selling hollywood star

Selling Like a Hollywood Star

I’ve been dealing with a particular question lately: how can I, as a sales professional, become more confident putting my best foot forward, whether I’m a startup, b2b company, or professional services specialist? What will help me get it right? What will put me over the top? How can I begin selling like the Hollywood stars I see on TV?

Let me start right out of the gate with a little vulnerability. I watch a little too much Netflix (don’t we all?). A recent favourite I’ve been blasting through is called Scandal. The female protagonist, Olivia Pope, is a public relations specialist who manages to extricate her clients out of all kinds of sticky problems, becoming the ultimate spin doctor, ‘selling’ the public on a narrative of her own crafting to put them in the best light possible. Olivia, along with most of the characters on the show have the funny knack of crafting pithy quips, speeches, and arguments on the spot, whatever the situation is, that are both disarming and are sure to make you a believer of whatever they are selling. These PR superstars have a distinct advantage over us mere mortals: they’re actually played by actors on TV that have spent hours, if not weeks, preparing their lines. I don’t know about you, but my unrehearsed lines never seem to come out as polished as I’d hoped for in the high-stress environment of the team meeting, sales calls, or ‘discussions’ with my wife. My spin comes out a little flat.
So how can I be as good as those I see on TV? Practice my lines. Whether it’s a presentation to investors, a sales call, or a wedding proposal: research it, refine it, rehearse it, re-use it. Well, maybe hold off on re-using the wedding proposal too many times…but I think you know what I’m getting at. What about spontaneity, you ask? What about being ‘in the moment’? Believe me, the more comfortable you are with what you are saying or selling or teaching, the better you’ll be able to go off script without getting derailed.
If you are in the early stages of developing your sales pitch, you might be in the same boat as many of the start-ups that I used to work with when coaching companies at Innovation Factory, a regional innovation centre supporting startups in the Hamilton area. A few of those experiences and some tools and resources I shared with them on getting their pitches into shape are listed below:

Research It:

Those who came to me in the early stages of developing their business idea were usually already sold on the idea themselves. “I’ve identified a problem, I’ve come up with an idea of how to solve it, and my brother, mom, and best friend all thought it was a great idea when I pitched it to them…I’m ready to bring it to market!” That’s great, but are those three people your target customers? Does your Mom, who thought your SaaS-based solution was great, know what a SaaS-based solution is? The best way to make sure you’re selling something customers really want is to go to them first. To do this I love using the problem interview tool. The exercise is a simple one: talk to your target customer about what their problem is. Understand what they’ve already done to overcome that problem. Learn the words they use to describe their pain points. You don’t even need to describe your solution. The exercise is about helping you create a stronger and more compelling product and value proposition for when you get in front of them some time in the future to make that sales pitch. Imagine being able to say, “Janet, your insights really shed some light on the design we worked on and I’ve integrated your feedback into the product that I have to talk to you about today.” Think of actors like Tom Hanks or Robert Deniro who have been known to spend months “in character” to better sell the part they are playing in a movie. You can do the same with a little research and growing empathy with your buyer.
Tool: Problem Interview Script from

Rehearse and Refine:

Armed with some real data from your research you’ll be ready to start building proposals that resonate with customers. While helping start-ups prepare their pitches I was amazed at the progress that could be made by just going through their slide deck a few times, giving some constructive feedback and practicing again. Practice does make perfect. Regarding how you remember your information, I’m a big fan of talking points versus memorizing. With some basic ‘hooks’ to hang your thoughts on you can always re-set back to the last point to jog your memory. It is easier to return to five key words than five hundred memorized ones. In the case of those armed with a slide deck, you have the perfect teleprompter right in front of you. Let slides, pictures and key points on the slide deck help you to jump off into a personal story or anecdote. While friends and family may not be able to give you specific customer related insights, don’t discount their ability to make decent stand-ins and give you feedback on things like posture, hand gestures and tempo when making formal presentations. If you’re working on rehearsing a sales call, recruit a friend to role play and throw out common objections that you’ll be expected to answer. Remember, if it takes them twenty takes to get it right in Hollywood, maybe you should try to bring the same rigor to your sales pitch preparation.
Tool: creates some beautiful slide decks

Re-Purpose and React:

I’m not exactly sure how Fast and Furious is now making it to number eight this spring, but it is clear they have a brand that seems to resonate with its audience. They know what their audience is asking for: fast cars and furious people, with some good humour tossed in. No need to re-invent the wheel. You’ve come up with your sales pitch, beautiful slides, and clear insights, so re-use it and repurpose it. Take some of your slide deck screenshots and turn them into Instagram posts. Record your sales pitch at a public event and post it to twitter. Use all the analytics and discovery tools at your disposal and dive deep into what resonates with people. Turn the ten-minute pitch into a five-minute pitch, or your presentation notes into a one pager to send along to clients. Also, be sure to react to your audience. When it comes to ‘live action’ engagements be sure to read their body language and modulate your volume and humour in line with the feedback you’re receiving.
Tool: Ted Talk on Body Language
Even with all these points above considered, don’t underestimate the power of being genuine and transparent. Be yourself, but the prepared, researched and rehearsed best version of yourself!
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Selling Like a Hollywood Star