Charlie Parker

“Whatever you were after, you had to get up off your rusty dusty and do something to get noticed — something that was so much like you, it was nothing like anyone else.”

This quote jumped off the page at me, when I read it in Kansas City Lightning, the fabulous biography of saxophonist Charlie Parker, written by Stanley Crouch. Flying back from a business meeting, this book seemed like the right pick for a brain in need of rest. Pure entertainment en route to LaGuardia. Who knew? A book about a jazz great yielded business insight – double bang for my buck!

“The Yardbird’ was still a teenager when he created jazz phrasing so original it still goggles critics today. That’s what can happen when you spend 15 hours a day practicing for several years — and have the guts to put your rusty dusty and talents out there for all to see.

Musicians will know what I’m talking about. Technical proficiency is a requisite; if you want to entertain a crowd, you learn your part. But if you want to electrify the crowd, make them feel something, chops alone won’t do it. You need to give them something they haven’t had before to create a dynamic moment. In a world this big, that means going inside. You are the only thing going that for certain has never been seen before.

In a career that has taken me from a BFA in flute performance to sales scripts to top financial advisors to politicians, entrepreneurs, business leaders and plenty of hard-to-define geniuses, I’ve become convinced that this quote applies to, well, pretty much everyone. Since we all have something to sell, whether it’s our personality, product, music or message, delivery matters.

I am going to keep talking a great deal about this essential fact and how it applies to the world of sales and persuasion. I’ll talk about strategies, sales tactics, networking, niche marketing and plenty of other ideas that apply specifically to the business of promoting and selling our products, personalities and ideas. But underneath it all there’s a soundtrack. It can be canned and competent. Or it can change the game because it brings the goods in a way that makes ears perk up and listen.

I’ll talk about practice, research and some of the work of learning your part, message, product or market. But, never forget, you have to sing in your own voice. That’s what will make it special. That’s the only thing compelling about any of it. The music only YOU can play. As an unreconstructed musician, I know it’s a lot more fun on that stage once you’re over the fear and enjoying the show as much as anyone else.

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