pumped. I'm having an okay week. Now, I had an awful sleep last night. Did you guys ever have an awful sleep? You go to bed and life is grand. You're thinking, I'm chill, I'm tired, I'm relaxed, I'm mellow. I'm feeling like this is going to be an epic sleep. Then, you get into the sleep and you have the stupidest, stupidest dreams. I think last night I had a dream. I don't know if I've ever shared dreams before on the Inside Inside Sales podcast where the actual, I don't know, watching TV and the characters in the TV were coming out at me and trying to kill me. I'm pretty sure it's what it was. Then, I was retaliating, throwing stuff at the TV and, I don't know, shooting them, who the hell knows. It was weird. I'm in my dream, semi- awake, semi- half in, half out state where you know what's going on. And you're like, this is exhausting. Why am I doing this? Then, you keep on doing it and I was trying to find places to duck and hide. I'm like, this is nuts. Then finally, eventually you wake up and you go, okay, enough of that. What the hell? What am I processing that this is going on? That's true. It's funny because it goes back to a bit of a... I think it's a creative mind. I don't know, maybe in an imagination or maybe I just OD too much on digital crap, who knows? But it did get me thinking a little bit about the whole idea of creativity and theatrics and improv. When I was in high school, true story, I was in this play and I was a character. I wasn't the character. I was maybe in the kind of like the supporting actor, let's call it that. I remember we had done all this rehearsals and everything else. Then, eventually we went to the local schools and performed for all the schools. There was this scene where I was clearly guilty of something. I had done something and the main character stumbles across the consequences of what I had done and is trying to figure out who did this. I'm off to the side of the stage and I'm fanning myself because I'm getting nervous. The more the main character gets into in figuring out what's going on and trying to really understand this. I'm fanning myself faster and faster and faster. The audience was eating it up. They were laughing and the faster I fan, the louder they laugh, and I'm feeling really good. We had a great show. When we're done the show, they were regrouping backstage and get ready to leave and go back home, and our drama teacher's instructing us on how that went. The debrief. The post- sales call debrief, if you will. She chastised me and I was not happy. Because I thought I rocked it. She said that I took away from the star. I became the star. Now that I'm 53 years old, I'm clearly not over it and still bitter about this little chastisement. So screw you to my former drama teacher. But it's an interesting conversation. Do you use improv? Do you have that creative element? Do you use it right? Because some could say," Perhaps I wasn't you using it." I was definitely improvising though. That was not scripted. What I learned over the years, people have come to me and they watch some of my videos and they'll say," Darryl, how many takes does it take you to do that?" I said," Usually, not always but usually one take." They're like," You can do that?" I'm like," It's improv." People don't want to watch something that's scripted and contrived. They want to see you stumble. They want to laugh with you. What you're really doing is you're exuding authenticity and that opens up the lines for relationship and for trust. I bring in a lot of improv to my sales calls, to my videos, to my social content, and it served me quite well, and it really allows me to disarm the prospect. Then, we can actually have some harsh conversations because trust is already there, and we can do that really fast. It's remarkable the power of improv. I realized I'd never talked about this before ever. So I thought to myself, we need to get a sales rockstar who understands improv and can teach us how to bring it into our sales process. That's what I was thinking. I couldn't find anybody and I got really desperate and sort of looking around and I thought," Who is lame enough to come on the show and pretend to have any talent whatsoever?" Then, I remembered easily: It's Gina Trimarco. Now, if you don't know, Gina, let me tell you that she's pretty crazy. She's a trainer, podcaster, improviser, master sales trainer slash rockstar, emphasis on rockstar at Sales Gravy. You would know Sales Gravy, of course, because it's led and founded by Jeb Blount. She's really, really cool. She's even founded her own improv company. Today, Gina's going to make us really smart and when we're said and done, I'm confident that we will all be able to do better than Elon Musk recently did on Saturday Night Live. Gina, welcome to the show, my friend.
Gina: Oh, my gosh. Thank you so much. What a great introduction.
Darryl: Well, I thought, what would Jeb want? That's what I was going to do. I got to ask you a question. What's the one thing that Jeb loves about you and what's the one thing that Jeb finds frustrating about you?
Gina: Oh, gosh, let's see. The one thing that he loves about me is that I'm fun. Actually, there's a tie between fun and the fact that I can bother him, pester him, and annoy him more than most people. I think he loves that part and he hates that part about me at the same time. What does he not like about me? Hmm, that's a good question. When I don't get the big projects then that he has asked me to do, and then he tells me I failed.
