When I was a younger (and hopefully cooler) man, I played in a band called The Jesters. I started the band with my friend Jim, and we split the duties – he would work on the music and I would get us gigs. Here’s what I learned that would help me sell in every other part of my career:
Bar and club owners didn’t care about our music – they cared about getting people in the door who would drink beer and eat food.
Being a great band was important to us. We spent a lot of time practicing and writing songs. We worked on our stage show to make sure that our fan base would grow and people would come out and see us. But for someone that was booking us to play, they cared about that last part way more than any other. Their main concern was to get paying customers in the door who would buy food and beverages and tip their staff well.
So if I talked to the the person in charge of live music, and focused on what I cared about, I would probably fail to get the gig. So I learned to touch on the musical qualities of the band for just a moment. Then I spent the rest of the time talking about our rabid fan base (with maybe a little embellishment) and how they loved to come out and see us on a Friday night. That would get us an opportunity to play.
I took that same lesson into my professional career. To this day, when I’m in a sales situation, I ask myself, “What does this person care about? What are they trying to accomplish?”. I know that when I can connect what I’m proposing with what they are already trying to do, selling is a lot easier, effective, and fun. I’m actually helping them solve their problems. It doesn’t matter if it’s a product, consulting services, or a band for Saturday night.
So the next time you are trying to persuade someone, whether it’s the booking agent at the House of Blues or the VP of Marketing, keep their needs at the forefront of the conversation, and you’ll find yourself getting the gig more often than not.