Listen to the Podcast
Toronto, March 15 2012
Hi This is Mike Lipkin and I’m inspired to be with you today. Since 2008, I have created over a 100 blogs, videos and podcasts. And yet every time, I create a new one, I marvel at the reach and impact I can have. It’s miraculous. There are so many resources competing for your attention and yet here we are, interacting with each other. It’s a beautiful thing. Thank you.
The question is why? What am I doing to earn your attention for these precious few minutes? How am I differentiating myself from the thousands of coaches who would do anything to be in front of you? What’s the secret sauce that makes my offering more enticing?
The answer is charisma. I’m not being arrogant or egotistical when I say that. I define Charisma as a set of personal qualities that enable an individual to influence, persuade or bond with a large group of people.
So what are those qualities? What endows an individual with the power to consistently win people’s time, attention and business? It’s a domain that I explore every day? It’s how I make a living. It’s also how I make a life.
My choice to create this message was sparked by an article in the New York Times on March 11 2012. Ironically, the article was on the new Broadway Revival of Arthur Miller’s classic play – Death of a Salesman. Specifically, it was on Philip Seymour Hoffman’s preparation to become Willy Loman, the worn travelling salesman or, as the New York Times states, “the greatest tragic hero that America has ever produced.”
Death of a Salesman was first performed in 1949 and yet one of the most famous quotes from the play was uttered by Willy Loman’s wife, Linda, as she expressed her nostalgia for the Old Days of Selling”. She says, “In those days there was personality in it . . . There was respect, and comradeship, and gratitude in it. Today, it’s all cut and dried, and there’s no chance for bringing friendship to bear — or personality . . . They don’t know him any more.”
What’s changed – everything and nothing. I constantly hear the sales lament: The internet has changed everything. There is no opportunity to personally connect with the buyer any more. All the customer is interested in is price. I never get a chance to actually meet with him. It’s become just a numbers game.
Reality, however, could be exactly the opposite. In a world where there are so many substitutes for the real thing, the real thing needs to be out of this world. It needs to be so satisfying to the customer that they choose it over all the alternatives.
Sales, like being in Broadway Play, has become a performance art. Every pitch, and every preparation for every pitch, must be pursued with all the intensity and flair of an A-List actor perfecting his role. Here is how Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s describes his struggle to play Willy Loman: “It’s hard getting inside this guy for a lot of different reasons. It’s like Whac-a-Mole. Certain moments make sense, then they don’t, then others do, then they don’t anymore. All of a sudden you’ve lost what you found — you thought you knew what that moment in a scene was about, and then you don’t anymore. And then you do.”
How often have you felt that uncertainty when you’ve been in front of a customer, in person or over the phone? One moment, you thought you were on the cusp of closing the deal, then you weren’t. The next moment, you thought you understood the customer. Then you didn’t. It’s all part of the show.
What’s more, yesterday’s successes mean little in today’s pitch. It’s about staring down your demons and absorbing the pressure of being the best. As the New York Times writes,
“For Mr. Hoffman there is little reassurance to be drawn from his best actor Oscar in 2006 for “Capote,” or from the years of reviews hailing him as one of the best actors of his generation. He says he wants to feel as human and exposed as possible each time he steps in front of the audience. And the pressure he puts on himself has not eased with the approach of Thursday’s opening night.
“I tell you, it’s not the first thing that you want to do when you wake up in the morning,” Mr. Hoffman said of becoming Willy. “You have to find your way there, every morning, to do that. You have to find the reason why, and you have to find the will to do it, and then you do. And then you’re reminded why you do, because you finish and — whether it went well or not — you hope that some people will find it satisfying and memorable.”
Mr. Hoffman said, “You’re working and finding the performance until the very last show. You go into any role asking a question, accumulating half-answers, partial answers, full answers, and then different questions come to you — and through it all you have got to trust your instincts, which is a private process,” he said. Referring to Willy, but also to his previous Broadway outings in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and Sam Shepard’s “True West,” he added, “A performance is a living thing, so pinning it down is kind of impossible.”
