Anthony Bourdain, one of my all-time favorite storytellers, and the first influencer/celebrity I felt I could genuinely relate with is no longer with us. Yes, it has been a while since the day he took his life, but, that’s the thing about those that influence you – even after they’re no longer with us their impact doesn’t fade. He was brilliant, rough around the edges and unapologetically himself. He transformed the way people look at travel and food; he told the story of the everyman in a way that made you feel like you were there living it with him, a part of his crew. He inspired me and continues to inspire me.
Today while flying home from visiting clients, I had his show No Reservations on in the background while I was working. It got me thinking about how someone who spent the majority of his life working in kitchens, perfecting his craft as a chef, and then as a writer, storyteller, and host, could have such an impact on someone who has spent their life doing the polar opposite – working in marketing and business development. Then it hit me, what if Anthony Bourdain was one of the most exceptional business development talents ever to walk this earth? How could that be? He never held a position in my role, but, in his world of culinary storytelling, he did it better than anyone else: He was transparent, captivated his audience, fully immersed himself in what he did in every way, and seized every aspect of every moment.
I realized that in business development as in Bourdain’s career, those lessons go hand-in-hand. Here are four lessons I’ve learned from someone I revere as a man who did it his way, with transparency, tenacity, angst, and love.
If Bourdain was anything, he was transparent. His no holds barred approach to writing and storytelling punched you in the gut, giving you a high level of clarity and fulfilling your desire to be there indulging in all of the beautiful experiences he was living, all while just watching him on a box in your home. To accomplish that, it requires vulnerability. In business development, people want the real you. They’re not buying your product or service; they’re buying you and they’re buying trust. They’re also buying your transparency. As salespeople, we all need to be more like Tony by allowing your prospects and clients to experience your life. Get to know the real you. People don’t want to buy the perfect product from the perfect person – your prospects are not that dumb. They live the same existence as all of us. Show them you, trust yourself and be confident in yourself. Be unapologetically you.
Captivate Your Audience.
Often, I feel like this skill is next to impossible for those who aren’t gifted in the art of captivation. Hell, what even is the art of captivation? It sounds more like something you would learn from a pyramid scheme marketer than something you would learn from the Wharton School of Business. Maybe that’s the case, but there is merit to it. Look at all of the people and brands that influence you. A part of you buys what they sell because they hold your attention. You’re their audience. To captivate your audience, you have to tell a story that not only provides value but inspires them. In business development, you don’t need to inspire them to a better version of themselves, you need to encourage them to solve their problem. Tell that story. Don’t go in and say, “My product will save you X amount of dollars vs. my competitor and give you Y in ROI.” That’s boring and bullshit. Paint the picture of the experience your product provides. What’s it like to use your product? How will it impact their lives or business? Show them why you’re passionate about your product and let them feel that passion through your expressions and actions (sidenote: if you’re not passionate about what you’re selling you are in the wrong line of work – make a change).
Anthony Bourdain traveled all over the world to experience people, food, and culture. He fully immersed himself in all of those experiences. In business development, if you’re not living and breathing what you do, what you sell, and why you sell it, you will fall short. Be sold out for your job and be sold out for the solution your providing. Remember, even if you’re selling a product, you’re selling a solution – and solutions for problems make the world go round. The best way to become sold out for what you’re doing is to immerse yourself in it completely. Live the life, walk the walk and all that jazz. Fall in love with your solution and become the walking testimony of why your solution is the best. Your solution is you and what you’re doing in your career, not your product.
The namesake of his debut show and my favorite part about Anthony: he held no reservations. He lived, he acted on instinct and had a fierce passion for what he did. He lived for his career in the most accurate meaning of taking no reservations. When he told a story, you often would get the feeling of being hit in the mouth and then immediately feeling comfort and trust. His intention in being himself while providing joy and value to his audience was undeniable. That is so amazing to me. He did what he enjoyed and what he wanted to do without question or hesitation and at the same time made his audience feel like he was doing it for them, and that he wanted us to be there! That’s because that is precisely what he was doing. For salespeople, this is the secret weapon. If you don’t love sales and business development, why would you work in it? So, hold no reservations on your career and in your goals and get them. That’s what business development is all about.
When everything in our day is said and done, these four lessons hold substantial value and are a key to success in business development. Whether you’re selling promotional products or software solutions, the takeaways remain the same.
Thank you to Anthony Bourdain for giving me over a decade of inspiration, hunger, a parched mouth, and an evolving palette. Over a year after you left us, you continue to teach me new things every time I hear you tell a story.