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Lynyrd Skynyrd Can Help Close The Deal

This past Memorial Day, in between beers and hot dogs and making sure I knew where my kid generally was, I had a chance to speak with a software salesman, (brother-in-law to the host), and we got to talking about shop for a while.  I always love it when I find another example of sales principles that apply regardless of the product or service being sold.

He began to tell me about a recent trip he took to Mississippi for business.  He sells fire fighting training programs to municipalities and had a few appointments scheduled.  He landed at Jackson-Evers International and spent the next two days entertaining, being entertained and mostly getting used to the heat.  Finally the day came for his presentation and he got down to it.

Although he had originally proposed to have three different presentations for the three different towns, he ultimately decided it would be good to bring them all together and give his pitch to one big group.  This is always a risky choice as many sales require a more intimate approach.  If one person were to voice displeasure with his software he ran the risk of losing the entire group.  However, they all seem to have known each other and were all aware he was coming down to speak with them.

He started his talk.  It was a typical conference room crowd.  Some listened.  Some were speaking among themselves and others were on their phones.  He became a bit more aggressive in his engagement techniques but no one was biting.  After an hour, he gave the group a 15 minute break and he stepped outside for a cigarette to gather his thoughts and see how he could turn the crowd around.

Outside, there were a few others from the group also smoking and they casually asked him about life in the northeast.  Somehow the conversation turned to music and, as they began to walk back inside for the second half, one of them casually chuckled and said, “Too bad that program of yours doesn’t play Lynyrd Skynyrd!”.

He stared at their backs for a second as the were walking and then ran to his car to get his mp3 player.  The program he was selling wasn’t built to play music but it did have a mp3 capability used for augmenting the learning experience.  There wasn’t any reason why it couldn’t play music in the background.  He returned to the podium and plugged it in.

Suddenly, no one was checking phones or talking to their neighbor…there were smiles as the beginnings bars to ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ came on and, as a group, all cried, “Turn it up!” at the appropriate time.  There was lots of laughter at that but the sales pitch continued; albeit now with everyone’s attention as country rock played in the background.

Soon after he returned to the office, he was notified that $550k worth of software had been purchased by two of the three attending parties.  All he had done was listen to the group and, more importantly, was willing to make a change to his sales pitch midstream.

The lesson here is that your delivery should be a template and not set in stone.  Be prepared to adjust it as you see fit, whether before or during the presentation.  Your clients will usually give you hints if you are on the right track or not and you need to always be looking for them.  Ultimately, every delivery is a unique as your clients are themselves.

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