Nobody likes being sold something. In fact, most creatives don’t even like the word sell. The truth is, the moment people sense that a person is selling them something, their guard goes up. Most people seem to associate selling with the aggressive used car salesmen. But that’s not how you are going to learn to sell.
Actually, you will do the opposite. One of the most effective tools you can have in your arsenal of skills is the ability to deliver a soft sell. It’s more comfortable for you, and it’s more comfortable for them. In a soft sell, your goal is to articulate the value of what you offer, and let your customers know they are in complete control of the final decision. If you offer something of value to someone, and communicate that value effectively, you’ll be much more successful when pitching people.
You never want to come across as pushy. Instead, your goal is to be someone who has something relevant and valuable to offer others. In this article, I want to share five keys to selling that you can use any time you are pitching a potential client on your product or services.
All of these examples are told through musical examples, but all of them are relevant to anyone if you just look at through the lens of what you do.
Ready to get started?
1. Know your space
One thing you absolutely must have before you can sell your services is an intimate knowledge of the space you are working in. People with a deep knowledge on a subject exude a confidence that cannot be faked. If this isn’t you (yet!), then you need to start learning the space any way you can. If that means doing free work to build your experience, then go for it.
Completely immerse yourself in the books and experiences that are necessary to learn as much as you can—then go out and implement it. Until you know your space inside and out, you’re going to be very limited in your options. Just think, what good is a church musician who doesn’t know the service music? What about a woodwind doubler who wants to be on Broadway, but doesn’t know the shows?
You must have the skills and knowledge to perform well. If you’re not there yet, don’t sweat. Just keep working at it. The more experience you have, the more reliable you will be. Having evidence that you can do the job before you get hired is enormously powerful. People who are truly great at what they do can recognize others who also know what they’re doing. Likewise, they know when people are faking. Becoming recognized as someone who knows what they’re talking about gives you a certain authority that will set you apart from many other freelancers out there.
2. Understand their hopes, fears, and dreams
These are fundamental motivators behind any successful selling. By appealing to the hopes, fears, or dreams of your customers (anyone who pays), you will be on the fast track to becoming a selling whiz. There’s a concept in the world of marketing known as features vs. benefits. Features are just the tools that help get you to the goal, while benefits are the end result that people are really pursuing.
Let’s imagine you are a private teacher. A student, Suzie, comes to you for lessons. She wants to start taking music more seriously, so she can make a career out of it.
What does Suzie truly care about?
It’s not the lessons that she really cares about; it’s the results from the lessons.
Suzie isn’t paying to sit in a room for one hour each week. That’s not what she’s after. She is paying for the transformation in her musical abilities that are a result of private instruction. Think about that for a moment because this is a significant point.
To illustrate this, let’s pretend Suzie has the choice of two different teachers. They’re both equally qualified and have tons of experience. On paper, they both seem like stellar candidates who could help Suzie reach her goal. Teacher One talks to Suzie and focuses exclusively on the etudes, scale patterns, and solo works she will do during lessons. After focusing on details, such as rates, location, and time, the call ends. Several minutes later, Suzie calls Teacher Two and has a completely different conversation.
Instead of focusing on the details of what lessons will entail, Teacher Two takes time to really understand what Suzie is striving for. This conversation is about what Suzie wants and how she can get there. By recognizing that Suzie wants to become a professional musician, Teacher Two connects with Suzie on a more personal level than Teacher One. If Teacher Two can demonstrate an understanding of what Suzie really cares about, then the choice is a no-brainer. The difference between the two teachers is that one focused on the features of lessons, while the other focused on the benefits of lessons.
This approach will make your customer feel as though you understand their problems, and you are the only person who is going to solve them. Once you grasp how to appeal to what other people are truly after, you will become the obvious choice in any situation where you have to sell to others.
3. Lead with why it matters to them
When people are buying something, start the conversation with the thing that matters most to them. With your new understanding of how to sell your ideas, put that into action by always leading with the benefit to the customer anytime you have to sell a product or service.
Start off every pitch with why it matters to them. Don’t talk about yourself; talk about the benefits for the customer. To be honest, they probably don’t care about you, but they do care about themselves. You might be thinking, that’s such a negative way to look at it. Maybe that’s true. But at the end of the day, people pay for things that are valuable to them. The faster you can articulate how your idea benefits them, the better off you will be.
Anytime you have an idea for a cool project that requires the help of others, you will need to sell it. I am willing to bet that everyone reading this book has had at least one idea that really excited them.Then they probably realized that you almost always need the cooperation of other people to make the idea a reality. This is where people often get snagged. When this happens to you, try to take a look at what the other person cares about.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a band trying to get a slot at the local bar, or if you’re a string quartet trying to land a wedding gig. The other person always cares about something, and it’s your job to figure out how you can provide it, so they say “yes.”
4. Make it easy for them to say “yes”
Anticipating objections before they come up is another essential part of the selling equation. When you reach out to people, always try to be a few steps ahead of them. They will almost certainly have objections, so you should be prepared to knock them out one at a time and still provide something of value.
If you’re reading this, worrying that you have no idea what their objections will be, keep calm. The more experience you get selling your ideas to others, the more familiar you will be with common objections and how to overcome them. Each time you get turned down from something, make a note about what happened and why. Look for patterns. You will quickly gain awareness of the typical obstacles in your way.
The secret to making it easy for them to say “yes” is to remove as many barriers for them as possible. Nobody wants to do more work. When you ask other people for something, you are inherently creating more work for them.
Even if they have to stop what they’re doing to do something for you, that’s work. It’s time away from doing something else. So, do your homework before you reach out to anyone. Most people will find any excuse they can to get out of doing something extra. Your job is to assume that they are incredibly busy and take any potential extra work off their plate.
Here’s a scenario: let’s say you’re a jazz pianist, and you’ve got a trio that wants to pick up a few gigs at a local bar that has live music. Before you ask about performing there, stop and think about all of the reasons they might have for why you can’t play. Then do your homework.
Check their schedule and find a night that is free. Promise to bring your own gear (which means they have less work to do). Tell them you will have an audience coming to hear you play, and then invite as many friends and family members as possible.
By doing these things, you found a night they potentially want entertainment; you assure them you will have your own gear; and most importantly of all, you will bring business to their establishment.
You can never guarantee results, but this will definitely get you a much better shot at landing the gig.
Go out of your way to make sure that the other person has to do as little work as possible.
5. Under promise and over deliver
I used to work for a very successful businessman named Frank. Once in awhile, I was privileged to sit and chat with him one-on-one. One night, while sitting at the local jazz club, I asked about the best business advice anyone ever gave him. As soon as I asked this question, he stopped for a moment, put down his drink, and leaned in. He said, “Under promise and over deliver.”
This idea is brilliant, especially when delivering a product or service to a customer. At the end of the day, it’s all about adding value, and one of the best things you can do is go beyond your customer’s expectations.
Way too many musicians just show up to gigs at the exact time they’re supposed to arrive and run out the door the moment the gig ends. It doesn’t take much to exceed the expectations of the person who hired you. This could be something as simple as taking a request or sending a nice note afterward, thanking them for the opportunity.
Every gig or project is an opportunity for you to leave an exceptional impression on someone who could hire you again or recommend you to others. There are very few people who will go out of their way to over deliver on what they promised. Take every chance you get to bring a little additional value to those around you and people will want to work with you again and again.
Successful selling shouldn’t be pushy and it doesn’t have to be difficult.
If you incorporate these strategies in all that you do moving forward, you will become much more effective at monetizing your creative talents.
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