The Music Man’s Lessons for Sales Professionals

"The Music Man’s Lessons for Sales Professionals"

"The Music Man"is a movie (videotape) produced first in 1966, after being a long running Broadway Musical by Meredith Willson. It's loaded with stars such as Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Ron Howard, Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold and Paul Ford.

Professor Harold Hill is a gilt-edged con artist who has more schemes than a hound dog has fleas. He hoodwinks the credulous townsfolk of River City, Iowa, into organizing a boys band so he can sell them nonexistent band instruments, then tries to skip town before his chicanery is unmasked by the suspicious and lovely Marian, the town librarian. In the end . . .

Not only is this one of my all time favorite movies with memorable music, but to me the story line contains most of the key sales principles for products and services:

1. The environment for selling anything is constantly changing-- in this case, credit versus cash sales. Most of the old time salesmen are complaining in the opening song about the new wave of credit sales.

2. It's a big world out there and there are lots of customers for any product or service; and, you have to keep banging on doors until the right group of buyers for your product or service are found.

3. You "gotta' know the territory" into which you'll be selling and the psychology of the people who will be potential buyers.

4. There has to be a "hook". The customer must have a need. This is a critical aspect for any sales effort, and The Music Man recognizes that the new pool hall in town must have a counter culture for the young boys; and thus is created the "River City Boys Band."

5. The customer must recognize the need, and that action is necessary to fulfill the need. Dramatic selling may be required in some cases to enforce this principal.

6. Find an advocate in an organization. Get someone who has influence (especially if they can be "converted" and thus become very zealous.) This is where The Music Man excels.

7. Locate the official who can veto the decision. Involve that person in a positive aspect of the decision, or convince the secretary, marketing person, federal sales manager or spouse. Defuse the doubter and support the advocate.

8. Don't be afraid to approach the customer directly for a decision.

9. Recognize that your past promises and actions will catch up with you. If there are some bad results, be prepared to deal with them to future customers. Know the negatives and the competition.

10. Ultimately, to be successful, the product has to do what you promise. Sooner or later, a flimflam will end your career. If promises or claims are made, the long term customer will have to be satisfied. There is no substitute for this.

Yes, in the end . . . oh, why don’t you rent the movie and study your lessons. You’ll love it and learn from it. Get ready for "76 Trumbones".

I would appreciate comments; contact me at Technology Transfer Business magazine: phone: 703-848-2800, ext. 151; e-mail: john@johnsanders.com; internet: www.johnsanders.com.

prepared for the January, 1997 Issue of the FLC NewsLink