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Sales Lessons Learned from the Music Man

August 31, 2011

I do not know how many of you are old enough to remember “The Music Man”. Set in July 1912, a traveling salesman, “Professor” Harold Hill (Robert Preston), arrives in River City, Iowa, intrigued by the challenge of swindling the famously stubborn natives of Iowa (“Iowa Stubborn”). Masquerading as a traveling band instructor, Professor Hill plans to con the citizens of River City into paying him to create a boys’ marching band, including instruments, uniforms, and music instruction. Once he has collected the money and the instruments and uniforms have arrived, he will hop the next train out of town leaving them without their money or a band.

Great movie, and lots of fun.  However, Professor Hill is what most people think of as the classic con artist and salesman. Please note that I AM NOT SUGGESTING BEING A CON MAN.  On the contrary, I believe being honest with high integrity is one of the most important characteristics that a sales person must have today.

However, there are some great sales lessons to be learned from Professor Hill:

  1. Professor Hill has a Sales Plan, a Sales Process and a Sales Strategy.  He has had great sales success in other towns across the Midwest.
  2. He focuses on what is important to the customers. He appeals to the emotions of the parents and the children. He never really tells them about his history. It’s all about them.
  3. He is completely passionate, positive, and enthused about his product and service. So much so that in the end not only does he have the townspeople convinced, but he himself actually believes he can do it.
  4. Professor Hill gets the whole town involved in the sale, not just one or two people. There are many buyers and influencers in big sales. Don’t just rely on one or two contacts in a big sale.
  5. At the same time, he focuses on the Decision makers and Opinion Leaders to convince them that this is a great thing to do for the town and the kids.
  6. In the end, he made sales fun for himself and the town.
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