The Sitcom Solution to Getting Sales Referrals – by Julie Hansen

How many times have you gotten a small slice of business when you were hoping for the whole pie? After you finished complaining to anyone who would listen, what did you do? Did you sullenly write up the sale or go through the motions of fulfilling the order? Were you visibly impatient, ready to move on to a more promising prospect? Or did you treat the client and his small piece of business as the larger future business opportunity that it was?

The Sitcom Solution

No matter how small the role, a good actor knows how to make the most of it. Savvy actors in television series often parlay a small or one-time roll into a bigger role or ongoing opportunity. Consider Kelsey Grammer who was initially cast in just six episodes of Cheers, but turned into a regular member of the cast and went on to star in the wildly popular spin-off, Frasier. And who can forget Chandler Bing’s annoyingly nasal girlfriend on Friends, “Janice,” played by Maggie Wheeler? Originally cast in just one episode, Janice ended up appearing on 19 episodes over 10 seasons!

Mad Men’s January Jones initially auditioned for the role of “Peggy”, but creator Matthew Weiner didn’t think she was right for it. He was so impressed however that he went home and wrote some scenes for her as “Betty Draper,” a role he hadn’t fully developed at the time.

In the same way, it pays to make the most of a small sale. A winning performance may reap larger benefits in the future as this savvy seller found out:

Create a Big Sale out of a Small Sale

Last Christmas, I wanted to find a tiny charm for my niece that was only carried at certain jewelry stores. They were all located in malls packed with holiday shoppers, and I had to go to three before I could find anyone to help me. After being passed around to several salespeople, I wound up in front of a young man named Chad. He listened attentively, then, instead of abruptly throwing the tray of charms out in front of me and tapping his fingers until he could move on to the next Rolex buyer, he spent 15 minutes helping me find just the right charm, even calling around to another store to see if they had it in stock. Chad was so helpful that I felt guilty not buying anything more than an inexpensive trinket from him. Two months later when I had to buy a wedding gift, I happily went back to Chad to purchase a beautiful and expensive crystal bowl.

Make Your Prospect Look Good

Many great actors credit their scene partner with making them look good and are eager to work with them again. Making your scene partner (your prospect) look good – regardless of the size/frequency of the sale – differentiates the Sales Pro from the pack and can generate recurring business. Think about ways to make your prospect look good—even if you feel he’s just thrown you a bone:


Your client is buying a small segment of the solution you are recommending; the remainder of their budget is being spent with your competitor. What do you do? Here are some ideas:

  • Over-deliver. Discuss ways that you can delivery on time and support the implementation.
  • Communicate. Offer to work with your competitor to make sure there are no “gaps” in communication and service.
  • Follow up. Check in frequently to verify their satisfaction and note any potential problems.

Remember, small performances can lead to big rewards. Remember Judi Dench’s riveting portrayal as “Elizabeth I” in Shakespeare in Love? In less than eight minutes of screen time, she earned an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. And she’s done all right ever since…


Julie Hansen brings a whole new approach to sales by incorporating the latest in acting, improvisation and storytelling techniques into sales presentations and key customer interactions. Julie founded Performance Sales and Training to help sales professionals differentiate their solutions and gain a winning edge by leveraging the proven practices of the performer.

Julie Hansen is the author of ACT Like a Sales Pro!  Read her award-winning blog, Acting for Sales and connect with Julie on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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