Five Benefits of Improv for Sales

I had the pleasure of working with a fantastic lady, Gina Trimarco Cligrow, on how to ‘improv’ your way into great conversations with your clients. Gina’s been so kind as to be a guest writer on my website this week.


By Gina Trimarco Cligrow, Carolina Improv Company, Gina & Company Coaching & Consulting

GinaCroppedSo, you want to make more money? Simple – improvise your way to more money.  Yes, it’s that simple. We improvise every day, so saying you can’t do it or don’t know how isn’t an option. In the improv comedy world I hear this all the time, “I could never do that. I’m not that fast on my feet.”  You CAN do (improvise) it and to master anything takes practice.  There are no scripts in improvised comedy, theater, jazz, dance or LIFE.  Even at our jobs the best sales script becomes moot when a prospect throws you an unexpected objection or challenge.

And this very moment as you read this, many of you see this “improv” word and are probably thinking of comedy, specifically stand-up comedy, and are not aware of the major benefits one can acquire from practicing improv skills. And yes, I said “practicing improvising” – seems a bit of an oxymoron I know, but just go with me on this. EVERYBODY can get on the “stage” of business and perform. Improvising requires a strong muscle – the brain. When we exercise the brain muscle we improve our skills to think quickly, listen better and be more creative. It takes practice and the pursuit of mastery and is attainable to all.

One of the most important benefits of strong improv skills is the ability to create relationships. If you want to make more money you need to create, nurture and maintain authentic relationships.  Every single relationship in your life is worth money, as blunt as that may sound. When you switch your mindset from “speaking and selling” to “making friends”, everything related to selling gets so much easier. Ultimately you’ll begin to hear more “yes” than “no” from prospects and clients because people like to do business with people they like and trust as experts and who do we like and trust more than our own “friends”?

There are some fundamental and instrumental outcomes we get from our improv skills. Here are the top five ways to use improv to build trusting and profitable relationships that will enable you to C.L.O.S.E™ the sale and make more money:

Connect through Commonality

Have you ever met someone and just it off immediately? Any idea why? There was something that triggered that connection and rapport. Maybe it was there nationality, origin of birth, hobby, marital status, etc. To find commonality you need to be observant of everything in your interactions and sales conversations with people and you need to ask questions.  We use our ability to improvise to be inquisitive enough to gather information that we can relate back. Mirroring is another way we connect – you probably don’t even realize that you’re doing it. There are many ways to mirror others that make them feel comfortable with and connected to us. For example, mirroring the cadence and volume of their voice or the way they sit or stand. We also focus on making others look good in the improv world – when we make others look good on the comedy stage or life stage we automatically look and this simple act builds trust quickly. Again, all of these things take some practice to be more conscientious and selfless.

 Listen Actively

Let me start with saying this quite simply … want to make more money?  Yes? Then SHUT UP and listen! Active listening is THE most important ingredient to building any kind of relationship and ultimately building sales. On the improv stage we refer to this as “hearing offers”. How perfect is that in the sales world?! We can’t make others look good if we don’t listen to their offers and needs. In today’s world we are all so busy doing as much as we can to succeed that we often don’t listen 100% of the time. Even as some of you read this at this very moment, you’re thinking about other things at the same time – you’re not 100% with me. Don’t feel bad, the majority of us suffer from this. If you practice listening skills, such as the popular “yes and” exercise, you will be surprised at how much detail you’re missing in conversations and observations.

 Observe Behavior

“Listening Actively” also pertains to “listening” with your eyes to body language and silence – both speak much louder than words. Only eight percent of human communication is verbal (words) with 92% being non-verbal. Tone of voice, facial expressions and folded arms can tell us much more than a simple, “No, I can’t afford it.”  Someone appearing to be rushed might not be in the right frame of mind to have a sales conversation with. Observing behavior can help you strategize the right approach for each prospect. We can’t have one scripted approach with anyone because everyone is different. And speaking of body language, simple things like making eye contact 100% of the time with someone will quickly build trust. Just think about those networking events when others are talking to you but scanning the room at the same time and not 100% focused on you (or you may even do that yourself).

 Seek Opportunities

After you’ve spent time connecting, listening and observing you should be able to find opportunities to create profitable relationships. Give careful thought about every one of your contacts. If they are not buying now or might not even be a potential client, who else do they know? Who are they connected to? Who could they refer? Could you possibly partner with them? In our “yes and” exercise we practice accepting and making offers that may seem impossible but the focus is to always be open to the possibilities (opportunities) of business. In the world of improv for entertainment anything is possible on stage as long as you’re willing to let it be possible. We can brainstorm big ideas and then narrow them down or adapt them to the situation at hand. And we listen to others’ ideas or objections we merely have to positively accept their stance and add our suggestions or offers back until we can mutually agree on something. Together we collaborate getting to the “yes” in sale!


Putting ourselves in the shoes of others is another great way to build profitable relationships. Understanding where people are coming from or how they’re feeling makes us human, trustworthy and connected. This also goes hand in hand with the improv philosophy of making others look good.  And keep in mind that there’s a fine line between empathy and sympathy – the focus here has to be on empathy. No one wants to be pitied.

I’ll be presenting next week during Jason Reid’s Mojo-Master Lunch Tele-class on September 10th, 2013. It’s a free 30-minute lunchtime tele-class. This month’s topic is: Increase Your Sales Mojo with Improv!

Now go make some friends and C.L.O.S.E™ some sales!

Gina Trimarco Cligrow is owner and founder of Carolina Improv Company and Gina & Company Coaching & Consulting, with 20+ years of experience in sales, marketing, training and operations.