Learning To Sell Effectively

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If you plan on being successful in the music business then you’re going to have to learn how to sell. Whether that means selling out shows, selling CDs, or selling your bass player on the idea that he should start wearing deodorant, you need to learn how to sell. The way that you sell is indicative of how you view the world and will go a long way towards determining your level of true success and happiness.

At least once a day I walk a half mile down the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard to get to Starbucks. I see more sales pitches in a week then most people see in a lifetime. Everywhere I look someone is either trying to get someone to go on a tour, take a personality test, buy their CD, give them money, join their church, or any number of other things. This might drive a lot of people nuts, but I actually enjoy it. For one, I used to live on an egg farm, so by comparison this is heaven! Also, I’ve spent some time working in sales, so I love to observe and study all of the different approaches.

Here are 9 different sales styles that I’ve observed on Hollywood Boulevard:

1. I Would Like for You to Give Me Money – This is the least advanced of all the approaches. I haven’t seen anyone get very far with this one yet.

2. Going Through the Motions – I encounter more pitches that fall into this category than any other. This is the category for people who don’t really believe in what they’re pushing; they’re just trying to get the words out. They’re not really trying to engage you and you can instantly hear it in their voices. They lack belief and intent. They want to take rather than give, and they know this, which is exactly why they’re not comfortable engaging you. The fundamental flaw in their technique doesn’t occur to them, so many will never know why they struggle.

3. The Hard Sell Approach – This is a more aggressive version of the “Going Through the Motions” approach. These are the people who put a CD in your hands, tell you it’s free, try to establish a phony connection, and then demand a donation. This is just another way of trying to take rather than give. Their “take-or-be-taken-from” mentality will keep them from being able to truly give or receive. That’s a tough way to live.

4. The Numbers Game – This is the approach of the people who shove flyers in your face, usually not saying anything more than a word or two. They’re not prepared to engage and have no intention of putting any effort into making a sale. They just want to win the game by sheer numbers. The thinking is that if 10,000 flyers are passed out and 0.03% redeem the flyer, a profit is made. You can thank these people for the contents of your email junk folder. I’d venture to guess that most of these people are not getting a lot of fulfillment from what they’re offering the world. I know I’m not getting a lot of fulfillment from it.

5. Moths Into the Light – For those of you who have never been to Hollywood, there are a whole cast of characters who actually make a decent living by dressing up in costumes and accepting tips in exchange for having pictures taken with them. Kids see a SpongeBob or Superman, get excited, and approach them. Some people make up their own unique characters or wear wild costumes, but either way, they employ a shortcut to draw people in and then leverage their interest to earn a small amount of money. I don’t think that most of these people are happy, but I do think that it is possible, with the right attitude and perspective, to get some joy and fulfillment from this approach.

6. Free Sample – This is the approach of people who believe that if they give away something of value for free then people will be willing to pay to get more of it. I’m a fan of this approach, both in the arena of music sales and from the cute girls at the mall who hand out free smoothie samples.

7. Performance – These are the people who offer their talent as a way to make money – usually for tips or CD sales. Their art is their pitch. People value quality art and entertainment and are willing to pay for it. This method cuts out some of the steps it takes to make a sale by bringing the music right to the people. Of course there is a wide range of talent and success in this category.

8. Professional – There’s a guy named Gerald who sells Hollywood tours on Hollywood Boulevard. He’s got one of those voices that cuts through everything else and carries for a long way. I’m confident he believes that the tours he offers are a good deal and are going to be a memorable experience for everyone who takes them. When he pitches a tour to someone, he intends to make the sale. He says the right things, asks the right questions, and actually listens to the people he converses with. I’ve never gone on a Hollywood tour before, but when I do, there’s no doubt who I’ll go to.

9. Engaging – I’ll never forget when I was walking out of a convenience store and a voice stopped me in my tracks. “Hey man…let me ask you somethin’…what kind of music do you like?” Now I had been asked that question 100 times on the street by people who wanted me to buy their CD and it never once got me to stop. Yet my immediate reaction this time was to stop and engage with this person and give a genuine answer. Why? He asked this question at the right volume, the right pitch, with the right timbre, and at the right speed. Was that because he had practiced a million times? I don’t think so. I think it was because he actually wanted to talk to me and connect. We got into a short discussion and I could tell he was genuinely eager to have me hear some of his music. I wasn’t carrying any cash, so there was no way I could buy a CD from him. When I told him this it didn’t faze him at all. In fact, he reached into his bag and pulled out a CD and told me to keep it. This may not sound like a big deal, and it didn’t cost him much to burn a CD, but it made a big impression. This was not the typical interaction I have with people who want to sell me something. Somehow after that exchange I felt connected and energized. I will never forget that guy.

Bottom line is that it isn’t all about the words you say or the method you use. It’s about how you feel about what you’re selling. Your attitude will come through loud and clear to your potential customers and they will respond to it. Make connections, be genuine, enthusiastic, and listen to people – the rest will come naturally.

Article by Scott James of The Independent Rockstar Blog.

2 thoughts on “Learning To Sell Effectively

  1. Hey Jason,

    I didn’t buy from him because he didn’t appear to have anything for sale online, so once I left the point of contact I didn’t have an easy option to buy, which could be a whole other blog post.

    If I were to see him again, I’d suggest to him that he sign up for a company like CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com) who would allow him to sell his music online, and also a company called Text-an-go (www.textango.com), who would allow buyers to purchase downloads from him with their cell phone. All you need to do as a customer is text a certain code to a designated number and you get a download link for the music (or any other form of digital media that you can put in a .zip file). The sale is charged to your phone bill – so you don’t have to have any money! This is a great way to snag extra sales. The phone companies take a large chunk, but half of something is better than all of nothing!

    Also, thinking along the same lines, you can accept credit cards in-person through CD Baby. They can set you up with a swiper and a way to input the data online. (http://members.cdbaby.com/SellMusicAndMore/CreditCardSales.aspx)

    A big part of sales is just eliminating the obstacles. My man at the convenience store had the right philosophy, which is the foundation that I believe you need to start from, but he lacked the sales savvy to get results. Put the two together and you can be both happy and successful.

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