In business we hear a lot about visualising and visualisers.
Certainly, sales people who can paint a picture so vivid that their prospective client can see it, have a great skill. Such skills can be taught. That’s where training comes in. However, there are always some people who seem natural communicators. Jasper was one of them.
Jasper had never been in sales, or industry, or even gainful employment yet he was the embodiment of how sales skills are actually life skills. Jasper knew how to propose and close, how to share a vision and then, with inspirational leadership, lead people into accepting his vision as real. He could do what we all try to do every day – change minds. The example below is nearly 30 years old but still inspires today.
We were in a busy Glasgow pub on a Saturday night watching a brilliant band. Jasper was the singer in my band. We needed good gigs and this pub was the place to play. I moaned to Jasper that we’d never get to play in this bar.
“We don’t play covers. These guys (I pointed to the band on stage) know all the songs the punters want to hear.”
“How do you know the punters don’t want to hear our own stuff?”
I’d no real answer other than to mumble some defeatist clichés. We heard the band say they were taking a break after the next song. Jasper stood up.
“Fortune favours the brave. Watch and learn.”
Jasper disappeared into the swaying crowd. The band came off stage and instead of the usual compere coming on stage with the microphone to announce when the return of the band would be, there was Jasper, mike in hand, biker’s jacket on, looking every inch the rock star he wasn’t. To the well-oiled Saturday night crowd nothing seemed untoward but I could see bouncers looking at each other. Whatever Jasper had up his sleeve, he’d have to be quick. Then the whole pub boomed to the sound of Jaspers voice.
“Are you enjoying the band? I can’t hear ya! Are you enjoying the band?!!!!"
The crowd went wild, screaming, “YEAH!!!”. The band must have thought Jasper was part of the bar staff. But I saw John, the bar owner, suddenly stop drying the beer glass he had in his hand and look quizzically at the stage. The Saturday night script was being re-written live. Then Jasper’s voice boomed once more through the PA system.
“Is this really your kind of music? I mean REALLY?!!!”
The crowd yelled, “YEAH!!!”
John the bar owner signalled to the bouncers. I gave Jasper another three minutes at most before the bouncers created a parting in the crowd and hauled him off to God knows what alleyway. Jasper, now with the audience hanging on his every word, shouted,
“If this is really your kind of music, be here two weeks tonight! You wanna know why?!!!”
“My band, The Charlie Higgins Band, are playing here! That’s why!!! Sooooo, are you gonna be here?!!!”
“We’ll see ya here!!!"
The crowd cheered as he left the stage. The bouncers were trying to reach him and John the bar owner had come over, doubtless to ‘have a word’ with Jasper.
But they couldn’t get near him. He was being mobbed by well wishers who were patting him on the back, shaking his hand, doing everything but ask for his autograph.
Eventually Jasper just seemed to appear through the crowd and was met by John and his bouncers.
“My office. Now.”
John was legendary. Known for being tough but very switched on to Glasgow’s music scene – and he’d just witnessed a very charismatic band leader captivate his bar’s notoriously hard-to-please crowd.
Jasper later related that John sat at his big desk and told him to sit opposite. Jasper’s adrenaline rush had worn off and now he was sh***ing it. But John dismissed the bouncers, then opened up a big desk diary, flicked through to a date and, with a pencil, put a line through whatever was there. He looked up and stared at Jasper for a few moments, then said,
“You better be f***ing good.”
Thankfully we were and played there a good few times. And Jasper had been right all along. The punters liked our stuff after all. They’d just needed a real salesman, a visionary, to show them the way.
Bob Smith has worked in sales for more than 30 years and is also a published author of both children’s and adult titles.