Darryl: Well, we're all guilty.
Gina: I'm going to guess. I'm going to guess.
Darryl: We're all guilty of that. I understand. Now, for those who don't know, let's get this out of the way upfront. Of course, Jeb, one of the original founders of Outbound Conference and Gina, you know it's just around the corner. Is there any chance at all that you might be speaking at the Outbound Conference?
Gina: There is a really good chance I will be speaking.
Gina: Of course. Jeb has actually dubbed me the Oprah of Outbound. There's two ways to see me an Outbound: on the main stage with my co- host Rachel Pits, my co- host from The Women Your Mother Warned You About", we will be live streaming for two days over lunchtime; and then I've got my own session called Spontaneous Selling.
Darryl: Now, does Victor Antonia know that you're going to be doing this live streaming at lunchtime? Because he's doing, if I recall, The Daily Debriefs around seven at night and I'm feeling like there might be some tension here between two you rockstar hosts.
Gina: I think Victor likes me. I actually got to meet him in person last week at the Sales Gravy office so I think we're going to be fine. I'm actually working with Bernadette down in Australia. She is the Oprah of down under. Victor doesn't know this yet. We're going to, Bernadette and I are trying to work out this handing off of the microphone somehow from in- person to virtual and Victor will be fine. He'll be fine.
Darryl: I love it. Folks who don't know Bernadette, Bernadette McClelland in Australia. She is bigger than life. Wonderful accent. Also, a past guest of the Inside Inside Sales show.
Gina: Also into improv by the way.
Darryl: I did not know that. Now, are you going to do any improv at the Outbound Conference? I'm curious.
Gina: In my breakout session in spontaneous selling.
Darryl: What's your breakout session about? Plug it, baby.
Gina: Spontaneous selling. It's about using improv in sales, in discovery, and objections. How do you use improv to do that?
Darryl: Folks, this is all taking place at outboundconference. com. There's two ways you can do it. You can go online and virtual or you can go live and in- person. Pick whatever way you want, but you should check out, of course, our good friend, Gina Trimarco. But you're going to get a preview of it today. Gina, let's get into it. Talk to me about using improv in sales. Why? You're the expert here. You founded a fricking company. You're doing a session on it. You're one of the hosts. This is your wheelhouse. If I'm listening and I'm going," I don't do improv. I am Miss, Mister Control. I've got a pre- call planner. Everything is structured. This is how I roll. I follow my process. There's no room for improv. Talk to me. Am I doing it wrong? Why should I do improv? And are you drunk?" That's what I really want to know.
Gina: Are you asking me if you're drunk or are you asking me if I'm drunk?
Darryl: I don't know. I've been drinking too much to know which way I'm asking.
Gina: All right, so I just want to jump into two things. I want to do something a little bit different, which is not different for me, but going off the script for a second, if you don't mind. Because when you started talking about this, you talked about two things. You talked about this time, this theatrical time for you, where basically the note I wrote was you were stealing the light.
Darryl: I was.
Gina: You're stealing the stage. You were upstaging the scenario. Then, you talked about how you can do things in one take. There are two very specific things there that are very improv related. Even though if you know this because it's embedded in us, the stealing of the light, I could completely relate to that because in some of my theatrical upbringings that were not improv related, I could sense in the small roles I was given that if I played them big I would steal the light accidentally. How do we play big? We can sense people's reactions. When we're getting positive reaction, we have a tendency to do more of what we just did. It's a very innate skill to do that and children are really good at that. We have this natural reaction to be like," Ooh, they like that. I'm going to do it bigger. I'm going to do it bigger. I'm going to do it bigger." Which can be very annoying in the theatrical world, because you could turn a really small part into a really big part because you were listening, and this is going to tie into emotional intelligence that we're going to talk about in a second. Then, the one- take. Being able to do things in one take is about having a willingness to fail. When you have the confidence that it's okay if I screw this up, because I can be authentically 100% myself, I can do this in one take, and I'm going to have some things that are wrong in that take, and it's okay, that's how you're able to do that one take. Does that make sense?
Darryl: No, it's true. I get asked often for advice for sales reps or even marketers. Literally, then, the top two or three things I say is give yourself permission to fail and trust me, just get over yourself, get over your ego, get over your vanity. When you fail, just laugh at yourself and away you go.
