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Ask Alex: Ditch the Script

January 23, 2020 by Sherpa

Hello, heroes!

Today I want to dive into the topic of scripts. I don’t know about you, but I really despise them. They make me feel fake and a little dumb – like I am trying to wrestle control of a conversation that will only lead to the other person feeling manipulated and led.

Scripted conversations are likely to be short and leave us breathless and exhausted. Between listening to responses and thinking about what to say next, little room is left for any kind of meaningful connection or understanding. And, we often end up ditching our script anyway, once the prospect doesn’t follow along.

With so many negative outcomes, why are scripts so popular in sales? It might be because people struggle to get a good conversation going with a prospect.

However, we have no problem with conversations elsewhere in our lives.

Imagine that you are at Starbucks, a PTA meeting, or anywhere in your daily life. You will naturally make a connection with people around you. This usually starts with you introducing yourself with your name and a smile. Maybe you like handshakes. Or, if you are a crazy South American like me, you go straight for the hug.

Then you might say something about the weather, the game that is going on, the long lines, the nice smell of coffee, or the screaming child that needs attention. Something you are sharing in the environment or time with the person. This is called phatic communication.

At some point, you will want them to know what your intention is, who you are, and why you are there:  I am Alex. I work at the bank next door, and I really love this coffee. I can’t make it through the afternoon without it. Now, you can start asking questions to generate conversation – a natural back and forth without a set agenda, fueled by curiosity and received with empathy.

Approach your prospect interactions in the same way.

Let the environment, your shared experience or topics unrelated to their decision spark discussion. Show a true desire to know and understand them. Also, don’t be afraid to leave room for silence and allow them the opportunity to lead the exchange. Let your tone, approach and body language let them know they are safe.

Just because you are playing the salesperson role, don’t let go of your natural, personal style. Use it to make a connection and make them feel comfortable sharing about themselves.

I recently read this great article published by ZoomInfo’s Director of Sales, Ned Leutz, and I really like this part.

Maybe that new script and playbook can include conversation prompts rather than leading questions. Maybe it can be acted on over time, allowing trust to build. Maybe it can recognize the fact that you and your prospect are people trying to make the best use of their time and resources. Maybe new metrics can be imagined – ones that aren’t based on sheer quantity, but more on the quality of interactions.

Yes, that is exactly it.

So in your next prospect interaction, avoid conversation starters that force a topic or agenda. Examples (and my personal pet peeves) include:

  • “What brings you here today?” (Prospect hears: “Tell me all that is going wrong with your life, because I have a great apartment over here to sell you!”)
  • “So how did you hear about us?” (Prospect hears: “Tell me what marketing is working, so I can find more people like you!”)

Instead, choose prompts that show interest in the person, not the transaction, and allow them to guide the conversation. Some options are:

  • “I would love to learn about your life.”
  • “Where do you live?” “How long have you lived there?”

It’s your humanity and empathy that make you a great salesperson, so don’t leave that at the door.

Bring your authentic self – your curiosity, your personality – to every conversation, and you’ll foster more meaningful interactions.

Stay heroic,


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