The photo is the cover of my 2006 sales book, “Selling the Way America Buys.” I took the ideas I developed for “Sales Magic” and expanded on them as well as coming up with some new techniques that had always worked for me. My peers at QVC knew the kind of research I did for all products. Many of them joked that I would even study for a urine test. Yeah, I wonder how many of them were able to retire before 60?
Planning and research are key to any successful sales presentation. However, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of time to plan and execute a powerful sales presentation. That’s where your instincts come into play. If you’ve studied your craft as diligently as successful salesperson should, those instincts should be excellent. Trust them; sometimes they’re all you have.
One example is this is when CBS decided to move their popular radio comedy My Favorite Husband to television. The radio series starred Lucille Ball and Richard Denning as her husband. When the TV offer was made, Lucy and husband Desi proposed that Desi be featured as her husband. Given the social climate in the early 50’s, CBS executives balked at the thought of a Cuban as Lucy’s husband, even though he was in real life.
Desi Arnaz is another of my sales heroes. His success was nothing short of phenomenal. A man who started his life in this country by cleaning the bottom of birdcages wound up as a show business entrepreneur, changing the face of television forever. His sales skills were extraordinary and his work ethic impeccable. So, just what did he do when faced with CBS’s unquestionably bigoted decision to exclude him from Lucy’s new television show?
Since he really was Lucy’s husband, I’m sure he had no idea that they would balk at his joining the cast. He was a skilled actor and musician with good credentials. The unexpected “no” from CBS brought his instincts into play. He asked if they would change their minds if he could prove to them that America would accept the pair as husband and wife. At the time, he didn’t know how he was going to do it; he just knew he had the skills and determination to make it happen. They agreed, realizing the Herculean nature of his proposal should have doomed it from the start. Desi’s sales skills and determination had convinced them to at least let him try.
He wrote a script and then he and Lucy toured the country performing it local theaters and nightclubs again and again. They received rave reviews. America fell in love with Lucy and Desi. Months later, armed with reams of excellent reviews and publicity, he approached CBS. While he hadn’t yet changed the social climate of a country yet to go through the civil rights revolution, he did convince CBS that he and Lucy were a hit. They agreed and TV was never the same.
Desi also used his extensive sales skills to convince CBS to use three cameras to film the series, the same way movies were produced. It had never been done before; TV was a one-camera shoot because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” He convinced them and TV never looked the same again. But if he hadn’t had great instincts in the first place, allowing him to make his initial offer, only her family and friends would have had the opportunity to Love Lucy.
Oh yeah, and my favorite Desi Arnaz story. CBS didn’t want to store the films of the many seasons of I Love Lucy. Desi offered to store the bulky film as long as he would own all rebroadcast rights. To this day, reruns of I Love Lucy have never been off-the-air, earning billions in rerun revenue. Score, Desi Arnaz 1, CBS 0. (Kind of like when IBM gave Bill Gates the rights to the DOS and Windows operating systems, claiming that there was no money in software.)
Plan until it hurts, but know your customer and product well enough to trust your instincts in a pinch.
© 2018 Steve Bryant – No portion of this or any blog can be reproduced or copied and posted on any online site or read aloud on any audio or video media without the express permission of the author.