The movie CODA just took home the 2022 Oscar for Best Picture. If you haven’t seen, I promise you a moving, unique story that will leave a lasting positive vibe (but fair warning…there are some minor spoiler alerts ahead). CODA is the abbreviation for Children of Deaf Adults and the story centers around our hero, 17 year old Ruby, who is the only hearing member in her family. She can only communicate with her Mom, Dad and brother through sign language. Not only can Ruby hear, and sign, but quickly we learn she can also sing. Beautifully.

Which brings me to my new hero model for sales, her high school music teacher, Mr. Bernardo Villalobos (“If you can’t roll your R’s, simply call me Mr. V”). He’s a wonderful blend of confidence, empathy, flexibility, and reliability when times get tough. Once he sees the potential in their partnership (her voice and his coaching), he lays out a plan, and encourages her buy-in to his program for her musical success, and ultimately achieves the most precious of gifts: her trust.

Much like our daily regime in B2B sales. We KNOW we have a good product, but how do you get the customer to believe in your system when they are distracted by other priorities and voices. Let’s break down the fabulous Mr. Villalobos’ traits:

  1. Confidence: During a stressful time in their training, Ruby challenges Mr. V’s prowess “It’s not like school did you any good.” (teaching HS music in a small town). His retort : “Do you why I’m teaching? Because I’m good at this.” Sometimes simply affirming the confidence you have in yourself to serve your customer, and believing in your solution, is all you need to keep pressing forward.
  1. Empathy: What is your customer’s biggest fears, concerns or even joys or accomplishments? You’ll never know until you ask. When Ruby doubts her natural singing talent, Mr. V asks how singing makes her feel. Not surprisingly, the musically inexperienced 17 year-old isn’t sure – it’s not something she can put into words. Mr. V simply says “Try.” From there Ruby digs down and expresses it in the only way she knows emotional depth…through sign language.
    Your customer has gold nuggets of information to share, if you’ll just find the right way to ask. Try.
  2. Flexibility: When you encounter previously unknown customer challenges and obstacles, the best sales pros make the necessary revisions to keep the project and proposal moving forward. In another memorable scene after Ruby is late, again, for another session, Mr. V tells her it’s useless. She doesn’t have the commitment. It’s over. In the face of that fear she shares the revelation “I’ve never done anything without my family before.” Mr. V hears it, but more importantly, feels it. He uncovered the real obstacle and now, can create a plan around it. What are your customer’s obstacles and how can you be flexible to solve them?
  1. Reliability: In the penultimate scene Ruby auditions at Berklee College of Music, but everything is chaotic and on-the-fly, because it was a last minute family decision. Mr. V was not informed. They arrive 30 minutes late for her appointment. She’s underdressed. She’s unprepared. She brought no sheet music with her, and the piano accompanist doesn’t know her song, requiring her to sing acapella – a huge disadvantage. She needs a miracle. Enter Mr. V from the back of the auditorium, and asks the judges for permission to accompany her on piano. And yes, it was as brilliant as you might guess. Coming through in the clutch. Having that additional idea to tip the decision. Being there during the trial period like clockwork. Reliability is one of the foundations of the very best sales professionals.

All of the great moments in sales feel like auditions. Investigation, preparation, anticipation and the final presentation. Mr. V’s sales traits are rock solid. Internalize them and then follow the universal advice of every music instructor: Go practice.

The Ganon Group offers communication coaching for executives and employees across all departments: C-Suite Leadership, Sales, Customer Experience, Technical / Product Development, to improve their communication and presentation techniques. We believe everyone can “up” their game when it comes to communicating initiatives and ideas within the organization, outside to new prospects, to existing clients, or to outside media and trade organizations.