I loved playing saxophone back in high school jazz band.  The harmonies of the music, camaraderie of the fellow musicians, and especially the joy of soloing. The funny thing about the term “soloing” – is that you are not playing alone. Far from it. Supporting your playing is also the piano, drums and bass, and occasionally other instruments for background effect.

So why the word “soloing”? Because the instrument doing the soloing is actually making up the musical melody over the chords being played by the rhythm section. And therein lies the critical element of any skillful soloist…understanding and executing on the underlying chord structure. Sure, it may be your “solo”, but it only sounds good if you’re using the right notes that belong to the chord of the moment.

Recently while consulting with a digital sales team, we tackled how to position a core sales asset to customers so that it resonated several benefits. We spent several weeks with several stakeholders getting various interpretations of the key benefits and sales points. Finally, after many series of refinements, we distilled it down to three core elements.

From there, we developed narratives to support each point, but – and this is critical – did not encourage the sales team to memorize these narratives word-for-word. That type of “robo-selling” belongs in a sad tele-sales sweatshop, and is completely ineffective, and worse, insincere in face-to-face, solution focused relationship selling. No, we didn’t want “sight readers” – we wanted soloists. We explained to the sales team that while the core sales points were critical, equally critical was their ability to explain it in their own, genuine and committed manner. In effect, “soloing”. The core sales points were the chords, and they were the soloists who brought the message to life.

In sales, as in jazz, the artistic execution of the soloist can make the moment memorable and amazing. You know it when you hear it. And if you need proof, lend me your ears HERE to the great Count Basie in “Basie Boogie”. (Oh by the way, there are really basically 3 chords to this song, but because of the superb soloists, it’s anything but boring.)

Work hard on knowing your chord structure. Work harder on bringing it to life. It’ll be music to your customer’s ears.

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