Think on Your Seat

By Heather Baldwin

A prospect has just given you an objection you’ve never heard before. Quick – can you come up with a smart, convincing reply? Whether it’s a brand new objection or a simple request for more details, sales is largely about being able to think on your feet. So why not give your sales team some practice on this skill at your next sales meeting, suggests Malinda Terreri, owner of Meeting Medic and author of Better Sales Meetings in 3 to 30 Minutes (mtm Marketing, 1999).

Here’s how the exercise works. Before your sales meeting, collect as many envelopes as there are meeting participants and insert a single word into each envelope. It’s easiest if you cut the words from newspaper or magazine headlines and glue them onto a piece of paper or an index card. Look for unusual words that your salespeople will be able to define but probably don’t use every day. Then seal the envelopes and put each one on a chair before the meeting. As people arrive, instruct them to sit on the envelopes and not handle them in any way.

Now the fun starts. Explain to your team that you are going to start a story and that it will continue around the circle with each person contributing a sentence. “When it is their turn to add their sentence to the story, they are to remove the word from the envelope they are sitting on and incorporate it into the story,” says Terreri. She suggests a sales story that starts out: When I arrived for my appointment with a new customer, the secretary greeted me and walked me to the customer’s office. When I opened the door….

Then hand off the story to your first team member. No one can plan their sentence in advance because they don’t know where the story will be by the time it reaches them, forcing them to think quickly and use their imaginations – key skills in sales.

“We all know that rehearsed lines and clever responses to objections are not the way to make sales,” says Terreri. “Customers today are looking for solutions. Our ability to conceive those solutions is based on the imagination we apply to our products to find those solutions.” Terreri says meeting leaders should follow the story exercise with discussion questions such as: Does someone have an example of a situation where fast-thinking or creative thinking solved a problem for a customer? What other creative ways can our products be used to solve problems?

For more ideas to energize your sales meetings, visit