Darryl: People just connect with that. They think they will fall. It's ironic, as a sales leader or a marketing leader, people will follow me when they see me fail. That's the whole juxtaposition that people don't understand.
Gina: It's crazy. People love it because they relate to it. When we're talking about sales, we're talking about relatability and connection, and that's how you build trust is through the relatability. Even in this piece, when I said," Hey, I'm going to go off script for a second and talk about stealing the light and the one take." What I was doing during your introduction is I was really, really listening to you and I was taking notes so that I could come back and call those things back and make reference to it. Maybe deep down inside, you had a moment of," Oh my gosh, she was listening to me because she just called those stories back." Did you feel that?
Darryl: I do. And the irony, English not good, the irony of this whole situation is I do the same thing. Right now on my screen as we're recording this, I have half of my screen is our video connection and the other half of the screen is my note taking app, and I'm taking notes around points that you're making so that I can go back and reference something you say, I want to explore it further, or I can recap for the audience the key takeaways. That's just what I've always done. And you're right, people feel listened to, they feel heard.
Gina: Right. Now, we're going to segue into the first point I actually had that was kind of on my script, is the emotional intelligence piece. This became extremely obvious to me, actually, Sales EQ, one of Jeb's books, years ago I was reading it and I was very much into emotional intelligence and how we use it in improv, and it started to make so much sense how we could do that in sales. Because when I owned my theater, which I owned for 11 years before the pandemic wiped it out, I started attracting all of these timeshare sales people to our classes. They were just regular classes. Anybody could sign up for. All these timeshare, it was like the Pied Piper. One took it and then the next took it, and they started coming back to me saying," Hey, we're making so much more money because taking improv." I couldn't really wrap my head around it right away, because I had been using improv from a corporate training perspective in the area of leadership. Because when we look at leadership, we can really use improv in so many different ways, but in leadership, we can improve emotional intelligence. I mean, we really, it doesn't have to be leadership. It could be anything. We can improve emotional intelligence through improv because when you look at emotional intelligence, we know what it is. It's about the ability to be very self- aware of our own emotions and our own triggers so that we can manage those. Being aware of the emotions of others, can't really manage the emotions of others but you can help steer them into the right direction, especially in the selling and the buying process. So we know what emotional intelligence is. Yay! How do we improve it? A lot of times that's not talked about. How do we improve our ability to be self- aware and aware of others? In order for improvisers to perform really well on stage as entertainers, they have to put the other performer first. Meaning, the number one rule in improv is to make the other person look good. As a matter of fact, it's about making everybody look good. When you focus on making other people look good and paying attention to them, you automatically look good. Then, you pull people into you because they start to trust you, because they feel like you care about them. This became really obvious to me that we can become more emotionally intelligent if we exercise our brain through improv.
Darryl: Help me understand then, for those timeshare, and blinking in their timeshare sales reps, what element of the improv was working well for them? Was it they were just establishing through the EQs aspect, a connection, a bond with the prospective consumer and therefore they were able to get over objections or what?
Gina: They weren't even aware of the EQ component. They're not even aware of that piece of it. What we do in improv and in emotion intelligence is number two, we talk about making everybody look good. How do we make others look good? We spend more time listening than talking so when we get into this place of really listening and hearing what someone else says, that's where the trust begins. This is not rocket science. This is not something new. All I'm doing is telling you what that looks like on stage. But how do we transfer that into the sales arena. On stage, for us to perform, we have to listen to what the audience gives us, because we don't have a script. We have framework. We don't have a script. When the audience gives us something and we listened to them, we listen to them to take their suggestion. We validate them by taking their suggestion. Then, we try to take it in another direction because maybe it wasn't the best suggestion. You think about objections and out of that, objection, what do I do with that? But you still validate them to build something. This is what the timeshare sales people were seeing. They were seeing that they were learning how to shut up and give more space to listening. They started to notice that those people that they were selling to started to lean in more. Because we lean in the silence. Going back to the stage, when we on stage get a suggestion that we don't know what to do with, so think about any kind of sales situation, you have been given an objection, you don't know what to deal with, and you can go through fight or flight or freeze. You don't know what to do with it. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, is to just shut up, sit on it, think about it. Because what happens in that moment of silence is the person on the other end, physically leans in. I've seen it a million times from the stage looking at an audience that when me and my partner on stage don't know what to do next, we actually just physically start doing something. In an improv, we call this washing the dishes or sawing a tree. When we start washing the dishes, we actually physically start washing the dishes in silence because eventually the physical movement will evolve into an idea. We're taking away from having to speak and think, and we're just resting into it. That entire time of silence, the audience physically moves in. They lean in because they're like," Am I missing something? Because they're not talking." The longer we go in silence, the more captivated they become.
