Scripts…Seriously?

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There are a lot of sales trainers out there who will tell you that sales scripts aren’t just useless – they’re a quick way to alienate a prospect or customer. However, before heading for the circular file, let’s take a look at why traditional sales scripts don’t (or rarely) work as well as a newer (and really effective) ways to use scripts.

Sam the Sales Guy

rvsHere’s a (true) story. A couple decided to visit a local Recreational Vehicle dealer. They were well into their buying decision and met the criteria for a “ready and able” buyer:

  • They had identified a need to purchase an RV as the husband had accepted a new position that required travel. The wife could run her business online and would accompany her husband while they were traveling.
  • They had conducted extensive research and were very knowledgeable as to the features they required, available RV brands and their reputations, manufacturer specifications, had budgeted a price range, and arranged for financing.

When they arrived at the dealership they were promptly received by a charming and friendly receptionist who offered them coffee, let them know she’d have an associate called to the floor immediately, and called their attention to a rack of brochures they could look over while waiting.

So far, so good.

And then Sam drove up, hustled the couple onto his golf cart, fired it up and went right into his scripted spiel. What Sam didn’t know (because he didn’t ask) was the wife was a fellow sales person – which might have been a good thing if Sam had handled himself a bit differently. And it didn’t take a professional sales woman to determine a few things very quickly:

  • Sam was attempting to “sell” them.
  • Sam was using a script.
  • Sam could care less what he sold them, just as long as he sold them something.

Needless to say, Sam did not make the sale.

A Whole New Ballgame

the dealershipThe story of Sam the Sales Guy might seem to validate the notion that sales scripts should be scrapped. But is really doesn’t. Saying that scripts are useless is akin to saying we don’t need to learn our ABC’s in order to learn how to read and write now that we’ve got computers. What the Sad Story of Sam does illustrate is using traditional sales scripts that follow outdated methodology usually don’t work.

Technology didn’t just change how marketing messages were delivered; they changed the very nature of the marketing messages delivered to prospects and customers. In large part this was due to the fact that the Internet allowed customers to easily access and conduct increasingly extensive research, express their own opinions as to products and services, review the opinions of others, as well as choose when and where they received marketing messages.

Which made it (and will continue to make it) a whole new ballgame.

Navigating a Path to Purchase

Traditional Old School Scripts actually had the same goal as today’s New School Content and Digital marketing: Navigate a path to purchase. And we can still employ scripts to assist us in that voyage.

Scripts are especially useful for small business owners (and their employees) who have little or no experience “selling.” For example, if you’ve never sold anything and you need to pick up the phone to follow up on a lead from your website, having practiced what you’re going to say a few thousand times (OK – maybe not that many times, but a lot) will come in quite handy when it comes time for you to speak.

More traditional scripts were meant to be followed “to the letter.” We all know that doing so can sound forced and unnatural – certainly not the kind of conversation that leads to a prospect or customer coming to believe they can trust your business to the extent they’re willing to open their wallet.

Many of the best actors are known for their improvising skills where, instead of speaking their exact lines, they change them for the purpose of making it easier for the audience to do something known as “suspend their disbelief” and actually believe this isn’t an actor speaking lines on a stage or movie set, but a real person, responding to real people, in a real situation.

Many people think improvising means actors are “making up” their parts in the play. Not so. Those actors first “learned their part to the letter” before attempting to improvise. Even at the famous “Improv” theaters actors are provided with scenarios.

When engaged in sales activities we can use these same techniques. Scripts can be practiced “to the letter” until we’re comfortable enough to improvise. We can practice for the “real thing” by using scripted scenarios (such as a middle-aged couple visiting an RV dealership.)

Creating scripts and practicing scenarios won’t work when the goal is to “trick” or “manipulate” a sale. It isn’t enough to act the part. Instead, like a skilled actor, practicing scripts and scenarios help prepare you to “make it real” when taking the stage in a sales situation.

Last modified: February 27, 2013
Annie Kile


This story is part of our Small Business Corner, a peek into the life and trials of small business owners.

Category: Insider's perspective, marketing, MPR Authored, sales, Small Business, Small Business Corner, small business owners, tips

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