10 Sales Competencies of Steve Jobs

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 @ 00:08 AM

steve jobsI read the Steve Jobs biography and although he was a very talented designer, innovator and inventor, it was clear to everyone who worked with him, and even to Jobs himself at the end of his life, that he was an asshole.  A simply horrible human being.  Despite his miserable people skills, he was on a mission to design products which would change the world.  But, Steve was also a great salesperson and this article discusses ten things about Steve Jobs, the salesperson, which you might want your salespeople to emulate.

Preparation - It is well known that Steve obsessed over the most minute details of product design to assure a tremendous user experience.  But, he prepared just as much for sales calls, such as when he convinced Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates, to develop Word and Excel exclusively for the first Mac.

Determination - Jobs was so determined to get his way, make the sale and seal the deal, that he nearly always found a way.  He did not consider the possibility that he might fail.

Slide Decks - He didn't like people who hid behind their PowerPoint slides and he did not use more than a few himself.  He believed that if you knew your stuff, you didn't need PowerPoint.  He preferred to have discussions rather than slide shows.  Amen to that!

Charm - Knowing that Jobs regularly treated people so badly makes it even more incredible that he could turn on the charm when he wanted something or someone to do business with him.  Although he seemed to have no empathy for the feelings of others, he was aware of the need to develop relationships in order to sell.

Negotiation - Steve usually cut very profitable deals because he was consistently successful at getting others to want what he had.  More importantly, he always was willing to walk away and did walk if he wasn't getting his way.  He usually got his way.  There is a great story in the book about how he sold Pixar to Disney for something like 7 or 8 Billion dollars.  One of the terms of the deal was that the Pixar Management Team got to run things!

Building Value - Jobs was a master at building value.  He would talk about the individual components or features of a device and for how much they would sell if available on their own, to demonstrate the tremendous value of the device itself.

Understanding - He always knew what was important to his prospect - their compelling reason to buy - and was able to leverage it and get people excited about the opportunity to work with him.

Creating Trust - Jobs got people to believe in him and his vision.  Even when people began a meeting biased against Jobs, after they met him, talked with him and became caught up in his trance, they wanted to do business with him.

Fearless - Steve would not hesitate to call anyone, anywhere, at any time to ask for anything he wanted - and he usually wanted a lot!  He was persistent too - he didn't give up and would get others to help him connect if he couldn't get connected on his own.

Showmanship - While he was a master of all the competencies which I listed above, he was best known for and best at showmanship.  His Macworld appearances were sales showmanship at its best.  The book detailed some of those presentations along with the secrecy, preparation, practice, timing, theater and attention to detail which helped to enhance his mystique and allow him to sell millions of devices from the podium.

What can you learn from the salesperson Steve Jobs?

Topics: sales culture, Dave Kurlan, salesmanship, sales core competencies, negotiation, sales personality, sales presentations, showmanship, building value, steve jobs

Is Showmanship a Lost Art in Selling?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 @ 07:08 AM

Bruce Springsteen at Fenway ParkI just realized that this is my third music-related post this week, but I'm going with it...

Last night, we were among the 35,000 or so concert-goers at the Bruce Springsteen concert at Boston's Fenway Park.  We have been to dozens of concerts, but this was the best ever.  Why?

It wasn't because:

  • the band was good - they were great;
  • he was on stage for 4 hours;
  • there was tremendous energy - never saw so much;
  • it was at Fenway Park - what a treat;
  • we knew all the songs - what a relief;
  • his singing was so good - he's Bruce.
It was his showmanship.
Showmanship is missing from most modern sales presentations.  Demos tend to be about products, technologies, capabilities and the company story.  Sales calls are about listening, asking questions and qualifying.  But what ever happened to showmanship?
Yesterday, at an internal meeting, we were coincidentally discussing Elmer Wheeler's "sell the sizzle, not the steak" phrase.  He coined that phrase in the 1920's or 1930's!  Elmer is also the guy who came up with the concept of pain as a buying motivator.
I'm in the process of reading the Steve Jobs biography.  He wasn't a very nice person, was impossible to work for and with, and was self-absorbed.  But he was a brilliant innovator and great at showmanship.  His MacWorld appearances were 90% showmanship and 10% technology.
These days, we don't place much emphasis on showmanship, choosing instead to focus on other aspects of the sales cycle.  But when we talk about presenting, should we also spend some time teaching showmanship?  What do you think?  Please chime in on this one!

Topics: sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales personality, sales presentations, bruce springsteen, fenway park, showmanship

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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