Don’t Sell, Make Them Want To Buy You. An Actor’s Guide To Getting More Work.
You probably understand the idea that being an actor, is like running a small business. But even then, when confronted with an idea such as the need to sell ourselves, most of us will probably still saying something like: “But I’m NOT A SALES PERSON, I’m an ACTOR, I can’t do that!” and then run in the other direction.
But here’s the bad news: If casting directors, producers and agents don’t buy your product, you don’t make any money. So you have to rely on selling yourself right? Not quite and I’ll tell you the reason why.
People are afraid of saying yes to sales people because they’re afraid of feeling tricked and being made to look like a fool. You see nobody wants to be sold to, but everyone has things that they’d like to buy. As a society we love buying things. It’s exciting, a little daring, a little risky, a little fun and it tests our instincts, values and taste.
When someone chooses to buy something they don’t feel tricked, because they feel like they owned the decision. So quite simply you don’t need to sell, you just need to improve the chances that your customer will want to buy.
Good salespeople don’t exist anymore, because that’s not what they call themselves. Their names have changed to things like Head of Relationships, Personal Wine Advisors or Entrepreneurial Development Coaches depending on the industry. The word sales is nowhere to be seen! Because if they’re doing their job correctly, these people never get caught “selling” at all.
They educate, they consult, they position themselves as experts in their field, they connect, they ask questions, they advise on the best strategy going forward and they empower their prospects to make good choices. They’re known, liked and trusted by their prospects. They’re generous and they care, not only about themselves, but meaningfully, about the people they do business with.
From a psychological stand point the goal is never to change a prospects mind. The goal is to help a prospect get out of their own way and empower them to do something they should be doing. They do this by showing how the product already lines up with values and ideas the customer had in their head before the conversation began.
In fact, a good “Head of Relationships” invests in their customers so much that one purchase is never a close, but an opening. Because the process they go through in starting a relationship with their clients often makes those clients, customers for life. The customers don’t want to go anywhere else, because they have loyalty to their new found friend. In fact, the client is now so invested in the relationship that they actively want that salesperson to succeed, so they tell their friends. The exact same thing happens in acting.
A-listers like Hugh Jackman and Will Smith are examples of actors famous for getting to where they are today because they were so great to work with, that decision makers along the way wanted them to get there. They just wanted them to succeed. They’re such nice guys after all!
This is very different approach to that of ‘the pushy salesperson’. Their strategy is entirely based on what you can do for them in that moment. They assess the situation and either pressure you to buy or move on to the next prospect. I want you to be very honest with yourself right now and ask yourself these questions about how you come across with the people you do business with.
Do you only contact casting directors or agents when you want something in return?
Are your emails designed to benefit them and make their lives easier or only yours?
Do you lead out with what you can give rather than what you’d like to take?
Do you follow their careers with interest?
Do you celebrate their wins and offer support through their lows?
Do you build relationships over time with patience and thought or do you act like pushy salesperson and only focus on the now?
How much deeper can you go?
How much more positivity can you provide to your industry as a whole?
In order to answer that last question, let’s take a look at six things that ‘great products’ do for the people who purchase them?
- They make you feel good
- They fix a problem for you
- They make your life easier
- They give your social status a boost
- They make you feel proud
- They make you want to share them with your friends.
Is that the experience an agent, casting director, director or producer has when they purchase your services as an actor and If not, how can we make that the case?
I think it comes down to this simple buying strategy. People buy things when they deem the value of the product to be greater than the price they would have to pay for it. In which case, your job is essentially to tell the story of that value.
For instance: Sleek, stylish, ergonomic and beautifully designed, It’s the only device I need. These are a few of the words/ phrases that I associate with an iPhone that make me feel like they’re worth paying $800+ to get the new version each time one comes out. It’s part of the story I tell myself rationalising that the value is worth more than the price.
Now in acting, you’re price is usually predetermined by what your auditioning for because generally speaking, starting out, you don’t have your own fee, which is actually a great thing, because you know that nobody can beat you to a role just by being cheaper.
The problem/ opportunity is that with such a level playing field, everyone seems to be delivering the same thing. And it’s usually a minimum viable product i.e. it’s not very impressive and it requires minimal thought and effort to produce. Nobody’s going above and beyond in anyway, other than try and give their best performance and chat to anybody important with a tone that’s meant to be friendly, but often comes across as a little desperate. Harsh, I know. I’m sorry.
As you might’ve guessed, that’s no way to tell the story of your excessive value. Nor is it the way for you to get the casting director to build positive associations with you, the way I did with the iPhone. This is the homework I want you to take away from this article. If you could choose the words that a casting director would use to describe you… what would they be? Just as an example mine might be something like Instinctual, inclusive, generous and charismatic. That’d be pretty good right. If they called you those things.
So how could you embody and integrate those words into the process of auditioning you, to the point that process became an experience in and of itself? Something that the casting director, their associate and their secretary all looked forward to every time you came in the door? It’s not easy work, its hard and it takes a lot integrating, but In that answer lies the key to creating a product that people want to buy and that you don’t have to sell.