Business Perspectives

February 7, 2013

Winging It: Lessons from a musician

Getting started in a new business venture, most new owners have the same problem.

Getting started in a new business venture, most new owners have the same problem.

They come in with a wealth of knowledge of their product, whether it is ministry or medical care or basket-weaving, and a lack of understanding of their chosen business model and its practical application.

Others, mainly sales personnel, often start with little or no understanding of either.

Either way, the lack of real-world experience means they fall into the same pattern, technically termed “winging it.”

Before this needed experience is gained, a powerful verbiage is essential. It should include, above all else, “I don’t know, but I know where to look.”

After years of education – and even gaining experience – competent professionals still refer to textbooks on occasion to confirm complex nuggets of advice, sometimes even in the presence of clients.

In the age of smartphones where people forget their own telephone numbers, people are valued less for what is in their heads and more for what comes out of their mouths.

In fact, that principle really is timeless.

Many recent college graduates receive this advice believing education has prepared them for any eventuality. No matter how expensive or expansive their education, it cannot replace real-world experience. Each will have a patient or customer ask a question they can’t answer. In these cases, they need to go back to relying on things they’ve established as automatic. And they must be sure these things are ready when they need it.

At the same time, what should be in everyone’s head – no matter what – is the daily communication with customers to the letter. Whether it’s a sales pitch, a fact-finder, a sermon, or a standard consult, what comes out of a person’s mouth is only 10 percent of the message; traditional wisdom holds that the other 90 percent is tone and body language. What’s interesting is that when the well-practiced words come out of someone’s mouth, the rest of the job is already done. On the other hand, words spoken without prior thought can betray themselves just as easily.

In college, music majors are handed a book of “excerpts” from musical literature and expected to perfect them on their instrument. These were the selected sections of commonly played pieces that were technically challenging.

On the off chance, then, that they are to run into one of these pieces, they would play it professionally with little additional practice. It’s common to spend months or years on just a handful of excerpts, polishing and perfecting, hours each day, so there is no chance of a mistake.

When the budding professional runs into one of these in a performance situation, the hours and months of preparation are culminated in a few seconds of splendor, just as easily forgotten. However, without those hours of preparation, the resulting cacophony would leave a bad taste with the listener that would linger long after the concert.

It is the same with the “performance” in a person’s profession practice, whether it’s on his first day or after 30 years.

An amount of experience can be assumed through the power in which a person communicates; in the same way, any existing experience, whether actual or perceived, can be erased through weak communication.

Many practitioners with experience have automated their daily activities to the point that it transcends the thought that would go into their words, and they can fully focus on building the relationship with the person in front of them. These people are typically recognizable by being leaders and mentors in their industry.

Then there is the professional, a rare breed, who takes this concept into every word that comes out of their mouth in the course of business. They rehearse every presentation, every proposal, and every closing for hours before stepping in front of the customer. They are loved by their clients, revered by their colleagues, and remembered by those who follow them. These are the legends.

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