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Mind Your Business: 'The Art of Listening' or 'Shut Up and Sell More'

In this round of "Mind Your Business," Mark Simon reminds animators that you're in sales, so you have to learn the art of listening or just shut up and sell more.

Mark

Let's start with the fact that you are a salesman... That's right, you're in sales.

Go ahead. Let it sink in.

Everyone is selling something. If you're an artist or animator, you're selling your talent. If you've created a television concept, you're selling a show. If you own a production or post-production company, you're selling your services.

Selling isn't so bad when you're confident about what you offer and passionate about what you do. If fact, you probably sell all the time without realizing it. Every time you talk about what you do, in essence you're selling it.

We all love talking about ourselves. It's a national past time. Don't believe me? Remember the last date you had. Remember how your date went on incessantly about their pet, job, hair, boss, ex or car?

If you want to impress your date (or spouse), ask them questions and let them talk about themselves. "How was your day, honey?" You know it works.

The same works in business. Ask your clients about what they do, about what they need and about the problems they run into. Then remember to listen to what they say.

As creative people, many of us can do more than one thing. When you meet with a client or a prospective client, you may go on and on about offering "A" when your client may really need offering "C".

How do you know to pitch them "C" and not "A"? By listening to their needs and not always talking. Ask them what they need. Ask them about what they do. As they speak, you will find out what you need to talk about, how to approach them and you will have a much better chance of closing a sale.

I had a meeting with a large corporate event design company. I was representing my storyboard company and knew that they sometimes storyboarded large events from the participant's point of view to help sell their concepts to their clients. My original assumption was to go in and talk about our storyboard experience.

At the beginning of the meeting, I asked them to give me a better idea of what they did so that I could better help them. The client started telling me about how they design their shows and pitch concepts to their clients. He started pulling out concept illustrations. At that moment I told him we provide concept illustrations too.

Luckily, I had concept art samples with me. Over the years we have done much more concept illustration for that company than storyboarding work. By listening to his needs, I found a lucrative market I hadn't expected.

Another time we were pitching our own shows at NATPE, the National Association of Television Programming Executives. We were at one booth pitching an adult animation show and while they liked the style and the writing, they weren't looking to pick up a new series. We asked them what they were looking for. They said they had a series of shorts that they wanted to turn into a long-form series for adults and were looking for writers. They already said they liked our sense of humor and that led to our getting a contract to develop and write their series. If we hadn't asked and listened, we wouldn't have gotten anything out of the meeting.

The other thing to keep in mind is knowing when to shut up. Once you've made you pitch and showed your samples, stop talking. Let your client make some comments. Your presentation may give them an idea. Allow them to move toward closing the deal.

They may also have some concerns about your product or service. If you don't give them a chance to voice those concerns, you won't have the opportunity to belay their fears.

You know what it's like when someone drones on and on and on and on and on and on and on... If you have something to say, it's frustrating to try to get a word in when the other person won't shut up. Don't let that happen to you.

I guess now it's a good time for me to shut up. So how was your day?

Get a copy of Mark & Jeanne Simon's free report on the 7 Biggest Show-Pitching Mistakes you should know about. Mark may be reached at MarkSimonBooks@yahoo.com.

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