“Sell” is a four-letter word, but it is a good four letter word. Selling is one of the most important tasks in your life.
Someone once said, “Nothing happens until somebody sells somebody else something.” Now, just step back and think about that for a few moments. These are very profound words. Actually, these are words of great wisdom, and not just for the sales rep.
Let's play act for a few minutes. Pretend that you are a professional theatre lighting designer. You have a preliminary meeting, which amounts to a job interview, with the director and producer of a new play. You have never met them before. You got “in” because of the high recommendation from the director of the last play you lit. The producer and director of this new production also saw your work and liked it. They called you. The director is the hottest guy in town. The playwright has already won awards. This is the big break you've been waiting and working for all these years. You can almost taste the assignment.
You are so nervous that you can't take the suspense. This is it — your shot at fame, fortune, and those really big bucks. You do your research on the producer, the director, and the playwright. You find out everything that you can about them. You're ready for the big moment, but first, you must do one other thing. You must prepare to sell yourself. You must sell them on the idea that you will have a complete understanding of the playwright's concepts, that you will understand the director's vision of the play, and that you will work with the team to make this vision a reality. In other words, you must sell to get the job, and you probably have not even seen the script yet! Remember, you do not get the gig unless you succeed in all this.
So, before you go to your interview, think it through. Plan it. Organize it. Visualize it. Rehearse it. Anticipate questions and reactions. Go into the meeting as prepared as possible.
Now, let's continue past the meeting. You did a wonderful job getting the contract, and you even surprised yourself. After more meetings with the director and producer and more re-readings of the script, you have developed your vision of what the lighting should be for this play. You now have to prepare to sell your vision to the director and producer.
First, you must sell your concept to your assistants, so that they can prepare sketches, renderings, visualizations, and everything else that you need to show your ideas to the “higher-ups.” You must communicate your plan effectively, so they can translate it properly.
Now, you're ready for the big pitch. You go into another meeting, and you sell your vision on the overall look, i.e. how the lighting will support the action on stage. The producer and the director buy your concept. You sold again.
You return to your office or studio and do your paperwork. The bids come in. An award is made. The show loads in. The focusing is completed. The tech rehearsals are finished. Everyone is pleased. During the first dress rehearsal, you have a brilliant new idea. Now, you have to sell another concept that will cost $40,000 in overtime, but you know that it is worth it. Your new idea adds that special something to the play — yet another opportunity to put on the selling hat.
You must also sell to your colleagues. Set designers, costume designers, sound designers, production designers are all vying for attention, space, and money. You must be convincing in selling your ideas to them as well in the hope that they will back you with the director and producer.
Now you're at the point where everything worked, and you know that selling was part of every step. Remember that selling is involved in almost everything you do in life — when you convinced your mom to let you play soccer, when you proved to your dad you were mature enough to drive his car, when you convinced your high school teacher to let you light your first show.
See what I mean? You have been selling all your life. Now, you just have to be a pro at it. Take a course, read books, spend some money for a seminar. Remember selling is one of the most important tasks in your career, no matter what you do for a living. Don't be ashamed to do it. Enjoy it. Have fun closing the deal. Reap the benefits.
Now, get out there, and sell somebody something.
Sonny Sonnenfeld is a special consultant to ETC.