There was a very nice personality profile of William Shatner in the New York Times last month (September 9, 2010–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 fuck it up, 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 Corporate Rain International, 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.