Top 3 Sales Lessons from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutracker”


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If you attend a performance of the Nutcracker or simply listen to some of the suite during the holiday season, one of the selections you’ll hear 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 surely heard it before, can you identify the 4 primary musical instruments at the beginning of the selection?

In this version, you’re hearing the glass harmonica, while most orchestral versions and performances feature the celesta, oboe, bassoon and flutes. Can you hear them?

As much as the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” sounds familiar, your salespeople find familiarity in the sounds, questions, comments and discussions on their sales calls. As much as you might not be able to distinguish the specific instruments creating those sounds in “Dance…”, your salespeople may not be able to distinguish the credible comments and questions from the noise on their sales calls.

During a first sales call, 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 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 a third says, “In the mean time, please send us a proposal with references and timeline.”

Lesson #1: (based on Objective Management Group’s data) Out of every one hundred salespeople:

  • seventy rush back to the office to begin work on the proposal and tell their bosses that the large opportunity they are working on is very promising – all three prospects in the meeting were very interested;
  • nineteen leave the call and make two entries in their journals – “propose” and “follow up” – and they do both in due time;
  • eleven are still at the meeting and asking more questions.

Lesson #2:

  • 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 they are played at the wrong time, the entire selection is ruined. Prospects’ comments in the scenario above have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
  • If “please send us a proposal” or “we’re interested” or “very productive” are spoken from an Executive – the CEO, President or VP of something – it has far different meaning than if the comments come from a buyer in procurement.
  • When any of those three 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.

Lesson #3:

  • Sometimes, it’s more fun (for me) to listen to a song, symphony, or simple melody and 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 all of the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy and your ideal solution.

Homework Assignment – Return to Lesson #1 and answer two questions.

Which of the three sales outcomes do your salespeople typically find themselves doing?

What are the additional questions that eleven salespeople stay and ask?

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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