How to Avoid a Michael Bay Meltdown

in Preparation

Did you see the meltdown on stage the other day by famous “Transformer” director Michael Bay? If not, you can view it here.

For those unfamiliar, Bay was hired as a celebrity spokesperson by Samsung to present their new curved HDTV at the huge Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

During his presentation, which was kind of an interview with a moderator, his teleprompter malfunctioned. He tried briefly to ad lib, but his mind seized up tighter than a winter coat zipper stuck on a sweatshirt. He just walked off stage.

Ouch.

I can empathize.

Most speakers, and salespeople, can relate a moment where the cerebral hard drive crashes… when the mouth is searching for words, but the mind responds, “Uh, uh. Nothing here.”

But I can’t sympathize.

I don’t know this firsthand, but I’m betting Bay was paid more for that presentation than most media people in the audience earn in a year. (Samsung probably will be renegotiating that fee.)

There was no excuse for him to not be prepared.

To make a presentation of that magnitude, and to rely solely on a teleprompter without being able to conversationally speak about the product and its benefits is unconscionable. (The interviewer even tried to help him, to no avail, before his human Chernobyl.)

As salespeople, our success is a direct result of our ability to craft and deliver verbal messages.

The smoother we are, the more successful we are.

And there’s no magic phrase, or easy way to sound smooth.

A sales rep told me at a training seminar,

“You make it look so easy, coming up with quick answers. How do you do it?”

Oh, it was easy, I told him. After 30 years, over 1500 sales training presentations, tens of thousands of my own sales calls, and thousands of hours of writing, reading, and practicing this material, it just comes naturally.

C’mon, no one is naturally smooth.

Although almost everyone can sound that way. Including you.

But we must be un-smooth and uncomfortable first.

Before you can golf in the 80′s, you go through the 90′s.

If you want to raise yourself to the next level, go back to the basics and beyond.

Here are some sales situations where you can and should put in work:

Screeners and Gatekeepers
Can you instantly provide a response to the question, “What is this in reference to?”? And I mean a good, results-oriented answer, not one that gets you screened out.

The Tough Questions
Ever hear, “I don’t believe I’m interested,” at the beginning of a call? Are you able to breeze past this reflex response–which isn’t a real objection, by the way–and engage them in conversation, moving them to a state of interest and curiosity?

Unexpected Answers to Questions
We’re all able to build sales momentum when they follow the script we’d like … answering questions with the positive, interest-filled responses that lead to our objective. But what about the ones we DON’T want? The ones that resemble a hard-drive crash, wiping away all of your memory.

Real Objections
Too many sales reps dread objections because they feel that to deal with them they must “overcome” them with a canned, argumentative answer. Those types of “rebuttals” actually throw gasoline on the fire. Instead, we must be prepared with questions.

In each of these areas, I recommend the same prescription for excellence: work and preparation.

What to do?

ACTION STEP
Lock yourself in a room with a pad of paper. Begin by writing out difficult situations you encounter. Use the ones I mentioned above.

Then, stretch, knead, and rack your mind until you create word-for-word responses and questions you’re comfortable with. (Doing this with a small group works well too.)

If you don’t have the answers and messaging, go find it. (Shameless plug here for my Smart Calling Online archive of just about everything I’ve created over the past 10 years, video, audio, text lessons, articles and more, all searchable.)

Then, go to the next level. Like a military strategist preparing for all possible scenarios, brainstorm for their possible responses.

Keep repeating the process.

Then practice it out loud. Role play with a partner.

Recite–don’t read–into a digital recorder.

Rinse. Repeat again. And again.

Sounds like work. You betcha. And all of the “naturals” do it.

Here are a couple of other suggestions.

Practice Improv

Being able to instantly react to situations that we might not be ready for is also a skill that can be learned. It’s what improvisational comedians do.
I could, and might in the future do an entire tip on improv. For now, I’ll suggest you study it yourself. Find a book, or better, attend a seminar and practice it. It’s fun! (Here’s an article from a great improv artist and teacher Avish Parashar.)

A game you can play either at work with your team, or at a party is called Expert Interview. Watch it in action and see how to do it here.

Learn from Your Meltdown

Regardless of how good you get, you’ll still experience the occasional brain fart. We all do.

The key is learning from it, and not letting it happen again in a similar situation.

If you were stumped by a question, an objection, or simply experienced mind-vapor-lock, immediately afterwards, analyze what happened, and then plan your action and response for the next time you encounter it.

What’s great about everything I’ve suggested is that the more you do it, the better you become, which means better results.

Which means you have more fun on calls. Which also means you’re more confident on your calls.

And people will be saying about you, “You sound so smooth! You’re a natural.”

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jeff Molander March 5, 2014 at 1:45 am

Way to take a stand, Art. The fact that you are so hard on Michael proves your talent, experience and wealth of potential you bring clients as a speaker. Hats off.

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