Darryl: Well, I'm assuming there's an anticipation like," Oh, they're silent." It's a nonverbal cue. That something interesting is about to happen whether I hear or see, watch. I want to lean in because I don't want to miss it.
Gina: Exactly. You don't want to miss it. Could you imagine if we were in that mindset in every sales conversation that the buyer had the attitude of" I don't want to miss it."
Darryl: I'm sorry. That long pause has me going," Wait a minute. The buyer would not want to miss something?" That just seems so antithetical to what the nature of sales is. It's almost, how do I describe this eloquently, it can be an adversarial, combative, even if it's not verbally stated vibe and exchange. Yet, what I'm really hearing you saying is you're using improv and emotional IQ to disarm them and engage them, which is completely crazy.
Gina: Right. Emotionally disarm them and engage them and engage them tenfold; meaning, engage them to the point where they want more from you. I love the deals that I close where I never talk money and after a conversation, the prospect says," Okay, how do we get started?" That is my favorite moment in the world. I always just slightly giggle and say," Awesome. I can tell you how to get started. You want to talk money? You want to talk the elephant in the room before we do that?" Once I got them-
Darryl: Which we all know is the best way to just disarm and anticipate those objections you're going to get is by being proactive about it. But now they're actually asking you, so now you've got permission. It's a natural flow. Every person who hates talking money, you should be paying close attention to hear this. The beauty is you can hit pause. You can go back 15, 30, 60 seconds, whatever the app player lets you do and watch Gina say this over and over again. Just tune me out. I'm ugly. All right? Because remember what she said? It's about making other people look good. Right now I'm saying that to make her look good. Is that working? You tell me.
Darryl: There we go. You see what I did there? I subtly told you that I was listening by referencing what you said. Help me understand that. Let's actually drill down a bit on that. You said," Make other people look good." Is it just by listening to them we make other people look good? For example, a classic sales cycle, it could be me and my sales solution engineer. There's two of us, that now there's two characters on this side of the stage. Then, there could be the prospect and maybe a couple of other people from the buying committee, different roles. Is there a trick to making other people look good using improv skills? Or is it simply being courteous, respectful, and active listening?
Gina: It's active listening, number one. It's being in the mindset about the other person. This is the making them look good. If I'm thinking about putting that person first and making them look good and so there's a variety of ways. Because we have a variety of stakeholders with this. I want to make my prospect and clients look good especially because when they make a buying decision, there's oftentimes fear of making the wrong decision. I want to make sure that they feel 100% comfortable with the decision that they're making. Even in the sales process. I just actually left a client that I work with locally that I do training for, but I do a continuous leadership coaching with them in paying attention in the process. Meaning we could get through a training process. Let's just say, they've got a six week training program with me. Halfway through the program, I check in and say," Hey, how are we doing so far? Or do you feel good with this? Do we need to tweak anything? Because here's some things that I'm seeing that we actually might want to refocus." I will change their curriculum midstream because I've identified other things that we need to focus on. I'm always in the mindset of ROI. I want to make sure that my clients are getting the best out of me so I'm continuously checking in. I'm continuously trying to make them look good. I'm continuously thinking," Are they happy with the results?" That's one part of the process is putting them first. It's definitely in the act of listening. It's being willing to bend with them. Sometimes we go and we say," Here's what we want to sell you," and the client pushes back and says," No, this is really what our problem is." Sometimes salespeople are like," No, this is what we're going to sell." Because they don't know how to change what they're selling. Now, we don't always have the empowerment to do that and maybe because I come from an entrepreneurial background and I work in an entrepreneurial culture, I can go back and bend and change things to meet the client's needs because my job is to make them look good. It's being mindful, first of all, mindful of what's best for the client, and active listening, are going to be your two biggest things. Then, being collaborative with solutions and creative, and being able to think outside of the box. I think that was your question. I think those are the answers to your question.
