Scripts are powerful. They give us guidelines – rather like a rope in a cave – but when we depend on them too much, they turn human beings into tools and robots.
It doesn’t matter if you are delivering a formal sales presentation, having a phone conversation, or an in-person meeting… A script can be deadening or it can deliver results – depending on the other skills you bring to the conversation.
A recent example of this was shared during a session in which we played recordings of real conversations. It comes from a performance discussion:
Manager: How’s it going, Sally?
Sally: I’m having a terrible week, my cat had to be put down on Sunday.
Manager: Oh. (Brief pause) Well, how do you feel that’s going to affect your numbers this week?
Sally: (sounding disinterested) They’ll stay about the same.
Manager: Are you sure? I’d hate to see you lose your bonus.
I mean!!! Here you have two people face-to-face in the same room and all the manager can say is, “Oh!” before continuing on with the planned conversation. I’d have to say he deserves to feel threatened by AI because that was about as scripted and inhuman as you can get.
If Sally had been talking with a chat bot it might have at least been programmed to offer a response to her news about her cat.
As it happens, this manager has been passed over for promotion several times because he has not worked on his listening and conversational skills. He feels like he’s good at his job, organised, and cares about the company so he deserves a promotion. He doesn’t understand that leadership isn’t about competence as much as it is about influence which comes from being human and relatable.
I could have told you some equivalent examples from sales calls and presentations where the individual ignored the cues from his audience and pressed on with his prepared message. You can probably think of some yourself.
Effective sales people (and leaders) can tune into their audience, they know how to listen and pick out the key phrases or emotions others need to hear, and they can respond appropriately to other people and then return to their presentation or script gracefully, leaving the other person feeling they have been heard… And, therefore, open to listen in turn to what you are saying.