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Shut Up!
By Ricky Fitzpatrick - 12/18/2002 - 01:46 PM EST

Somewhere along the line, someone got the idea that all great salespeople are fast-talking devils that know how to turn a phrase, blow smoke up our arse and convince us that we want to buy something that we really don’t want. Hollywood has stereotyped the salesperson into a tastelessly dressed, bad hair, loud mouthed guy that just won’t stop talking. You say the word “salesperson” and everyone thinks they’ll never get another word in edgewise.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Most of us think that if a brother, cousin, nephew or niece has “the gift of gab”, that they would do great in sales. “Billy just can’t shut his mouth! I’ll bet he’d make a great salesman!” But the reality is that all truly great salespeople are exactly the opposite. A truly great salesperson knows one thing, if he/she knows nothing else…

when to shut up.

Think about it. Who do you think is the most important person in the world? Better yet, let me ask you this.

If you, a priest and an elderly woman were all on a plane that was spinning and plummeting out of control, smoke pouring out of the non-working engines, the pilot was dead, the stewardesses were missing, the controls are broken, the radio is out and there was one parachute on the plane, and that lone beacon of hope meant the difference between living and dying for whomever strapped it on…who would you want to have it?


Okay, you can tell me a big, fat lie and say that you’d give the parachute to the priest or the old woman, but in your heart, you’re thinking, “That baby’s MINE!”

When it’s all said and done, you believe that YOU are the most important person on the planet. The world revolves around YOU. YOUR stories are the most interesting. YOUR jokes are the funniest. YOUR songs are the greatest. YOUR problems are the most pressing. YOUR finances are the most scrutinized. YOUR time is the most valuable. None of us may consciously think it, or, God forbid, SAY it, but in the back of our minds, that what we all think. And we respond accordingly when we believe that someone recognizes how vital we are to the ongoing happiness and function of the human race.

Your customers (the people to whom you are trying to sell), feel exactly the same.

Okay, hypothetically…let’s say you’ve finally gotten the meeting you’ve been plugging for with a very reputable A&R guy from a notable label. You’ve got the chance to pitch your material in a big way to someone who can really make the wheels turn.

You walk in, shake hands, sit down, ask about the weather…and shut up. You ask how his golf game is going…and shut up. You notice a family picture on his desk, so you ask how old his kids are…and shut up. Are you getting the pattern here?

You do 10% of the talking and 90% listening.

An hour later, you get around to popping in your CD and the guy seems unusually responsive.


Well, it’s not a guarantee, but probably, your chances of success just multiplied because you made this guy feel like he was important. Not by a slick presentation. Not because you wowed him with your masterful writing. Not because you had “the look”. Even though all of that may have been true. Even though some or all of those things can be very important. Even though some or all of those things could be a condition of a “deal”.

Lots of people have the same “on the paper” qualifications as you…some have a lot more. Admit it. But now, this guy is feeling like he connected a little, he’s feeling pretty fuzzy after talking for an hour about his life, and now he’s a little more open to discuss things with you.

All of a sudden, you’re not just another songwriter out for the break of a lifetime while he continues pining away for a moderate salary, in a stuffy office at a controlling label giant, as he discovers the next big thing, putting you in a position to be a star, travel the globe, be admired and respected by millions and earn 20 times in one year what he makes in a lifetime. But now, you’re someone who appears to actually care. You’re a person, not just a salesman.

It’s that simple. Really.

I sell cars every week to people who walk away saying they love me. They send me cookies. They introduce me to their kids when I see them in town. They invite me to their family parties. They stop back by just to say hello.

Do I always give the best price? No. Do I have a bullet-proof sales pitch? Nope. Am I quick on my feet and lightning fast with my knowledge of my product? As a matter fact, I’m a pretty slow, methodical thinker and my product knowledge has holes in it the size of Lake Michigan.

But what I do know how to do is be a friend. And how do you become a friend to your customer? By asking them questions and then listening intently while they either entertain you with interesting facts or bore you with useless babble. They are the most important person in the world to you, and your listening is proof of that.

Is that the way it goes every time? No. But sales is about building a connection and listening to your prospect. Making him/her feel important. Not that they aren’t, but it’s your job to confirm and amplify that point.

Whether you’re selling cars or music, I think we’ve all discovered that it isn’t always about the product itself, but actually a lot about the unseens. And sometimes, it’s the guy whom the customer LIKES the best that gets the sale.

Remember when you’re selling yourself or your music or your songs or your show or your whatever…you are MEANINGLESS to the customer until they believe that they are PRICELESS to you.

Happy sales and don’t forget…shut up, already!

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