Seen any good movies lately? If you notice how immersed you were in the action, you’ve just been watching great salespeople. Acting and selling actually have a lot to do with each other. Both involve convincing your audience that you have an important, worthwhile message. Both involve keeping the attention of that audience and holding it throughout your narrative. And both demand that you find the line between being intrepid, curious and assertive—and hammy.

Here are a few acting tips that can make a big difference in your next sales call.

1. One word: Prepare. We all know that forgetting your lines isn’t pretty, either on stage or in the meeting. But acting isn’t simply rote memorization, just as selling isn’t about a clever pitch. Like actors, great salespeople also immerse themselves—in analysis, competitive studies, industry trends, you name it. And believe me: Every moment of research shows in the “performance.”

2. Separate strategies from tactics. Before a scene, actors live in their heads. They have to examine their character’s motives, reactions and behavior. They then have to dig within themselves to find experiences that relate to that character’s emotions.

In selling, too, it’s critical to separate strategies (thinking) from tactics (behavior). You can’t intellectualize your way through a sales call. You have to know what you want to have happen, be ready (through all your prep work) to make it happen, and then—once you’re “on stage”—you have to be present and in the moment with your client.

3. Identify your obstacles, and then move past them. Every play or movie boils down to this: Character, obstacle, change. In effect, that’s a lot like selling. Pretty much every sales call is the “story” of your attempt to get clients to change buying behavior. For your “story” to have a happy ending, clearly, you must supply the solution (your media) that will ensure your client’s trust.

4. Let the client be the star.
Generous actors are the actors who get work. They’re the ones who have the ability to set up a scene so the star can shine. They can feed the straight lines with sincerity, listen attentively, and reflect the energy of the lead player.

Frankly, I wish more salespeople were like that. You have to be willing to let the client be the star. Let’s say, for instance, that you enter your “scene” thinking that your client should run a 6X schedule and a Web program. As you start talking, you begin to hear your client talk about how she’s going to be in charge of virtual events. Now it’s time for you to “give up your good story” and switch the discussion to how to implement the program that excites your client.

5. Stay in the action. Every performance is ‘now.’ It doesn’t matter what the co-star did last Thursday or how great you were two nights ago. What matters is this moment, this scene, right now.

It’s the same with sales. You can’t let history blind you to what your future experience might be. If your client said last time he preferred the competition, remember that today’s a new day. You might hear today that he’s not happy with the competitor’s redesign, or that the company’s new account manager wants to explore other media.

6. Make every move count. A good play never suffers a meaningless moment. If an actor taps a pencil on a tabletop, he might be showing annoyance and tension. Any action, however humble, can be used to make a connection with your client. Sensitize yourself to which actions keep you in the flow of the sale, and which might be killing time (and maybe your sale).

7. Take a lesson from Sinatra.
Until he landed the role as Private Maggio in “From Here to Eternity,” Frank Sinatra was already a has-been. Which makes his song “That’s Life” a perfect accompaniment to the salesperson’s typical up-and-down career: “Each time I find myself flat on my face, I just pick myself up and get back in the race.” Whether you’re in acting or sales, you must marry talent to perseverance in order to have a great future. So go out there and break a leg.

Helen Berman is president of Berman Media Sales Institute. She can be reached at

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