Darryl: Those were the answers. A couple things come to mind when I'm listening to this and I'm reading the notes that I'm writing down for you. You said a couple of really important things there. Be in the mindset of the other person. I find a lot of reps, frankly, suck at this and you nailed it. You said," I'm so into what I want to talk about that I'm not at all understanding what you're about. I have no empathy for you. I have no compassion or understanding of the fear and frustrations and challenges and objectives that you're trying to achieve and how it's affecting your life. It's because it's just about me." It's too many times as a buyer myself, I've told sellers," I'm nothing to you. I'm a transaction. I am a means for you to get your quota." Based on the conversation we're having here, I totally feel like you're going through the motions and you don't care. They're always shocked by that and I was like, people can smell that a long ways away. Bringing that back to the whole idea. You said, be mindful, active listening, that is so hard, which is why, again, apps like Gong or Chorus or Refract or others talk about what's your listen time versus your talk time because there is a direct correlation. But using an improv reference, what I'm really hearing say is you need to adapt to the scene rather than sticking to the script.
Gina: Look at you. It's all about adapting and agility. It's about being in the flow. When we talk about discovery conversations in general, it's important to have your questions. It's important to have the right questions, the right probing questions, the right open- ended questions. It's important to have those questions. But you don't want people to feel like they're being processed or interrogated. How do we get outside of that where it's a free flow and it's fluid? Your discovery should be fluid, and the best way for it to be fluid is that active listening and then building on it. When we build on it, I can ask, I can get my list of questions ready, and maybe only ask two of those questions. I make sure that my most important questions are always asked, which are always around outcomes. But the questions I'm asking are built on the last answer I got. If that makes sense.
Darryl: It makes absolute sense.
Gina: I get an answer and then a question comes, and I guess that's what also comes from making me a good interview on a podcast. My podcasts flow with my partner and I because we're asking a question based on the last thing the person said.
Darryl: It's organic. It's not contrived. It's not like I've got a script to follow, right?
Darryl: That's the thing about a script and improv when they come together. The script, it doesn't even have to be a sales script. You're going to have an improv acting script, if you will. I know improv truly isn't script based, but there's a framework here.
Gina: We have a framework, we have a frame framework.
Darryl: A framework, exactly. But how many times has a really successful improv skit ended up being completely different than what you set it out to be because it went organically in a different direction, which is exactly what you're saying. You're reacting to what's happening in the moment.
Gina: Exactly. That's what happens in a sales conversation. I want to be really clear that, especially in a first time discovery call, maybe your very first call, this is so important, that first call. That first conversation, you can make it or break it there. If you don't build rapport and connection in that first call, you're done for everything else. That is it. You don't have to ask every single question on your list. Build on working the relationship in that first call in making it feel organic and fluid.
Darryl: Everything that Gina has just said here, you don't have to ask every question. You can go off script. You want to listen. You want to be organic and just go with the flow of the questions. Ironically, all of this comes back to actually having confidence in yourself that you actually know what you're doing, and you're going to go with the scene wherever it takes you. Because you can always have a follow on meeting to get those answers you didn't get in this first go round.
Gina: Exactly. Those are the details. And here's the thing. People want to feel like you care about them. They want to feel like you listen. They want to feel like they're important. If you start asking them all these questions about their business, they're going to feel processed and they're going to feel like all you care about is their business. People want to feel like you care about them specifically. Not about Darryl who owns the company or runs the company. They want to know Darrell the guy.
Darryl: That's exactly it. People buy from people. We all know that. Folks, we're out of time.
Darryl: I know. This is Gina Trimarco. She's going to be at the Outbound Conference. However, you can get her lots of places. Go to LinkedIn, she's there. Go to SalesGravy. com. Learn more about her. She's a rock star. She's amazing. She's even on Twitter, but she tells me she doesn't really go to Twitter. But if you want to go to Twitter, it's just GinaTrimarco. Nice and easy. With that, Gina, thank you for your time today. Everybody follow Gina. Better yet, go to the Outbound Conference. You can watch her live or virtual taking place mid- June. You know the drill. By the way, you want a discount code? You go to OutboundConference. com just use vanillasoft100, it'll save you a few shackles and that's not a bad thing. We're out of time, folks. Go practice your improv chops. In the meantime, I'm Darryl Praill and I'm going to go to my next call where I will try hard not to steal the scene. You take care. Reach out to you soon. Bye, bye.