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Posted July 7, 2009
I recently read Top Performer: A Bold Approach to Sales and Service by Stephen C. Lundin and Carr Hagerman. It's a book designed to provide a wake-up call for those who work in sales and service. If you've been conducting business for a while, have experienced some success, and are wondering, "What's next?" - or "How can I shake things up?" - this book could be very helpful for you.
The premise is unique: those in sales can learn a lot from the experiences of street performers. At first that may sound like it's a stretch, but the authors make their case very well. It's written as a parable, with a street performer named the Rat Catcher providing surprising advice to a salesperson whose enthusiasm for his business has waned.
The story draws parallels between a street performer's talent for engaging the audience, getting them involved and drawing them in, and the most effective approach for sales. A performer has to always be on his game. He must be prepared to improvise, accommodate surprises, and reach higher and higher if he senses he's losing the attention of the audience. The performer must be able to deftly convert a heckler into an invested member of the audience - or at least a surprising or amusing element of the show!
The book teaches the reader all about the value of harnessing energy - your own, as well as that of those surrounding you - to establish instant rapport, a feeling of group participation, and a shared experience. Through that shift, you can increase your sales and even your personal enjoyment of your "show."
The chapters are broken into different show biz techniques for improving performance - Claim the Pitch, Mine the Mess, Choose the Close, and Juice the Jam. The story is fun and engaging and the lessons translate beautifully for those of us working in sales. I found the simple story a good way to communicate some powerful techniques.
You know, my whole life I've enjoyed street performers. I always stop. I always watch. And I always give money. I've observed and appreciated the energy they put into the shows, but never before had I made the connection between what they do and what we do. I found the premise of this book so thought provoking and unique; it is a great new approach to a very familiar subject. I thought the book was good and that the lessons were clear and meaningful to our industry.
It really just boils down to recognizing that life is about relationships and living in the moment. It's about embracing change, dealing gracefully with mistakes, and rolling with the punches. In the end, those lessons and qualities serve us well in business, too.
Stephen C. Lundin is also the co-author of Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results, which is a fantastic business book that tells the story of the fishmongers at Seattle's Pike Place Market, and how they developed into the most popular "street performance" in the country. This is also a great read, which I reviewed on December 7, 2006.
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Posted November 22, 2009
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