Nov 1, 2013

"Know" How To Sell

For as long as I can remember I’ve been selling. I’ve sold strangers on what they should order at the deli. I almost sold used cars, but then my wife stopped me. When I was a pastor, I sold religion (we’ll come back to that later). What I’ve come to realize is that everything is a commodity. Everyone has access to the same tools to create content, products, and innovations. The only unique thing that we can leverage in this market is the user experience. Currently, as a Cincinnati based video production director I sell ideas, peace of mind, and trust. After ten years I’ve learned that offering a good user experience during the “sell” boils down to what you know.



You would think this concept is common sense, but over the course of my career I’ve witnessed and participated in a lot of meetings that I didn’t even need to be in. Meetings can be black holes where productivity dies and momentum can be swallowed. Fear them.

Bringing the wrong person to a meeting can make or break a deal. Sometimes you’re better off going alone. Much like a dating relationship it’s important to have a good understanding of your status. If you’re on a first date with a prospect keep it short and focused. Choose a relaxed environment like a coffee shop, as you ask lots of questions and get to know what your new friend needs. If your lead is bringing a colleague then its ok to double date and bring a wingman to keep the conversation flowing, but make sure its the right wingman. In the get to know you phase you want to bring someone who thrives in social settings, knows how to add value to a conversation, but also knows when to sip on his or her coffee. This scenario is about “fostering the love” and we all know love triangles can get messy, so keep it simple.

If you’re further along in the relationship and you’re ready to get serious, then its time to introduce the family. Most of the time these meetings will happen at an office and include some sort of tour. We know that not all family know how to behave in public so be selective of whom you bring to the party. Everyone attending a meeting should fit one of three roles: the boss, the specialist, or the hype-man. Anyone else sitting at the table is just distracting and unimpressive.

The boss is there to establish credibility. This person doesn’t have to literally be “the boss,” but they should be the most professional person in the room. They should be an integral and ongoing character in the client relationship story. The specialist is there to support your claims with data, expertise, and an overall sense of “I’m smarter than you” without being an asshole. Considering you’re selling something that you’re supposed to be an expert on, your specialist builds confidence and fosters peace-of-mind. The hype-man is there to energize the room and build momentum. A good hype-man will get the party started and find ways to pump up the volume when the conversation falls short. Be careful to select a hype-man who is experienced and authentic, otherwise you risk having your meeting completely hi-jacked.


When I was a pastor, I learned hard that when you’re trying to sell the masses on eternal salvation and escape from a fiery hell, timing is everything: dramatic pauses build tension, blood and guts raise the stakes, and guilt served over delicate reflective piano music, closes the deal. Like church, a meeting is a holy place. It provides a platform for you to prove why you’re better than everyone else, so choose your words carefully.

Listen and then speak. You’re at a meeting because someone actually thinks you might provide some value to them. They want you to understand and serve their needs, so ask lots of questions and follow up questions to reveal the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Once you’ve served your role as counselor, allow some space to reflect and then offer insight to how your solutions would be a good fit for them. Be careful not to over-sell. Once someone has been saved and baptized, make sure not to hold them under water too long.


If you bring the right team and manage to say all the right things, you still have to show prospective clients something they can believe in. If your slide deck is full of bullets and charts, consider yourself out-of-date. You have a specialist and hype-man in the room, use them to your advantage. Supporting media is there show what you can’t say, so be sure to include well-designed infographics, videos, animations and photos. Each piece of media should create a jumping off point for your team to talk about what you’ve learned in your collective history, and how it has positioned you to be the perfect fit for the project. If you’re not a good fit for the client or project, be ready to exercise the last bit of what you know.


Even though you knew who to bring where, when to say what, and how to show why, sometimes not everyone on the date “feels the love.” This lack of chemistry is a huge red flag. The result will most likely be a series of unnatural conversations and you’ll find yourself rephrasing all of your big ideas. At this point, it’s probably wise to politely wrap up the meeting and call it a day. Although getting more clients is typically a good thing, getting the wrong clients can destroy your company’s mojo. Saying no can be hard to do when sales expectations hover over-head, but a bad project can drain your team of energy and resources, keeping you from great projects.

As you think about your “sell” keep in mind the concepts you now know. As a director I rely on who, what, when, where, why and how to guide the story. When I’m selling the story, I use “what I know” to make sure that I can yell “action.” And that’s a wrap.

Brandon Faris

Brandon Faris

Film Director