Are you a salesperson… or an actor?

Salesperson. Actor. On paper, they’re totally different professions which map a contrasting career path. But, in terms of the fundamental principals behind making the roles a success; are they so different after all?

Let’s set the scene:

You are a salesperson. The customer is your audience. The event is your stage. It might be a tragedy, a drama, or a comedy.

Is being a stage actor and being an exhibition salesperson really that different?

The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

It’s not something that comes up much these days, but I once had huge dreams of being a performer. I first stepped out onto a “prominent” stage when I was 11; one of the dancers in Guys and Dolls at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. Four annual shows at the world-famous-snooker-venue later, I had a choice – to go to vocal school in London or pursue my other love, language.

"Diamonds are a girl's best friend..." - Valras Plage, 2013

As I’m sure many of you know – the latter won in the end, eventually leading me down the chemin of years working in France (for as many seasons as I could responsibly get away with), 12 months studying in Brazil, with the rest of my time spent pursuing the career path of communication, marketing, sales and, that which has become my professional passion, the world of events and exhibitions.

Retrospectively, the parallels between the world of performance and sales are uncanny; whilst an actor is selling a story, an event salesperson is typically selling either a solution or a concept. However, that’s not where the similarities end…

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Scripts

  • Learning your lines 
  • Delivering naturally and sincerely 
  • Not being afraid to use prompts

Don’t get me wrong; it’s important that you are as authentic as you possibly can be in any customer-facing relationship – it’s very transparent when you’re not being a real version of yourself and that will only work against you, making you seem insincere and lacking in credibility. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use the same toolkit that an actor might when ensuring you have the right professional content to deliver, particularly when on the phone.

Improvisation 

  • Being prepared to go off script 
  • Thinking on your feet 
  • Adapting to curveballs 

Ah, the art of improvisation! Being a salesperson is never just about following a pre-determined script, but being prepared at all times to go off-piste, using your skills, knowledge and experience to provide an as equally authentic and enthusiastic delivery as you would with a script; particularly when in face-to-face sales conversations and onsite networking.

Being a member of the cast 

  • Working together 
  • Never underestimating the value of a tight-knit and supportive group 
  • Practicing scenes together

Despite often feeling like a solo role with individual KPIs, working without a strong team around you, one with all the same long-term objectives, can make your job a lot more tricky. Your colleagues are there for you to all bounce ideas off one another, as well as constantly using role-play and informal discussion to promote best practice and help your customer delivery. This synergy is crucial, not only with the rest of the sales team, but all other internal departments working in sync; from ops, to marketing and all the facets in between.

All the world’s a stage and everyone your audience 

  • Pre-empting response by knowing your audience 
  • Knowing how to set the scene 
  • Keeping an appropriate tone 

Knowing your audience is vital, whether as an actor or a salesperson. A huge part of the coaching sessions I deliver are all about how to make the customer central to your organisation if you want to really succeed in the exhibition industry. Knowing your audience and making sure you communicate with them effectively is sure to get you the best results… whether that be measured in commercial revenue, or a standing ovation.

Warming up your vocal chords

  • Constantly developing your skills and techniques
  • Making sure you’re always stage ready 
  • Warming up before stepping out in front of your audience

Knowing your lines isn’t enough; you need to be in top form in order to deliver. Keep your skills constantly warmed up; practicing delivery and objection handling, as well as revisiting sales techniques and best practice as frequently as possible, are all part of your professional journey.

Dreaming big

  • Having the drive to work towards a goal
  • Thinking outside the box in order to succeed
  • Being resilient and determined

As with acting, those that thrive in the sales world are often driven, ambitious and hard-working. We all encounter hurdles throughout our professional journey; mistakes can be made – whether this is forgetting your lines at the matinée or not pitching to that Whale Sale as effectively as you might have liked. This doesn’t mean that you’re a failure and, in fact, the skills required to learn and evolve from mistakes are what will really make you the best salesperson you can be. All of these are important qualities that can lead you through a successful career, in whichever industry you choose to pursue.

Curtain call

You are a salesperson. The customer is your audience. The event is your stage. How well you perform is ultimately up to you! 

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