So that’s how Phillip Seymour Hoffman does it. What about you? How are you building your charisma? How are you differentiating yourself through all the channels available to you?
Here are Lipkin’s Seven Insights to multiplying your sales power through the new media:
- Choose The Character You Want To Be. Sales is about reinventing yourself for the part that fits you best. Your customers are buying the role you can play in their lives. So I am your performance enhancer. I expand your perspective and motivate you to explore options that may not have been on your radar before. My character fits this character. And every message enables me to stretch my range. What part fits you the best? How meaningful is it to your customers? How are you growing into it? How are you stretching yourself?
- Mesmerize Your Customers. Great salespeople find a way to fascinate their customers. They arouse their curiosity and interest. They find the points that their customers find most compelling and they play on them. They combine their style with their content to produce a riveting proposition. So the point that I am playing on here is how to sell like a Broadway Star. I’m guiding you on what it takes to be the one that owns your customers’ imagination. I’m using the brilliance of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and the New York Times to dramatize my message. And I’m also unleashing my natural effervescence as I tell the story.
- Get Out Of Your Own Way. Be conscious of yourself but don’t be self-conscious. Great actors don’t allow their nerves to interfere with their performance. They use them to amplify their performance. They remember it’s always about the audience. Or, in the case of a salesperson, the customer. So right now, I’m acting. This is Mike Lipkin unplugged. At the same time, I’m concentrating all my energy on a single goal: making these few minutes extremely rewarding for you.
- Be 100% Emotionally and Creatively Committed To Your Role. Every call needs to be treated like a career defining moment. This message is the most important thing I’ve ever done – until the next thing. Success in the new hybrid world of selling is binary – either you win it all or you get nowhere. Anything less than 100% commitment will close down your show. Reserve, inhibitions, doubt, tentativeness or ambivalence are fatal. So if you’re going to play, play full out. Your customers deserve nothing less. They’ll accept nothing less. Your competitors are already giving them nothing less.
- Package yourself across the Channels – Phone, In-Person, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Personal Website, Podcast, Twitter, Blog, Trade Media, Newsletters, Intermediaries, Trade Associations, and Word-Of-Mouth. The sheer range of media channels available to everyone can seem daunting. The truth is you have to start somewhere. So begin by being spectacular in your traditional channels such as phone or in-person (e-mail doesn’t count). Set up your Facebook page. Spice up your LinkedIn profile. Create a personal website if you really want to build a distinctive personal franchise. Experiment with video and podcasts – we’re all being trained to absorb our key data this way. Get the right people to help you. There are thousands of good people out there who are both skilled and inexpensive. Lowell Brown and his company, Insight Design, help me. They can probably help you as well.
- Make Your Charisma A Core Discipline. Phillip Seymour Hoffman lives the question of how to enrich his role every evening. His director, Mike Nichols, and fellow actors mentor him on how to enhance his performance nightly. He chooses his assignments so he’s always in reinvention mode. He also ensures he’s always visible. Charisma is hard work. It’s a learned skill that draws on our natural gifts. Mastery drives Charisma. Some of the most magnetic people I know are also the most understated. But they’re always on and they always bring their A-Game. So this message, and the podcast and the video, and the website, Facebook and Twitter updates that go with it, are all part of my discipline. It’s how I grow myself, my craft and my relationships.
- Be Resilient. Endure the inevitable frustration, annoyance, irritation, fatigue, blues and tension as you experiment with new media and ideas. The more you try, the more you learn. There is always a temptation to back off from the edge and stay in one’s comfort zone. But the comfort zone is the antithesis of charisma. Remember: we can only lead others where we are prepared to go. Others are looking to you for leadership. Go first, even if you slip, stumble and fall. That’s still progress. Resilience is bouncing back with even more verve and passion.