Pablo Picasso was a sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright, but what he’s best known as is the 20th Century’s most influential painter. He became that by tearing up the rule book, but he didn’t start that way.
Born in 1881, his father soon realised his son had an extraordinary talent and gave him all the tools he needed to explore his artistic side. The first thing Pablo did was learn all the rules of art by painting in a naturalistic style, like almost everyone else.
At the age of 16 he was enrolled in Madrid’s Royal Academy of San Fernando and the switch was thrown. With a newly found and intense dislike of formal instruction he simply stopped turning up. He’d already learned the rules and now his destiny lay in breaking them.
What happened next was extraordinary. By experimenting with different theories, techniques and ideas he went on to be co-founder of the Cubism movement, leading the way for artists such as Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol.
What he did was change the way we understand visual communication but at the same time he reassured us that his works were still actual paintings.
He did this with a love of rules because without them he’d have nothing to bend or break. Yes, that’s right, Pablo Picasso loved rules.
(He also went on to break a few other rules with several mistresses and a wife or two but that’s a digression we’ll quickly brush over).
So what can we learn from Pablo?
First and foremost selling, like art, is a form of expression. Your pitch is your canvas and how you paint that canvas is up to you but to be able to break the rules you need to learn them in the first place, just like Picasso.
Learning the rules requires formal training – there is no shortcut. But once you have the knowledge, the systems and disciplines that underscore the rules of selling, then you’re free to systematically break them as you wish.
Of course there are different kinds of rules. For example in finance there are legal regulations, in construction, health and safety considerations and in food, hygiene standards to name but three. These types of rules, for obvious reasons, can’t be broken.
The rules you can break bring us back to the sales pitch being your canvas.
Ten examples of breaking the rules:
1. Follow your gut instinct. Be versatile and think differently.
2. Selling is not a numbers game. Filter your contact list – be prepared to throw out as many as you add.
3. Think long-term and cajole your contact, don’t bludgeon.
4. Because it’s the way it’s always been done doesn’t mean it’s right.
5. One style doesn’t fit all. Tailor your presentation to each individual contact.
6. Reeling off the benefits of your product or service doesn’t sell. Listen to what your prospect needs.
7. Don’t set out to impress your prospect, let your prospect become impressed with you.
8. Be agile in your presentation. Prepare to change course as required.
9. Stop talking about yourself. Talk about your prospect instead.
10. Is a one-to-one pitch the best way? Maybe a group meeting with a collection of decision makers would be better.
Paint your own masterpiece.
You’ll know what’s right or wrong, what works for you and what doesn’t. Experiment with different styles of presentation. Explore different avenues of introduction, different ways to achieve the close. Once you know the rules, breaking them will not only be liberating but can also bring you the long-term success that you desire.
Picasso died in 1973 and left a huge legacy to the world of art. He defined new territories of expression and new methods and ways to create. He gave future artists permission to be different and above all carved out a unique place in the illustrious history of art.
By learning the rules then breaking them, you could be the next Picasso of the sales world. Be brave and give it a go. You never know…
By Doug Tucker, Managing Director of Sales Commando, an international sales training organisation. His motto is 'Have fun. Make money' and you can too! More sales techniques, advice and tips can be found in Doug Tucker’s book ‘Sales Commando, Unleash Your Potential’. The book gets straight to the heart of issues, complexities and opportunities and encourages and accelerates personal growth and sales success.