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Script it, but not like Marco Rubio
Art Sobczak
Art Sobczak

I enjoy election season. Both for the entertainment value, and the sales lessons.

An interesting topic has bubbled to the top of media coverage during the New Hampshire primaries.

In the Republican debate, Marco Rubio, normally known for his eloquent way with words, repeated the same message FIVE times. Not all in row, but also not in direct response to the topic or question posed to him. As a result, the media—and Chris Christie during the debate—criticized him for being robotic and scripted…repeating the same rehearsed “25-second speech” with no other substance behind it.

After studying and pondering this I’ve got several observations as they relate to us in sales, and our use of scripts.

First, I’ll keep politics out of it, so please no emails on that. And if you want to see what Rubio said, you can easily Google it.

I will address the whole topic of scripts.

I find it fascinating how delivering a prepared message raises so much criticism.

For the record, Rubio did deliver the same lines in the same debate, several times, in contexts where they seemed awkward and not in response to the question at hand.

However, the narrative of those doing the criticizing—that I had seen, anyway—focused mainly on the fact that he was repeating a prepared message.

Other than that Saturday debate, how and why, and in what world is that a bad thing? When you are fortunate enough to hear your decision maker answer the phone live, at that very moment think of which these scenarios are you more comfortable with:

1. Having something you’ve given thought to, prepared, edited and practiced ready to leave your lips in a confident, conversational tone, or,

2. Having your heart drop to your gut, with a sudden loss of breath, experiencing mind vapor-lock as you search for what to say, and the best first sound you can mutter is “Uh…”

I just shake my head when I hear someone say, “We don’t believe in scripts. Our reps just wing it.”

Would you want to go to a heart surgeon who just wings it?

How about the pilot on your next flight?

Perhaps your attorney at a murder trial for which you’ve been wrongly accused?

I’ve done over 1500 training and speaking presentations, some as small as a few people, some with a few thousand. A question I sometimes get is, “Do you ever get nervous?”

My answer: that would happen only if I didn’t know what I was going to say. And I control that through preparation, so I make sure it doesn’t happen.

If someone has the opportunity to prepare what they will say in situations they are likely to encounter, why in the world wouldn’t they?

All I can think of is laziness, and not knowing what to say. My business is helping with the latter.  I can’t do anything about the former.

Repetition. Repetition.

I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that in our instant gratification and attention deficit society that repetitive messages get criticized.

People want to be entertained constantly with the next shiny blinking object.

I’m guilty too. Right now I have at least 20 books stacked on my “to read” pile. All of which I bought within the past two months.  I’m a sucker for the “new” stuff.

And I also have walls and boxes of books, audios and videos. Hard drives jammed with ebooks and reports. I have files of my own notes on all parts of the sales call, going back 30 + years.

With close scrutiny, most of it, the old and new, could be categorized into the same repetitive messages, repackaged.

What we should really focus on is DOING what WORKS, not just being excited about what is new.

A workshop attendee told me, “If I just USED a fraction of what I know, I’d be mega rich.”

I digress. OK, Back to Rubio.

So it was a bit odd for him to repeat the same message in contexts that didn’t really make sense. However, repetition with our messaging can and IS a good thing. Despite what I said earlier about people wanting new in the short term, our comfort level is with familiarity. Repetition provides that.

Hearing something repeatedly creates familiarity.

Familiarity turns into agreement and likability.

Hearing something repeated that we mildly agree with creates stronger agreement and comfort.

I was flipping through the channels before the other night and Caddyshack was playing on the Golf Channel. I landed right at Bill Murray’s classic “Cinderella story” scene.

And then of course I watched to the end of the entire movie. For at least the 39th time.

And I was reciting just about every line as the characters did.  I’ll do it again. Well, not until I see Caddyshack on my channel guide again.

I had the opportunity to play golf with Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn country music fame a few years ago. They were doing a show that night, and had just released a new album. I asked him if they would be playing a lot of new stuff, or their popular hits. He said,

“The old stuff mostly. Art, when you have over 20 Number Ones in the rack, people want to hear ‘em.”

I doubt if anyone goes to The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and says, “It’s the same show again. So repetitive.”

Paul Harvey, the legendary broadcaster used to speak at the popular motivational success rallies. He was asked by another speaker on the program why he never changed the speech which he gave over and over in each city. He replied,

“When you have something that works, it’s easier to change the audience than the message.”

You change the audience on every call.

Your prospects and customers do not buy for ALL of the possible reasons you have. They buy for theirs. When you know what those are, you can repeat them several times, therefore reinforcing those emotions.

Delivery makes the difference

I’m going to give the benefit of doubt to most people who don’t like scripts. I’ll assume that they are reacting negatively to the poor delivery of a script, not the script itself. We don’t react negatively at movies because the actors are working from a script. Well, unless the script/story itself is bad. (Same thing with sales there, too.) So, when we feel a salesperson is reading a script, we are turned off. Most people stop enjoying being read to when they leave childhood.

The key on your calls is in having your prepared message so familiar to you that you can deliver it like an actor. No one knows you didn’t just think of those words at that moment.

When I’m delivering a training program and receive questions, there aren’t many I haven’t heard in my 32 years of doing this. You could say my answers are “scripted” because I know what I will say in response. However, I make sure I listen to the nuance behind the question and deliver the answers conversationally like it is the first time I’ve said them.

Of course we can’t script out everything we will say in a truly consultative call where there is lots of give and take. But we can prepare a lot of what we’ll say, because it’s… oh yeah, repetitive, if you sell for a living.

You can and should script templates for what you’ll say to assistants, both asking them questions and answering theirs; your interest-creating openings; voice mail messages; questions; results statements for recommendations; closing/commitment questions; how you’ll react to common forms of resistance, and more.

Do you have those now? Are you comfortable with them?

And we then need to be able to tailor those messages to the individual we’re speaking with and the context of the conversation.

Really, the ideal, the key to being “smooth,” is being prepared not just with the script, but with the script in response to their response. And the next response. Is that being “scripted”? I call it being totally prepared.

 Tweet this one out:

We prepare and script so we don’t sound “scripted.” @ArtSobczak

In conclusion, for politicians and salespeople, reciting lines robotically without the ability to engage in a two-way conversation that those lines elicit in response will give the appearance the speaker doesn’t have substance or credibility. However, using repetitive and well-scripted personalized messages that resonate with our listeners, delivered conversationally is the best way to sell more. (If you want to really work on your messaging/scripting for all parts of your call, AND your delivery, we do that in my Smart Calling College. The next class starts soon. 

Art Sobczak helps sales pros prospect, sell and service accounts more effectively by using conversationally, non-sales messaging, and without “rejection.” Get a free ebook of 501 telephone sales tips at businessbyphone.com/501-tips-ebook. Email editorial @mhwmag.com to contact Art.

 

 

 
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