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Showing the Shark

If you have seen the movie Jaws, then you understand the power of anticipation.

Mastering the Art of Anticipation on Your Next Sales Call

If you have seen the movie Jaws, then you understand the power of anticipation. The legendary Steven Spielberg film–centered on the hunt for a rogue Great White shark that lurks off the coast of a small seaside town, gobbling tourists like M&Ms–terrified audiences and set a new standard for thrills and excitement.

Dave Chace ([email protected]) is president of Training Allies, a CE-focused training firm in Philadelphia.

A driving element of the movie is anticipation. We’re on edge throughout, waiting for what will come next; and much of that time is spent waiting to see the actual shark.

Stop Talking About the Gear
Hollywood understands the power of anticipation and is incredibly effective at harnessing that power to drive people to the box office. Integrators need to take a page from Hollywood’s book and learn how to better leverage customers’ anticipation to improve their own businesses. Fortunately, this can be accomplished quite easily, if you can learn to follow one simple rule: Stop talking about the equipment.

Focus on Lifestyle
The system (and its specific components) is the payoff that should be revealed only after all possible steps have been taken to build the customer’s anticipation beforehand. Otherwise it’s like showing the shark in the first scene, robbing the customer of the fun leading up to its debut.

The problem is that integrators tend to be gear-centric, and for many it is nearly impossible to purposely avoid discussing equipment or technology. However, most customers are not familiar with the technology and therefore aren’t terribly comfortable discussing specifics, especially early on in the process. They might tell you that they want good bass as part of their home theater, but don’t expect them to erupt in applause when you immediately deliver a dissertation about why your Rumblator X-2000 fits the bill.

The customer may be buying a integrated home system, but what they’re paying for–and what they’re anticipating–is the living experience that the system will provide, and therefore this is what needs to be the focus of your conversation.

Build Anticipation in Other Ways
Look for additional opportunities throughout the process to build anticipation; for instance by suggesting ideas that the customers hadn’t previously considered. Again, avoid recommendations that focus their mind’s eye on unfamiliar electronic gizmos, and instead paint pleasing pictures of how their lives could be enhanced.

For example, rather than suggesting 10-inch weatherproof outdoor speakers mounted under the soffits, try offering a scenario like, “Imagine if you could listen to music outside while working in the garden or entertaining friends on the patio. Does that sound like fun?” This is a picture they can get excited about. Ugly boxes hanging under their roof? Not so much.

So, when is it appropriate to discuss the specific “boxes” that will comprise their system? It’s your call, but many would argue that you may never have to get into the details of the system’s anatomy, unless the client specifically requests it.

The bottom line is the “shark” is really the system working at full capacity, delivering all the thrills the client anticipated. And the more effectively you whet their appetite beforehand, the more they will appreciate the final payoff.


Fostering anticipation begins during your initial client consultation meeting. If you start by asking what your client is picturing for their system, what they are likely to describe are various scenarios that they are imagining the right system will deliver, rather than the specific products that will make it happen. After all, most customers are far more excited about what the system will do than how it actually does it. So capitalize on the opportunity to cultivate their anticipation by reinforcing how you can bring their imagination to life, and assuring them that you have the means to deliver mightily on their expectations.
Dave Chace