May 12

Tina Fey’s Improv Advice for Salespeople


“Start with a Yes and see where that takes you.”
Tina Fey

I’m a big Tina Fey fan and her book Bossypants didn’t disappoint. Not only is it a fun, insightful glimpse behind the SNL cameras, it also shines a light one of the cardinal rules of improv that has a lot of application for anyone in sales. Improv for salespeople can be a secret weapon when it comes to overcoming objections and moving the sale forward.

Improv for Salespeople : Always say “Yes and.”

The essence of the Rule of “Yes and” is that no matter what your partner (prospect) gives you, you say “yes” to them.


Tina: Hey Julie, that’s a cute monkey you have there.
Me: Yes, he is cute, isn’t he? (Even though I don’t see a monkey.)

In other words, I accept it. Do I have to agree with it? No. I don’t even have to LIKE it. But I am acknowledging my partner’s perception of reality. In sales, your scene partner is your prospect or customer, and they have their own view of reality as well. If your prospect sees a monkey (aka, has a different opinion) arguing with the “facts” head on is rarely a winning tactic. (Now, if your prospect sees ACTUAL monkeys, you have a bigger problem on your hands!) Denying another’s reality is called “Blocking” in improv and usually only serves to bring the scene to a screeching halt.

Example of Blocking in Improv:

Tina: Hey Julie That’s a cute monkey you have there.
Me: That’s not a monkey. That’s a dog!

What happens? Scene OVER, that’s what happens! I have just said “NO” to my scene partner, made them look and feel foolish and left us with nowhere to go. Unfortunately, this happens all the time in sales. We say “No” to our customer’s reality (subtly and not so subtly) which puts them on the defensive and we meet resistance.

Blocking in Sales:

Prospect: “I always buy Brand X.”
Salesperson: “But you’re not getting all of the key features that we offer which will really help you accomplish your goals…”

What happened? The salesperson has immediately put his prospect in the position of defending his competitor. That’s not where you want them to be, is it?

By the way, be aware that “but” is simply another form of no. Have you ever had someone apologize to you and then blow the whole thing by adding “but?” For example: “I’m really sorry I knocked you over, BUT you are only allowed 15 items in the express lane.”

My friend Tina (That’s MY version of reality – deal with it!) says that this rule “….reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a Yes and see where that takes you.”
So now that you’ve said “Yes,” to your partner, what happens? You add “And”:

In other words, bring something new to the party. As an improviser or a seller, you have to add something, an idea, an opinion or a solution in order to keep the scene (or sale, in this case) moving forward.

“Yes and” Improv Example:

Tina: “Do you like my new car?”
Me: “Yes, that’s a great-looking Ferrari, AND it would be fun to take on a road trip to Vegas this weekend!”

Now we have a scene—and a hot new car–that can go any number of places!

“Yes and” Sales Example:

Prospect: “I always buy Brand X.”
Salesperson: “Yes, and that made perfect sense in the past since you didn’t have all the great choices you have today. How about if I show you some of the latest features that I know are most important to you…”

With “Yes And,” I am acknowledging my prospect’s reality and offering up an alternative perspective — without getting their defenses up.


Improv for salespeople can be a valuable tool to have in your pocket. Try following the Rule of “Yes and,” to avoid many of the toe-to-toe stand offs that can break down a sales conversation and move towards collaborating with customers on mutually beneficial solutions. After all, isn’t that what sales is all about?!
I think Tina would say, “Yes, and…

photo credit: mobu27 via photopin cc


Improv, sales skills, sales tips, tina fey

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