Some time back, I decided to surprise my wife, Kate, with tickets to the opera La Bohème, figuring an evening of high culture would be a treat for us both. She had repeatedly expressed a desire to see a grand production and, never considering myself a cultural Cro-Magnon, we were both excited when the appointed evening arrived.
For most people, there are three problems with opera, or at least three perceived problems with opera:
1. It’s long.
2. It’s regularly in another language.
3. The seats seem to shrink as the show goes on.
OK, they’re really my problems.
About 45 minutes into the performance, I found my attention ... wavering. It was hard to keep up with the subtitles as my translation box was malfunctioning. The loge seats that I had bought were small for a guy 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, and my knees were pinned to the railing.
I was distracted.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a theater worker manning a spotlight. He was reading a Tom Clancy novel. I almost wished I was when Kate brought me out of my reverie with a “nudge” to my chest that turned into a finger pointing at the stage silently instructing me to pay attention.
A few moments later, my attention returned to the spotlight guy reading his novel and a remarkable thing happened. He flipped on the light and aimed it at the tenor arriving on the stage below.
The remarkable part was that he never lost his page! He intuitively (or through iterative practice) knew the timing, cue and positioning of the tenor and kept the spotlight directly on him. On. Off. On. Off. On. Off.
No matter where the tenor went, the spotlight guy had him covered. He knew the show so well, the movements of the tenor so well, the cues so well, that the spotlight never left him.
Exactly like sales should be.
No, you should not be reading Clancy novels during a pitch – forget that part.
The most effective sales teams have the ability to keep the spotlight firmly on the client – the client’s issues, the client’s concerns, the problems the client is trying to solve, the opportunities of which the client is trying to take advantage. They have researched the client’s position so thoroughly that they can anticipate opportunities and threats facing him and ask intelligent questions that help the client think through solutions.
The solutions they present focus on the client’s position and how it advances their cause. The client has to come to the conclusion that the solution is best.
Substandard or inexperienced sales teams listen for the first opportunity to introduce their product and immediately turn the spotlight on themselves and their company. The client mentions a problem and immediately they start selling their product instead of collecting more data to fully understand the situation. They tediously go on and on, rarely paying attention to where the light is now pointing.
They figuratively jump up and down, shine the light on themselves and say, “Look here! Look at us! We’re important! We’re the spotlight guys.” They take away from the person who should be the star of the show: The client.
Want to sell more? Shine the light on them.