This is my annual nutcracker post. I first wrote the article in 2011 and people loved the analogy between the Nutcracker and a sales call. I make minor modifications to the article each year as current trends, best practices, and recent data dictate.
Last year, The Boston Ballet cancelled their performance of the Nutcracker but we will be in attendance next week and look forward to continuing the tradition.
Please enjoy the article and share it. It's not only popular, it's one of my all-time favorites as well!
The Top 3 Lessons from Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker"
If you attend a performance of the Nutcracker or simply listen to some of the suite during the holiday season, one of the selections is the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy". Perhaps you can't match the music to the title, but I'm sure if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you'll recognize the melody regardless of your religion or ethnicity.
Even though you've heard this song in advertisements and movies and television shows during every Holiday season of your life, can you identify the four primary musical instruments being played at the beginning of the selection?
In this version, you hear the glass harmonica (most performances feature the celesta), oboe, bassoon and flutes. Listen again. Can you hear them?
As with the familiarity of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," salespeople find familiarity in the sounds, questions, comments and discussions during their sales conversations. While you may not be able to distinguish the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...," your salespeople might not have the ability to distinguish credible comments and questions from noise.
Suppose your salespeople hear one prospect say, "This has been a very interesting and productive conversation and we might have some interest in this." And imagine another prospect at the same meeting says, "We'll get back to you next month and let you know what kind of progress we've made." And still a third might say, "In the meantime, please send us a proposal with references and a timeline."
There are three important lessons that arise from this:
Lesson #1 (based on Objective Management Group's data of more than 2 million salespeople) - Out of every 100 salespeople:
- 70 quickly begin working on a proposal and tell their bosses that their large opportunity is very promising because all 3 prospects in the meeting were very interested;
- 19 leave the call and make 2 entries in their journals - "propose" and "follow-up" - and eventually, they'll do both;
- 11 are still at the meeting, asking a lot of additional good, tough, timely questions.
- Prospects' voices are like musical instruments. Each instrument in "Dance..." has a specific role in the performance. If the wrong instrument or notes are played or played at the wrong time, the entire performance is ruined. Prospects' comments also have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
- If "please send us a proposal", "we're interested" or "very productive" are spoken from an Executive - the CEO, President or a VP - it has a far different meaning than if the comment were to come from a buyer in Procurement.
- When any of those 3 comments are spoken by a user - an engineer for example - rather than a buyer or an Executive, the comments may be far more genuine, but carry much less authority.
- Sometimes it's more fun to listen to a song, symphony or simple melody and to figure out how and why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection.
- Your salespeople must apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls. The prospect may be the composer (started the initiative), arranger (selected the vendors to talk with), director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or musician (following directions of the conductor). It's the salesperson's job to figure out who they're dealing with, what role they play, what influence they'll have and how to get the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy and your ideal solution.
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