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Thinking Quickly on Your Feet is the Key to Building Authentic Relationships

It’s no secret that the higher your emotional intelligence, the better you will be in every aspect of your life, especially in sales conversations. The good news is it is possible to improve your emotional intelligence and make genuine connections.

At one time or another, many of the salespeople I coach and/or train have struggled with building authentic rapport without feeling like they were forcing it. I personally never feel challenged with this because of my experience as an improv comedy performer and trainer.

There are many simple ways to improve your emotional intelligence in communication and conversations through improv exercises (or “brain games”). These brain games will help you improve your emotional intelligence and develop authentic relationships.

Here are three techniques you can try to improve your emotional intelligence:

1. Make Your Audience A Character In The Story

In the improv comedy world, the number rule on stage to be successful as a team is “make others look” / “support your partner” because when you make it about someone else, everyone shines.

Think about your own sales conversations, whether with a prospect, client, channel partner, vendor or co-worker. When you can paint a picture in which your audience can visualize themselves in a story you tell, you will engage them quicker.

For example, tell a story about how you helped another client with a similar challenge. The “happy ending” or “moral of the story” will give them a glimpse of the possibilities of the success you will create for them.

2. Show A Flaw Or Imperfection (Self-Deprecation)

In my opinion, people hate perfect people because it makes them feel insecure or inadequate, but mostly it can create distrust. We’ve all heard the phrase “If it’s too good to be true…” That’s what this technique reminds me of. This is one of my favorite strategies because when I show my flaws, I’m able to create connection quickly.

This also is a major technique in comedy. The audience loves to laugh at someone who makes fun of themselves, within reason, because flaws and failure are relatable. As humans we crave this relatability because we need to be understood.

Sometimes I’ll even go out of my way to be a little less polished. Once, during a sales presentation, I was using a new Mac laptop as new Mac user. Talk about double trouble! I couldn’t figure out how to share my presentation on the zoom screen.

I started dripping sweat literally, while doing the best to control my anxiety. Instead of freaking out, I just continued to fumble while I pointed out my obvious challenges with technology. The prospect started laughing and said “so, you’re not perfect after all.”

And yes, I closed the deal after that nerve-wrecking situation.

What are your flaws that others could relate to?

3. Use Humor / Make People Laugh

Self-deprecation and making people laugh go hand in hand, obviously. And, there are other ways and benefits to using humor for effective and engaging conversations.

As I mentioned with self-deprecation, people will laugh at things they relate to. More importantly, laughter decreases anxiety and tension in a conversation.

When I trained improv comics, I coached them to “know a lot about a little.” To perform for a vast array of audience members, my performers could create a “wow” experience with just a little bit of information that the audience could relate to.

They were required to “be in the know” about current events, art, history, occupations, geography, you name it. They also had to know who was in the audience so they could create a show in the moment specifically for that audience, and the audience changed nightly.

Imagine being a New Yorker at a comedy show and the comics do a skit about loud New Yorkers who didn’t know how to whisper working in a library.

That skit example combines the two keys to comedy: 1) Repetition/Relatability and 2) Contrast/The Unexpected. Apply either or both of these keys in conversations and you will quickly gain trust.

Improv comedy skills go beyond comedy. These are techniques to improve your emotional intelligence, whether in sales conversation or a leadership situation.


Jeff Blount’s Sales EQ: How Ultra High Performers Leverage Sales-Specific Emotional Intelligence to Close the Complex Deal helps guide salespeople through the many hurdles that many struggle with in building authentic relationships with prospects. Download our free Sales EQ Book Club Guide now. HERE

About the author

Gina Trimarco

Gina Trimarco

Gina Trimarco is a Master Trainer and leadership strategist who helps organizations re-humanize relationships…

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