How to sell what people do not understand

Posted on October 10, 2012 by


I had a brief job working as a tennis agent’s assistant, while a voice talent. It was a life-altering  experience. I will touch on why this is important to all Voice123 talent, who feel their hard work and craft, goes largely misunderstood. It may help you, as it helped me.

Back in 2003, I was in charge of reaching out to businesses and media in order to find prize money for professional tennis matches with wheelchair-bound athletes. I learned several business and life lessons during this time, including why people make excuses for things they have no control over. No matter how much I believed in what I was doing, like it or not, I still had to sell the idea of “showing tennis matches on television for higher prize money involving these athletes”. There is no such thing as “build it and they will come”.

My boss at the time (let us call him Bob) and I did the basic efforts of cold-calling, emailing, and postage to set up interviews. We had amazing marketing materials, too, and we met with some incredibly successful individuals and high profile sports networks. We sold the socks off of this, and I would like to share where we succeeded and where it eventually fell apart. What got us in the door for chance meetings with sports networks:

  • The heart and soul of the players we represented. They told us they were riding in Roman Chariots. I was incredibly inspired by their attitudes and actions.
  • We told the story of each player and the family behind their professional success.
  • We explained why they needed to be on television. It is about the message it would send to everyone who thinks they should quit.
  • We explained what we viewed they would get out of this venture, and rightfully so, what we would.
  • We made it as little work as possible for them to understand the importance of what we were doing.
  • We put our own hearts into what we did, we were ourselves, and felt no one should be obligated to us for taking that risk.

Feedback received at that time:

  • There were those who cried while we did the meeting, and felt a relationship to those we spoke about.
  • There were those who wanted to jump on the chance to get involved, immediately.
  • They told us, “The story you expressed in the email is exactly what you are telling me now. It is great that you have the ability to keep telling others why this is important to the world.”

Then, it all fell flat. Why? For one reason beyond our control, and it was a common theme across many rejections:

  • The biggest bosses in the room, the one everyone focused on while we talked, all said the same thing, “This is just too depressing for television sports programming.”

Ouch. We could have taken that feedback personally in front of them. We could have argued about it, and why we thought they were not open-minded enough, but we did not. Why? We still made a great relationship based on other skills, and we represented someone else, so we had to protect their interests, too. The feedback was hard-earned and to destroy that hard work, would serve no one. Don’t get me wrong because inside, I was very angry, but I do not think I knew why at the time. I realized later that the idea took on a life of its own, and people I needed to help it grow, did not see things the way I did. That was a bitter pill to swallow, but it happened. Regretfully, I had to quit that job, and voice overs, around that time for financial reasons. On the bright side, years later, I can share that story as a way to let voice talent know how they can “sell” themselves. I see it like this, and if you are a voice talent in a downward slump…take note:

  • Be yourself. Do not copy. You are what you are because of your own choices.
  • At some point, you need to sell what you do with pride and backbone. Get over what others think about you.
  • Stick to the core mission of what you are selling and why, for a period of time. It is the only way you will know if your idea can be sold.
  • Be able to tell a story about what you can do, over and over again, on a whim, and mean it! If you are bored, they will be too.
  • Understand the people you are selling to, and research it with obsessive passion.
  • Do not sell anything you do not believe in. People always buy you, and why you do it. We all sense a lack of confidence in what we sell when it happens
  • If you cannot do it, do not promise it. Heroics leave a person broke, angry, and confused.
  • Do NOT take anything personally. It stunts the learning process.

About that last point…I mean it so much I wish I could travel back in time, and shake myself for getting so upset at hearing, “People will find it depressing.” I believed I failed them. I still prefer to see something inspirational over a bunch of guys playing poker, but it is not about me, is it? Still, I quit and that business went in another direction, only to be successful. I displayed to myself why I needed to be flexible. I often see the word “selly” used to insult the practice of selling, but I see it this way…If you believe in what you are doing, people are ok with you selling it even when they reject you, because they saw your human side.

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