This originally appeared in The Ad Buzz.
We’re All In Sales. So Get Over It.
The dreaded “s” word.
For creative people, we try to run from the word like the plague. We avoid it at all costs. We shun the mere thought of it being part of our vocabulary.
Visions of a 1982 Don Cherry wardrobe, standing in a used car lot in Mississauga waiting for that next sucker is the common thought.
I once asked a group of colleagues to tell me the first thing that leapt to mind when I said the word “sales.”
Those were the common responses, until it came to someone I have known for years and highly respect.
He looked at everyone and said, “don’t kid yourself. We’re all in sales. We just go about it in different ways.”
I recall my favorite program director once telling me, “you know what that song on the radio is for the artist? It’s their sales pitch. They’re saying ‘buy my record, come to my concert, pick up a t-shirt or five.’”
What gets lost in translation is the difference between the role and discipline of sales.
The role of sales is simple. You sell. It could be outside sales, inside sales, retail — you name it. You know exactly what the role and goal is — and you go after it.
The discipline of sales is a bit more nuanced and goes all of the map.
You may actually sell without knowing it. But plenty of people in the creative end of the business are acutely aware that being able to sell is what pushes ideas forward.
And the results can be incredible.
I recall a creative director once telling me about his pitch for a campaign where it was more theater than actual sales. It was rapid-fire, but told the narrative incredibly well. There were arms flailing (which I have been known to do), bold sweeping gestures and a healthy dose of bravado that melted the ice and resulted in a river of smiles.
It also got the client involved more intimately and they were able to give remarkable feedback that kept the original idea intact and helped it grow in to a wildly successful campaign.
Name an award. That campaign won it.
I have some personal experience as well when I was a creative director in radio.
Sales guy comes in with a problem. We knock it around for a bit. I go through my “process” and come back with three ideas. We go another round of talking it through. We find the pain points. We find the opportunities.
We land on the big idea and go to the client.
I went through a round of histrionics presenting the idea.
The client isn’t convinced.
The sales rep is perplexed and nervous.
I come out of nowhere with something that directly addresses the client’s need that came up in casual conversation before we started the meeting. His eyebrow goes up. I latch on the same creative idea and how we can execute.
He smiles and laughs. He buys in. I get to keep my creative that I know will work.
Campaign ran successfully for 3 years — two of which were after I left for a different job.
Call it desperation. Call it intuition. I’m not 100% sure where my insight came from, but it worked.
My guess is that it came from being able to sell. It wasn’t my “role” but having it in my back pocket helped.
No, we’re not all sellers but we are all in sales. And it’s really not a bad place to be.
So, the next time you hear the word “sales,” embrace it. Hold it tight. Love it.
Because that may be the thing that helps you get to where you really want and need to go in your career.