Passion, Sales, and First Dates

building sales

Recently I was asked  what was the best way to inspire someone to be a great salesperson, or was it possible to teach someone to have an entrepreneurial spirit.  I responded… “Do they have passion?”

The most important attribute a sales person needs in the creative industry is passion. Although I’ve held many different jobs in the industry throughout my career, the one constant ingredient has been passion. If you don’t have passion, you can’t build trust with potential clients; and trust is at the foundation of all sales.

In this industry, our collective clients work many hours developing, revising, updating, and re-revising a creative concept for the brand.  After finally getting approval for it to be produced, they simply don’t want to hand it off to a vendor they don’t trust.

I represented editors, but didn’t edit myself. I sold the services of graphic artists, but haven’t ever played with Cinema 4D or After Effects preferences. Over the 14 years of owning an original music company, I never learned to play the guitar. That is not to say I didn’t know a great deal about each of these creative fields, because I do. I just believe that with uncompromising passion, some confidence, and great appreciation for the craft, you can represent any creative endeavor. I used to tell my young sales rep that we have great composers, wonderful musicians, and the latest and greatest technology, but so does our competition. So don’t worry about selling music, Your job is to simply build trust.

This same sales rep came to me later and said she was having difficulty grasping the “sales thing.”  She was nervous about making calls and chatting it up with clients at local events.  She didn’t want to come off as a stereotypical used car salesman.  I tried explaining the whole “trust thing” again, but I didn’t think it was sinking in.

We decided to pick up the conversation in the morning.  As I was leaving, I overheard her and another employee telling stories of their recent first dates. I interrupted the conversation because I thought a first date analogy might make more sense with this individual.

I explained that being a sales person is much like being on a first date.  You want to present the best you on your first date. You want to be smart, approachable, and funny.  You need to look good, be confident, and entertaining.  You’re not being disingenuous; you’re simply presenting the best you.

So, I told her from 9-5, work as if you’re on a first date, but instead of representing the best you, you’re representing the best us. Be witty, be confident, be creative, be fun, be charming. Know when to talk and convince them of your strengths, and know when to shut up because you’ve convinced them already. Build a relationship with the client. No one expects to get married after the first date, and you shouldn’t expect to receive a huge check or contract after your first sales meeting. That’s how you build sales.  Do your job well and exceed the client’s expectations, that’s how you build trust.  Make a difference in all of the above, and that’s how you build an entrepreneur.

It’s 5pm on Sunday, are you working?

Talk to any small business owner and they’ll tell you that they spend at least 4 hours working over the weekend.  Talk to the spouse of the same business owner and they’ll tell you that it’s more like 12 hours.  This non-billable time includes:

• thinking about accounts receivable while you watch a game on TV.
• wondering (while in the shower) if your accountant is doing everything they can to reduce tax liability.
• considering the conference call you have scheduled for Monday morning while you take your daughter to a birthday party.

During regular business hours, most creative business owners have a job to do.  They might be editing, directing, or putting a bid together, so there is no time to consider business growth while running the business.

So when and where is the right time to brainstorm?  I’ve watched plenty of MSNBC biographies to know that really successful people tend to put family low on their priority list.  Does this mean family time is just a casualty of a successful business?

I believe thinking about work over the weekend is unavoidable, so you might as well embrace those moments.  But instead of getting distracted by inspiration, capture it.  Write down your thoughts and questions over the weekend and then set aside time in during the week to pursue the answers.  Dream about your company’s future on your time.  Execute your vision on company time.

Be Better.

There are two McDonalds across the street from you, which one do you choose?

It sounds like an opening line to a riddle, but it’s the same choice your clients face every day.  Substitute McDonalds with editorial shop, graphics vendor, or sound studio, and you’ll see where I’m going with this.  If you’re worthy of being in the running for the job, you probably have the same equipment as the guys next door.  And if the producer that’s calling you is worth their day rate, he or she can probably get you both to agree to the pre-determined budget total.  So from across the street everything looks the same.  Your job (if you choose to accept it), is to prove to your client that you’re not the same.

So be funnier, be on-time, be on budget, be more creative, be responsive, but basically, be better.  Doing all of this won’t guarantee you every future job with these clients, but it will lock you in for many years to come.  After all, the key to long-term growth is building long-term relationships.

The Wild West

The creative industry has turned into the Wild West. If you want success you have to go out and claim it. Nothing will be handed to you. There is no map or trail that will guide us, so we have to draw up our own map.

You’re not going to hear me complain about it though, I’d rather think of a solution. Yes, post-houses are doing production, and production companies are getting into post. Sound design & music have become one. No experience is necessary to purchase Final Cut Pro or After Effects, and advertising agencies are doing all of the above in-house.

And I think it’s great, for everyone involved (especially the brand). But the key is… if you put yourself out there and offer services that you haven’t offered before, you better be good at it. You better be ready to perform at the level that everyone has come to expect. You better improve on the client relationship, and not just execute the boards. Because if you don’t, there is someone else out there that is ready and willing to earn your client’s trust.

Don’t Let The Air Out

Whose fault is it that your employee have lost their enthusiam? Initially, this person showed up early and left late because they were passionate about the contribution they were making to your organization. It seemed they cared just as much about your company as you do. Now, not so much. Something is missing, and it’s your fault. Your employees passion is like air in a baloon. You should be aware of how much air/enthusiasm they are working with, and do your best to raise that level.

The best way to do this is to start by hiring difference makers. People who have built in passion for your industry and the responsibilities they were given. From there, lead by example and show your own passion everyday. I know it’s a job, but it doesn’t have to be work. Don’t let the air out of the baloon.