Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The American Idol Philosophy of Selling

American Idol is currently the most valuable TV format in the world with an estimated value in excess of $2.5 billion. Millions tune in each night to see if their favorite has what it takes to make it to the next round. In a recent blog post, Evan Sohn, CEO of SalesConx, wrote about the similarities between American Idol and selling. It's a very interesting read - especially if you're a fan of the show!

"The biggest reality of this reality show is that the contestants need to sell themselves week after week to the American public," says Sohn. "These contestants are therefore thrust into being top salespeople. The compensation plan is fierce, the payout is huge and the space in the President's Club is limited."

Here are the characteristics that make up an American Idol, according to Sohn:

The Right Place at the Right Time - A solid performer picking the wrong materials is a sure-fire way to get ridiculed by the judges and fall out of grace with America. Timing in sales is always important. Getting in front of the right decision-maker with the right solution at the right time is more of an art form than a coincidence. You could be the best salesperson on your team but not returning a client call in time could be the difference between getting the deal and losing the deal. Knowing when your client is most open to your pitch is just as important as the pitch itself.

You Gotta Have Heart - Being emotional in what you sell is always important. People respond to those who really care about what they are selling. You have to always believe in what you are selling. If you don't, then I suggest you sell something that you can get passionate about. Passion sells.

Honesty - A lot of the judges' talk time on American Idol is telling contestants to be true to who they are. A country singer should sing country and a rock and roller should always rock and roll. Putting on a bandana and carrying a chain doesn't make a person a rock and roller and the customer is never fooled. Don't try to convince the customer that your service or product does more than it really does. While you might get through the first rounds, the likelihood is that you'll soon get tossed.

Listen - Nothing pains me more than watching these young performers acting smugly when getting advice from Simon Cowell. Simon, a seasoned recording professional, is always trying to get the best out of the contestants. The show is his product and he strives for excellence. Those who listen to him almost always come back the following week to rave reviews. All they have to do is listen. Selling is just as much about listening to your customer as it is talking to them (maybe even more so). Hear the feedback from your customer. Why aren't they as excited about your offering as you think they should be? How was your pitch?

Never Forget Your Lines - Remembering the words to your song is Selling 101 basics. Giving a presentation to a room full of people should be a conversation between you and your audience. Stopping the presentation to look up your notes ruins the flow of your presentation. Rehearse your presentation over and over again. Go over potential questions. Be prepared.

Nice Guys Don't Always Finish Last - While American Idol is supposed to be a talent contest it is just as much a personality contest. An obnoxious, egotistical and arrogant performer no matter how good, never makes it to the end. Simon is quick to point out who is nice - never as a matter-of-fact but always as an asset to any performer. People like to work with nice people. Making sales is about forging a relationship between two parties. Choosing nice people to work with is the prerogative of the decision maker. When in doubt - be nice.

So, do you think you have what it takes to be an American Sales Idol?

Evan Sohn is the CEO of SalesConx, a marketplace for professionals to buy and sell introductions to decision makers. Check out his blog for sales advice, news, and info.

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