You can prepare for a customer meeting until you’re blue in the face, but eventually you will be confronted with something you did not anticipate. Whether it’s a change in the customer’s priorities, personnel, or timing, unanticipated questions or objections, the unexpected can bring the conversation – and the sale — to a screeching halt.

Fortunately, the wonderful art of Improv offers many techniques for dealing with the unknown that are as effective on stage as they are in real life. In my book, “Yes and” is the 1 improv technique salespeople must know in order to successfully navigate any unanticipated customer comment or situation.

“Yes and” is the foundation of all good improv scenes. Just as its name implies, “Yes and” is about saying yes to your customer, but it’s also about making your customer feel heard, building trust, collaborating on a solution, and moving the conversation forward.

The Key Components of “Yes and”:

Say “yes”: Saying “yes” to your customer makes them look good and feel good. It’s a vital foundation for a win-win conversation. Keep in mind that “yes” doesn’t mean you agree with your customer, but rather, that you are acknowledging their reality, beliefs or feelings. And let’s face it, no one ever really wins by arguing with reality!

Add “and”: Once the customer feels heard, you offer a new idea, thought or perspective with “and.” This is where the conversation starts to open up, becoming a true collaboration that encourages discovery.

An Example of “Yes and:”

Let’s say I’m talking to Jim about baseball and Jim makes a statement I disagree with.

Jim: Major League Baseball needs to shorten its season.

Julie: Yes, they do play a lot of games. And it does end up cutting into football season. What would you spend your free time on if the season was shortened?

Jim: Well I’d probably be able to catch up on some of the projects around the house and yard for starters…

What has happened? We have avoided a debate and the conversation has gone in a new direction. I am learning more about Jim and able to pivot into other topics.

The opposite of “Yes and” is called Blocking. Blocking frequently takes place in sales due to our eagerness to correct “wrong” thinking or beliefs, or defend our product or solution.

An Example of Blocking

Jim: Major League Baseball needs to shorten its season.

Julie: Actually, Major league baseball is not as long as it seems. Major League Soccer has the longest seasons of any team sport this year.

What has happened?
Instead of accepting Jim’s reality, I corrected him. Which is one of the many ways we “block” or say “no” to someone. Every expression of “no” invites the following consequences:
1. Denies your customer’s reality
2. Puts your customer on the defensive
3. Shuts down the conversation

Here’s a Sales Example of using “Yes and”:

Customer: I’m concerned about slow response rates during peak volume times.

Julie: You’re right to be concerned about that. Research does show that delays in response time can lead to customer’s abandoning web pages. And that’s why we’ve created several checkpoints along the way to proactively identify and alert you to potential capacity problems. When are your peak volume times?


The “Yes and” technique allows you to expand a customer’s thinking, avoid butting heads, discover more about them, and work towards collaborating on a solution. And after all, isn’t that what sales is all about?!