May 28, 2009

Salespeople Have Got Talent, Right? Well, imagine Simon Cowell was your customer!

One in five Britons is watching ‘Britain Has Got Talent’. The format is simple – ordinary people line up to do ordinary and sometimes extraordinary things in front of a panel of 3 judges, led by the straight talking Simon Cowell. Now you may wonder why this is relevant to a B2B sales blog.

Well, as I watched the other night, it struck me that there are similarities between Britain Has Got Talent and the buying situation. OK, there is no red buzzer on the table but your talent, as well as that of your company, is on show and it is the buyer who decides if you get to the next round.  

Lessons from Britain Has Got Talent:
So, let us mix entertainment and popular culture with selling. I talked to a few people to draw some lessons for selling from Britain Has Got Talent.
  1. Preparation and preparation is everything. The judges will come down hard if it looks like you have not done the preparation that is required. Talent without practice and preparation won’t get a place in the finals.

  2. Appeal to people’s emotions – be likeable, be personable. That may mean you have to pucker up more of a smile than usual, it may also mean that you need to put your ego in your back pocket. Your objective is to show people your humanity.

  3. Enjoy it, put your heart into it. The harshest of the judges put a group through, not just because they were talented, but because in his words ‘they put their heart and soul into it’. The judges dropped another because he did not look like he enjoyed giving the performance, which in turn prevented the audience enjoying it. Intensity, commitment and enthusiasm on the part of the salesperson is also crucial.

  4. Be authentic – be you. Every performance involves a little acting, but you cannot keep that act up all the time. For this reason it is important to be authentic, to be yourself. The audience and the judges alike warm to people who in spite of the lights and cameras still come across as ordinary decent people.

  5. Be gracious, even in defeat. A performer only looks like a sore loser if he, or she cannot accept the advice of a judge. That does not mean they have to agree with it, but snapping back will undermine any support you did get and will not get your through to the next level. Welcome advice and even if it hurts say thank you, then you can make your own decision about whether you will personally accept it or not.

  6. Be interesting – spice it up a little. Some contestants wowed the audience on the first night, but made the mistake of delivering more of the same for their next performance. The novelty had gone and so had the judges praise. In selling is important to delivery something new, different and better each time, otherwise the customer will eventually buzz you off. 

  7. Don’t overpromise. It can be very useful to keep the element of surprise on your side. That may mean being careful not to overstate what you are going to deliver. One performer dressed to look like Marie Callas who promised beautiful music was quickly buzzed off the stage after starting to mime to an operatic recording. In selling it is important to always keep promises made. You must first manage the buyer’s expectations and then meet, or exceed them.

  8. You cannot separate the performer from the performance – no matter what the act is, what props are involved you cannot separate the singer from the song, or the comedian from the joke. This is true in selling, the buyer has to buy you before he, or she buys your products.

  9. The first 30 seconds is the most important. Judges are most likely to reach for the buzzer in the first thirty seconds of the performance. And so it is in sales - first impressions count. The buyer will decide if your pitch is of interest based on your suit and tie, your opening pitch and your first few slides. It is important to get off to a good start.

  10. Supporters are everything – most great acts owe at least part of their success to those waiting in the wings. Similarly, even though the sales person may be centre stage, his, or her success depends on the support of team – including pre sales, technical and account management. 

  11. Today’s stars are made in cyberspace – Competition forerunner Susan Doyle, the unassuming 47 Scottish woman, has demonstrated the power of online media – capitalizing on YouTube, Facebook and other sites to reach multiples of the TV audience.  Reaching buyers requires that you use these new media too.

  12. Don’t get too emotional – hold back the fear, the anger and the tears. Delivering at the top of your game depends on the ability to manage your emotions and your nerves.

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