February 15, 2017

The Balletic Art of a Sale

Albert Einstein famously declared “Dancers are the athletes of God,” and rightfully so.  A dancer, a ballet dancer in particular, must possess the strength, endurance, and stamina of a professional athlete all while maintaining the grace, artistry and control that is instrumental to success in the world of ballet.  Ballet is not just tutus and pointe shoes–it is physically and mentally demanding.  Ballet is no joke.

Many sales managers have a propensity to hire former athletes.  However I’d be inclined to seek out a ballet dancer.

ballet dancerPresentation and Preparation

There are many parallels between ballet and top sales reps. Let’s start with an easy one.  A strong dancer will convey a story holding command of the audience throughout the performance.  A dancer will practice, practice, practice and then practice some more, perfecting each step. They don’t just get up on stage and “wing it.”  They’re prepared.  Dancers may need to improvise a sequence or two, but regardless when they step on stage, they have a plan and steps (literally) in place to execute.

We’ve all encountered sale reps who are great speakers and can hold audience’s attention.  They are prepared for the meeting, know their audience, the value their product will bring to a customer, and the steps to implementing the solution.  Both good sales reps and dancers are always practicing and working to improve their skill set.  Whether they’re listening to a podcast in traffic or spending extra hours practicing a difficult sequence, both are working to strengthen and perfect their craft.  They are prepared, ready to execute, and have a plan in place to connect with their audience to achieve a desired stated.

No Short Cuts!

In ballet, there is a concept called “end game.”  It’s when a ballet dancer takes a short cut in her technique to achieve a certain aesthetic.  For example, a ballerina may lift her leg high in the air, but her hip may be turned inwards to get her leg higher (you don’t want to do that).  To a novice eye you’ll notice how high their leg is.  However, someone who knows ballet technique will instantly notice the dancer is not in a “turned out” position and movement is not being executed correctly.

Sales reps can also fall victim to end game when they are overcommitting the capabilities of a solution, or trying to push a quarter end deal by resorting to an aggressive discount.  On the surface this may seem like a good tactic, but often times it has a negative impact.  It can strain your relationship with your customer or result in a loss of credibility for the technology.

For a ballerina end gaming can result in injuries that take months to heal or derail a career.  Top dancers and sales reps understand the importance of executing the correct sequence of steps and not taking short cuts.  Let’s face it: a dancer may never have the physical capabilities to extend their leg as high as they want; a vendor’s technology may not be able to address every business issue. However, recognizing limitations and focusing on properly executing what can be achieved will yield far more impactful, long-term result.

ballet dancerWorking as a Team

Lastly, top dancers know the importance of the corps (other dancers on the stage).  Ballet dancers know how to dance together, complimenting each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  Even for the top dancers in the world, it would be pretty boring just to see one person on stage for 2+ hours. You need the entire company of dancers working together in a variety of duets, solos, and corps dances to tell the story.  Without the entire company working together, the story would not resonate and be harder for the audience to understand.

I’ve worked with some very talented sales reps. One thing they all have in common is recognizing the importance of each person’s role in the company and how it enhances the buying experience for the customer.  A sales rep takes the lead role but knows how to bring in other company members to demonstrate the value of the technology to the customer.  For example, a senior product manager may perform a custom demo for a group of engineers, a business case analyst to collaborate on an ROI and a customer finance rep to construct a payment solution to alleviate any budget constraints.  Each resource plays an important role in enhancing the customer’s overall buying experience.  Both dancers and sales reps work collaboratively with members in their companies to provide a comprehensive vision that resonates with audiences and customers alike.

Successful dancing and technology sales both take professionalism, strength, determination, dedication, and drive.  Both dancers and sales reps understand the importance of being prepared, how to connect with their audience and putting in the extra time to perfect their craft.  They recognize their limitations and strive to execute in the proper form or sales motion, not forcing their customers or bodies into an unnatural, compromising state.  They know it’s not a one person show and the importance of working with other personnel to convey a comprehensive story.  Who knew the worlds of technology sales and ballet had so much in common?


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