I immediately recognized that he was following a structured sales script, which triggered in my mind the negative “salesperson” stereotype.
I did not want to offend him, so I allowed him to continue with his pitch for a few minutes longer. Then I said, gently, “Hello, Steve.” He was taken aback to the point where he completely ceased speaking. He was at a loss for how to respond to my simple, everyday greeting.
Why? Because he was completely preoccupied with his selling script and not with my response to it.
If you have been selling for a while, you have probably been asked to make cold calls using sales scripts. And even if you believe scripts are unnatural and impersonal, you have almost certainly used them because they were the only way you knew how to initiate contact with prospects.
Perhaps you have even generated revenue through scripts.
However, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.
How do you truly feel when you are working with a script?
How do your prospects react when they discover you are speaking from a script? (And they are aware.)
Most importantly, how many sales are you missing out on as a result of your script usage?
When people contact me to learn how to ditch their scripts and cold call naturally, the first thing I do is ask if they are willing to role-play with me using their script.
When they begin reading their script, several things occur. I hear their voices becoming more resonant, as if they are enthusiastic. Additionally, they speak faster, and their voice acquires a canned, robotic quality. All of these factors contribute to the negative stereotype of the “salesperson.”
After a few moments, I gently interrupt them and inform them that they sound completely different from the person who called and spoke so naturally about their sales issues.
Are you aware of what they constantly say? “Ari, you are entirely correct. When I use a script, I have the impression that I am unable to be myself. I have the sensation of being a robot or an actor, which is extremely awkward and uncomfortable. Is there any way I can reclaim my identity?”
Here are five ways to abandon your linear selling script and rediscover your authentic self:
1. Acknowledge that scripts make you appear to be “scripted.”
Within seconds of beginning your sales script, prospects notice the very subtle shift from your natural voice to your scripted voice. “All right,” you might say, “I will just work on sounding natural.” However, this creates a conflict in and of itself.
The first step is to acknowledge and accept that you cannot “work at” naturalness. You can, however, use your script as a crutch. The concept may appear frightening at first because you have been programmed to believe that you must follow a script in order to make a successful cold call. Without following a linear step-by-step script, it is possible to learn another method of making calls.
2. Begin your cold call with a conversation rather than a one-way pitch.
If you are accustomed to scripts, you are probably shaking your head and wondering, “How in the world am I going to know what to say without one?” You might want to consider why you believe you will be stumped for words, as the reason for that is critical. This means you are focusing your call on what you have to offer — rather than on what matters to the prospect, which you have not discovered yet.
Pitching your solution immediately upon call initiation is one of the most significant issues with linear sales scripts, as it creates sales pressure and causes prospects to react defensively or even with an abrupt, immediate rejection.
Here is another possibility. Create a list of two or three core issues or real problems that your product or service resolves (not benefits or features). Then, take that “problem statement,” as I refer to it, and translate it into plain English for your prospect. Indeed, the language should be so familiar to your prospects (because it is the language they use on a daily basis in their business) that when you begin discussing the issue, they will feel secure in the knowledge that your mental focus is on assisting them in resolving problems, not on closing the sale.
3. Create opportunities rather than insisting on a “yes.”
Selling scripts are linear and step-by-step in nature, allowing you to guide calls in the direction you desire. From a traditional selling perspective, that direction is toward a “yes,” because if you do not receive a “yes” at the start of the cold call, you are not “selling.” However, this is the primary issue with scripts. They provide you with only one path to take.
If you can initiate a conversation that elicits a “What do you mean?” response from your prospect, you will discover that you can explain yourself in a natural way that establishes a two-way dialogue, which enables you to learn what you need to learn by flowing with the conversation, without feeling as though you are getting off track. Developing your problem statement simplifies this process significantly.
4. Tape-record yourself conversing with a friend. After that, tape yourself reading your script.
Have you ever caught yourself reading your script while on the phone with a prospect? Most likely not. That is why the vast majority of people who use scripts believe they sound natural. They have never heard their own voices. However, if you perform this straightforward exercise, you will hear the same kinds of distinctions that I hear when people role-play with me.
We simply want to get to know and communicate with others in our daily personal relationships. However, when we enter sales situations with scripts, we have a specific objective in mind: to close the sale. And because scripts create the perception that this is all we want, the people with whom you speak immediately sense this and raise their guard. Between our hidden agenda and their reaction, communication has no chance of establishing trust. Additionally, because we have been taught for so long that we must control the process, we never consider how scripts prevent us from being flexible in our communication and building trust.
5. Establish a new objective for your calls. Concentrate on initiating rather than controlling the conversation, so prospects feel comfortable sharing the truth about their situation.
Is it frightening to relinquish your use of a script? Consider the following alternative and note how it feels. Begin the conversation with “Hello, perhaps you could assist me for a moment…” The majority of people will respond with something along the lines of “Certainly, how can I assist?” You can say, “I am calling to see if (problem statement)…” This allows the prospect to respond with, “What do you mean?” or “Tell me more.” Following that, the possibilities for your conversation are virtually limitless.
What am I referring to? If you focus on their issues, create a conversation around those issues or issues you believe they are facing, and explain how your solution resolves those issues – all in an environment free of sales pressure – prospects will share their truth with you. They will inform you whether the issue is a priority for them, whether they have the resources necessary to address it, and everything else you need to know.
When you let go of a linear script, you will notice that you are no longer at a loss for words when prospects “deviate” from your sales process and into their buying process. Indeed, that is precisely what you hope they will do, as it indicates that they are telling the truth.
Now that you understand why linear step-by-step scripts contribute to the negative “salesperson” stereotype by preventing you from being yourself, you can begin learning how to engage complete strangers on the phone in ways that feel as natural as calling a friend.
Yes, it is possible, and do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise.