Category Archives: Business Improvisation

How to Differentiate Your Outbound Sales Calls

by Doug Robertson

“Until recently, we’ve been lucky. Because of our brand, we had lots of inbound calls. Today though, that stream is drying up and we have to extract more business from our existing clients. That means we need our sales crew to maximize every interaction – including outbound follow-up calls. But outbound calling is a very different skill set… and we’re anxious. We’re not sure what to do.”-  Retail Sales Executive

As a sales training firm, we’re hearing that outbound calling, even cold calling, is becoming more important. And while there are sometimes cultural, operational, or structural factors that make this kind of selling a challenge, often the biggest barrier is

When skill is the issue, training plays a role and there are plenty of excellent training solution providers that can help teach new skills. But beware, not all training solutions are created equally. Only a few solutions build the skills that can truly differentiate your outbound call from those of your competition.

 Outbound Calling Skills that Differentiate

If you want your outbound calls to stand out from the rest, here are a few skills that your outbound calling team must know and do:

  1. Introduce themselves – clearly and slowly – and acknowledge their call was unexpected
  2. Ask permission to explain why they’re calling
  3. Immediately position the reason for their call, in terms of its value to their prospect
  4. Set specific time and outcome expectations and ask for permission to continue the conversation
  5. Ask two to four open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no”– questions carefully planned and focused on prospects’ specific needs, values, hopes
  6. Listen closely and actively and play back what they’ve heard using their prospect’s own words
  7. Position their solution using engaging language
  8. Ask for the business and when they get it, agree on specific next steps


Bridging the Know/Do Gap Continue reading

Business Improvisation for Entrepreneurs – Interview with Randy Sabourin

Why Improvisation Is a Crucial Business Skill (and How to Become Better at It) by Dan Misener

This interview took place at Ryerson University Ted Rogers School of Management as part of the Startup School in the Entrepreneurship & Strategy MBA Program.

Jazz musicians know how to do it. So do comedians. Salespeople? Not so much.

The art of improvising and thinking on your feet could be the best sales lesson you ever learn. That’s why we asked Randy Sabourin, a business improvisation specialist, to share his expertise with our TGIM listeners.

In this interview, you’ll:

  • Find out how improvisation can help you close more sales
  • Discover the four-step process to becoming a better improvisor
  • Learn two places where people often fail when it comes to improvisation

Check out the full 8-minute interview below:


You read the transcript of this interview here



The Art of Sales Improvisation – Your Competitive Advantage

Reprint from Focus Magazine — Spring 2016 Digital Edition

Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network 






By Randy Sabourin

There’s a moment every Sciences Sales Rep knows and many dread. It’s the moment during the sales call with a Health Care Provider when you know nothing is going to happen. It’s not a disaster, because you have a relationship, but you know, and likely they do as well, that you’re wasting your time, nothing is going to happen today. The moment manifests itself several ways: it could be in the lobby as the Doctor walks between examining rooms notices you and says “Hey Joanne, what’s new?” It could take place after you get invited into the office and the conversation starts with “So why are you here today?” or maybe even it’s the awkward transition from the small talk over the lunch you carried in as everyone around the table is waiting to pay you for lunch with their attention. OK go! Be interesting, tell them all why your product/drug/therapy/device is better than anyone else’s and a lot more interesting than you, or even your colleague, articulated last week.sales improv

Every Rep has been in that situation and if they are still a Rep they know the answer to this dilemma is the reason they are good at their job, they improvise. By improvise I don’t mean they told jokes that made everyone laugh or made stuff up, the meaning of improvisation is much deeper and more meaningful. The ability to improvise is to combine being creative and delivering that creativity in real time; it’s thinking and doing simultaneously. It’s the skill of working with what you have around you and leveraging it to meet your objectives. It’s not winging it or BS-ing or being unprepared. You’ve seen people who are naturally good at improvisation but like most useful skills it can be taught. It is taught to Firefighters when they’re learning to use the Jaws-of-Life, to athletes who need to save a play gone wrong, to jazz musicians, and to actors for both serious and comedic purposes.  

Preparation is a key factor for successful Sales Improvisation. The process steps Continue reading

How to get your Coaching Program to Carnegie Hall

By Randy Sabourin

There’s an old joke that goes like this: a pedestrian in Manhattan stopped Jascha Heifetz, a famous and incredibly talented violinist and, in the mid-1950’s, a household name.

“Excuse me, ” the pedestrian inquired. “Could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Yes,” said Heifetz. “Practice, practice, practice!” Jascha_Heifetz

I think everyone would agree with the premise that if you practice something you will get better at it. Seems simple enough, but there are a few challenges in the execution of practice that deserve more exploration. How you deliver practice makes all the difference to whether you remember what you’ve been taught and how you turn that knowledge into a skill. You can read a book about how to play the violin but it takes a lot of practice to perform at Carnegie Hall. The same is true for coaching. Delivering or understanding a coaching process is not a particularly difficult task, and can be achieved by eLearning, a traditional workshop, or even reading a book. However, actually becoming a coach is much more difficult, and practice is the tool of choice.

There has been significant research about how to practice more effectively. Cementing new learning in long-term memory requires a process known as consolidation, in which memory traces Continue reading

Tuesdays with Morrie, Wednesdays with e-roleplay

by Randy Sabourin

One of the perks to working at e-roleplay is that almost everyone is a professional actor; as a result there is always someone with a show in production. I get invited to a lot of amazing live theatre. Recently I witnessed an outstanding play adapted from the book Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom. I had heard of the book but had never read it. The quick synopsis is that Mitch reconnects with his old University mentor Morrie who is dying. Mitch reluctantly absorbs Morrie’s wisdom and it has a profound effect on his life.


The play was performed in a small intimate venue so the emotional effect was enhanced dramatically. Terrence Bryant, who is one of our senior roleplayers, played Morrie brilliantly and brought many, including me, to tears at the end of the performance. It was a moving experience. The underlying message of the book and play is simple but profound. Life is about making connections with people, being involved, having an impact with the people you love, your family, and the people in your community. Another of Morrie’s messages was a caution not to let technology remove us from making those connections. Mitch is constantly talking on his cell phone and not being ‘present’ in the moment throughout the play.

Continue reading

The Perspective Range

by Elizabeth McCallum

downloadWhen I learned to play golf, I had the great fortune to have a wonderful golf pro take me in hand. A gifted teacher, when Shelley had a goal in mind she tried many different ways to explain what she wanted until we found one that clicked and I could work on it. I have memories of hitting while standing in garbage cans, hitting while her hand held my head in place, aiming for tees placed further down my swing path, and all sorts of tricks to help me visualize and eventually embody her lesson. Once Shelley had adjusted me in a lesson, it was up to me to hit hundreds more golf balls on the range, and then apply it into my regular golf game, until that skill became a natural part of my swing.

Continue reading

Business Improvisation Research Paper

By Randy Sabourin

Attentional and Interpersonal Characteristics of Improvisation Professionals vs. Business Executives [What Executives can learn from Improvisation Professionals]Randy Sabourin, with Robin W. Pratt, Ph.D,

Executive Summary:

The business world is constantly searching for ways to expand the skills of its leaders. “Business Improvisation”, performance under pressure combined with the creative process, is becoming increasingly popular as a strategy to resolve unexpected leadership challenges. A promising approach to teaching new skills in an experiential manner is using improvisation exercises. Accordingly, we felt it valuable to study the characteristics of skilled improvisation professionals to see which ones might be applicable to leaders in business.

In order to see if we can identify characteristics that differentiate improvisation professionals from business executives, we studied a group of active, professional improvisers. We used a performance under pressure based psychometric inventory with these improvisation professionals, one that has consistently differentiated among elite performers in sports, the military, and business. We compared the profile or pattern of scores for these improvisation veterans with the data we had for senior executives in various corporations around the world. Continue reading

Sales & Status – Business Improvisation at its Most Valuable

statusThere are several critical sales skills that can increase your success with your clients that go beyond the traditional mass produced ‘one size fits all’ sales training. Skills associated with account strategy, competitive counter tactics, advanced questioning models to reveal value, the neuroscience of change and my personal favorite; status.

Status awareness and manipulation is one of those allusive attributes that people often think a great sales person is ‘born with’.  Like most valuable sales skills, some come to them naturally and perform them in an unconsciously competent state of mind. Until I attended an improvisation workshop many years ago with Keith Johnstone I had not experienced status as a learnable skill. Further research led us to incorporate status as a major component in our Collaboration & Influence Model that we include in our workshops. Status awareness and manipulation, your own and how you use it to affect a situation, is a key ingredient in sales and leadership. Continue reading

Actors In Training : Why Actors And Improvisers Make Great Coaches

By Jason Mitchell 

action!As a sales training professional with a performing arts background, one of the biggest hurdles I have to overcome when I explain what I do to potential clients usually sounds something like this:  “How can a bunch of actors teach me anything about sales?”   Clients come to us at e-roleplay when they are looking for innovative and effective training solutions, where the learning in which they invest is sustained and actually sticks when their employees get back into the field.  Our incredible team of professional roleplayer/coaches all have backgrounds in the performing arts–whether that’s live theatre, improvisation, stand-up comedy or something else altogether. It is precisely because of these backgrounds that our roleplayers are ideally suited for training and coaching work.  Let me use one experience of mine as a starting point.

I’m in one of those large, banquet-style hotel meeting rooms that anyone who has been to their company’s annual meeting or a sales retreat can picture. I’m sitting across the linen-covered, round table from a Sales Rep, whom I will call Jim.  We have just finished roleplaying a scenario in which I was a small business owner and Jim was trying to sell me his product while integrating his company’s new branding approach.  I give him some feedback about not pushing so hard on solutions and about asking me some clarifying questions to find out why I chose a particular business model, noting how this will help him tailor the branding piece to me so as not to sound scripted or robotic.  He takes a long pause and stares at me, finally saying,  “Have you ever been in sales?” Continue reading

To learn more about us and how we can help your employees become more effective communicators through deliberate, experiential practice, please contact us.
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