Selling and the perfect crime

Catherine Russell

Do you know who Catherine Russell is? Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t. Catherine Russell holds the distinction of acting in the same play for almost 25 years – earning a spot in the Guinness Book of Records. The play is – The Perfect Crime.

According to Catherine, people often ask her: “How do you do the same thing every night? Does it get boring?” She responds “never” – and then goes on to provide two reasons.

First, each audience is different, so they react differently to the performance, thereby resulting in a personally different experience for her.  Second, she consciously adds a few subtle, small changes to make each performance different than the previous ones.  For example, while she says the same line, the tone may be different – nastier or friendlier perhaps.

Lots of other people with repetitive jobs stand out and excel by adding innovation or uniqueness to how they do what they do.  How many of us have been impressed at one time or another time by the dancing traffic officer or the subway announcer who personalizes each broadcast?  Regardless of the challenge, people holding repetitive jobs often say they not only don’t they get bored with their job over time; they get better at it.

In many sales forces there are a fair number of sales people in the double-digits when in comes to years in the business.  So what is the potential crime?  Well, while they may not all have held their position for 25 years, it’s easy to fall into a series of “been there done that” traps – such as not planning and rehearsing that call because you have done that “same call” a 100 times or not listening to the customer because you’ve  “heard it all before” and already know the right solution.

Catherine has an interesting perspective that can and should be embraced by every sales person: Each sales call is unique because, like every one of Catherine’s audiences, every customer is unique with a different set of needs and a different view of what constitutes value.  This means you have to ask, listen and then position you solution in a way the customer sees the connection between what you’re proposing and what matters to them.

The really good news is, due to the transformational changes occurring in most marketplaces, there is no better time for Catherine’s message of innovation and uniqueness to resonate then the right now.  It’s highly unlikely most sales people can prosper moving forward by simply doing a better job doing what they are doing.

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©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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