Willie or Frank?

Willie Nelson or Frank Sinatra?


Two very unique and amazing song stylists take the same sheet music and turn out very different performances. You need to learn how to do the same thing when learning to sell. Learn how the fundamentals work – and I mean really  learn them – then play it with your special style.

That is how greatness happens.

Let me illustrate: listen and enjoy while you read the rest of this post.

“You look like a college professor!”

He didn’t intend it as a compliment. Perhaps it was the tweed jacket with the patches on the elbows. Maybe it was my long and full beard. Maybe it was simply that I really do look like a college professor.

His problem was that he owned the company – at least that franchise of it – and that I didn’t come across as the slick, high-powered sales trainer we were all supposed to be.

I can play slick on TV, but it is not going to last in real life.

I tried the gig for a while, being a “business-like” person. In time it became clear that it was an outside-inward shift, the kind I keep warning people about. It is one thing to design an environment that will bring out the best in you. It is quite another thing to adapt to an environment that stifles your creativity and true self in pursuit of a societal construct.

That way of being had little connection to who I really am. Anyone who has viewed one of my videos would probably agree. I have been called Hippie Sales Guy, Metaphysical Sales Guru, and – yes – professorial.

But Slick Sales Trainer?


There is something insidious about the stereotypes and professional posturing that creep into our lives as we over-adapt to society’s expectations. I saw it in corporate; I have seen it in direct sales; I see it all around me. People will assume the posture of someone who is deemed successful, or powerful, or respected by the hoi polloi, but they have no frame on which to hang that posture.

The Posture Needs the Frame

Let’s use sales training as an example.

I have known some amazing trainers. If you put them all in a casting call in their typical attire/persona, you might have a hard time guessing what they have in common.

  • One is a Sikh with a long beard and a turban. He may be wearing a suit, but he’s just as likely to show up in jodhpur pants or a robe.
  • One looks and dresses like a televangelist at Sunday worship.
  • Another is in shorts, flip flops (or barefoot), and a Hawaiian shirt.
  • One guy wears leather and chains and looks like he’s getting ready to jump on his Hog to join the Harley rally in Sturgis.
  • One of the ladies is tall, in high heels, a mid-calf skirt, blouse, and a blazer.
  • The other lady is short. She has blond hair in a pageboy cut and wears a fluffy pink sweater, flats, and chinos.

If you were the casting director, you’d ask, “What the F*** am I supposed to do with THIS? What are we casting for, anyway?”

Steel in the Spine, Fire in the Belly, Gleam in the Eye

Each one of these people I have described is real, and each one is a KILLER at training. What they have in common is steel in their spine, a fire in their gut, and a gleam in their eye. I would turn my people over to be trained by any one of them in a heartbeat.

I would also tell my people, “Learn from them, but don’t try to BECOME them. Learn what they have to teach you like the notes on sheet music, then MAKE MUSIC!”

I believe it was Arthur Rubinstein who commented on a piano competition that they played beautifully but “when are they going to make music?”

Learn the notes. Then make your own music…whatever its style.

That will be interesting.

Michael Stammer is a Sales | Life | Performance coach available for individual and group coaching and speaking to organizations. For more visit www.coachmichael.com

Header photo by Matt Buck used under Creative Commons License.
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