A few weeks ago I took an improv class. Just for the heck of it.
Improv is a form of acting and theater that is about being unscripted and spontaneous.
I’d heard really good reviews of the class which was specifically geared towards improving our sales skills and, as a Life Coach, one of the things I often have my clients do is to go on a “passion quest”: try new things they’re attracted to, or things they love to do but haven’t done in a while, to explore and discover (or re-discover) things they are passionate about – so I decided it would be a fun thing to do for my birthday!
Improv wasn’t a completely new experience for me. In my early high school years, a friend and I would do short (ad lib) skits in front of the whole school. Looking back I don’t know where I got the balls to do that and I wanted to reconnect with that brave young girl inside of me! Anything else I got from the experience would simply be “icing on the cake”.
I had no idea how much I could learn while having so much fun!
While the exercises had us in stitches, they all served a powerful purpose. They are designed to hone your listening skills, mental acuity, communication skills and to connect us powerfully as a group in a short space of time. All of which are useful skills in the sales process… and in life.
One of my favorite exercises was a game called “Yes, and…”. It involved saying a statement to another person. That person says “Yes” then repeats verbatim the statement you made, followed by the word “and”, then adds a new statement which you now need to repeat after your “yes”. You keep going back and forth this way until you decide to stop.
For e.g.: I say “I love your new blue sweater”. My partner says “Yes, you love my new blue sweater, and… It’s raining cats and dogs today”. I then say “Yes, it’s raining cats and dogs today, and… I need to pick up my daughter at school at 3 pm”. My partner then says “yes, you need to pick up your daughter at school at 3 pm, and… I think you are such an amazing mother!”. (And so forth)
This exercise is a powerful one for several reasons:
1- You have to stay fully present and really listen to what the person is saying because you have to repeat it exactly as they said it. This establishes a powerful connection with the other person and they really feel heard.
2- You practice being spontaneous in your reply because as you can’t be thinking about your response while they are speaking (which many times we do instead of actually listening to the other person).
3- You really hone your listening skills and sharpen your short term memory.
So many times we listen to respond (and defend or justify) rather than really listening to what the other person is saying. They may say a word or phrase that “triggers” you and your mind starts making associations that have nothing to with this person, or what’s happening now and you have an emotional reaction. Your mind is now busy thinking about something else and you are no longer fully present to the rest of what the other person is saying. This is where huge misunderstandings and miscommunication can occur.
This exercise is fun and useful in your personal life and your business! Try it with your family, friends and co-workers. It can improve your communication skills and your relationships (and sales conversations) will improve as a result. By the way, even if you think you aren’t in sales, you are. We tend to think of sales as only involving selling products (like getting your friends and neighbors to buy tickets to the PTA fundraiser) or services (getting a new client or contract). However, you sell someone on an experience or idea when you convince a friend to accompany you to a concert, join you for dinner or when you get your teenager to clean their room! (Major score) 🙂
I also highly recommend considering taking an improv class. After all, life is totally unscripted! Even the best made plans sometimes get derailed, so we benefit from honing the skill of improvising and learning to “roll with it”. You can search online to find one in your city and if you are ever in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, check out Gina Trimarco and the Carolina Improv Company. Tell them I sent you!