As a rule, a salesperson will start to become more successful as they gravitate away from their script.
That’s not to say scripts have absolutely no merit. For new starters, they can be useful to familiarise yourself with what you’re selling. But any environment that insists on its salespeople robotically following such a template is not getting the best out of them.
The assumption that scripts make is that you can apply a template to human conversation – that all your prospects are identical, or form one big homogenous blob. But I don’t care how talented a writer or salesperson you are: no one can write a script that’s going to speak to every person.
Conversations go in different ways, and the natural human thing to do is respond to things as they arise; it becomes painfully obvious when the person on the other end isn’t doing that.
Of course I’m not suggesting you go in unprepared and make everything up on the spot. But real sales success will only arrive when you are able to take the talking points, facts and figures that underline your script, and deliver them through the prism of your own personality.
Find a way to be yourself. I’ve tried to sell like other people; I’ve heard other people try and sell like me – the results have always been horrid. I’ve never seen a script written that a salesperson could use as effectively as the person who wrote it.
And even you were writing a script just for yourself, it isn’t possible to cover the myriad of ways a conversation could go, the many facets to your personality and different ways you can present yourself depending on who you’re talking to.
Take me for example. I’m quite cheeky, often very silly. But I could never script that, because I’m not that way with everyone. I have to make that judgement during the conversation. And I certainly couldn’t write it for anybody else!
Furthermore one of the best techniques I have in my armoury is the anecdotal approach – ‘oh my colleague was having the very same issue recently’; or, ‘I used to have one of those myself’. I know it works because that’s what works on me when I’m being sold to. But you know what doesn’t work? Putting that in a script!
That’s because a script can render a salesperson unable to react to conversation. The biggest assumption a script makes is that a person will ask a certain question that leads you to the next stage – inevitably, it just doesn’t happen like that.
If they bring up money earlier than anticipated, you’re apparently supposed to ignore their line of questioning and wait until the script says you can talk about it. The worst example I ever heard was from door-to-door window sales, where a salesperson’s commission was dependant on them spending at least three hours with the prospect – even if they closed the sale within 10 minutes because the customer desperately needed the work done!
Instead, the script should be used to extract bullet points and USPs to form the basis of your pitch, and then put it in your own voice. It’s about knowing what the sales process needs to be, and then filling in those blocks yourself.
As for managers who might be averse to this autonomous approach, I’d simply ask why are you afraid of giving people the space to do a good job?
If you’re hiring a builder to work on your conservatory, you’re not going to knock the foundations together yourself. So why would you hire a salesperson and put words in their mouth?
It could well be that death by script is on its way out of the window. The 1950s door-to-door method of introducing yourself and your product, and imposing yourself on the seller, is gone. Today informed buyers have reversed the process – they know what they want, and they want to know who does it best. But a script doesn’t give you flexibility when it comes to the buyers’ level of knowledge – in general, they assume the buyer knows very little.
Likewise the onset of social selling renders the script largely useless. If I’ve got five people in my business who generate business through their own personality and their own brand, how would it make sense to have each one of them say the same thing?
Maybe that is less the case at bigger businesses – where they’re trying to onboard salespeople left, right and centre; where individuality is less of a concern; where giving a script becomes an instant replicable means of providing a sales induction.
But personally I will always see it as shackles around a salesperson. I know that I certainly won’t ever be returning to a script.
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