There was a very nice personality profile of William Shatner in the New York Times by Pat Jordan. Shatner, of course, came to fame in 1966 in Star Trek. He speaks with a charming combination of resignation and bemusement about how his life has been ruled by his type-casting as Captain Kirk. This role defined Shatner more than any actor’s role I can think of. He got wildly rich on stock options from his 1997 commercial for discount travel company Priceline, playing a preposterously pompous exaggeration of his real pomposity as Kirk. “I. Am. Captain. James. Kirk.” There is a sweetness in Shatner’s wry acceptance of his lot.
The article on Shatner got me thinking about sales and type-casting. Type-casting is something that only very successful actors need to worry about. Nevertheless, it’s a thing that anyone touching on sales should think about. To wit, successful sales pitches can lead to sales failure if one falls captive to them.
One of the things I noticed early in my life as an accidental salesman was that if I started pushing myself too hard or too long without a break I sometimes drifted into a kind of catatonic gibbering, gobbling Tim Askew imitation, lacking spontaneity and any sense of being humanly present. The words were the same, only uttered by a ghostly empty shell. I learned to take regular breaks and look for opportunities to change my patterns of speaking, listening, and being. I became very willing to mess up a bit, if that kept me in a place of reality and spontaneity. This allowed me to remain free, happy, unbored and compelling in my work. Real.
These days, in my own executive sales outsourcing company, I prefer that my associates not work over 25 hours/week formally selling, unless there is a client emergency. You just do better if you stay fresh. I even tell them not to worry about selling success, just to tell the truth simply and fiercely. Though I know hundreds of sales books disagree, I honestly don’t personally see sales as much more than that.
Call me simple. Thanks, Mr. Shatner.