Every sales book I ever read started the same way
I got my first job in sales many years ago. I didn’t know anything about selling and I thought I should, so I bought a book on the subject. In the many years since then I have had many jobs that involved selling (including the songwriting job, of course) and I have bought many more sales books to try to improve my selling skills. Here’s the thing; every single one of those books started with one or more chapters on motivation, organisation, goal setting or similar. When I started off, this drove me mad. “Just tell me how to sell things to people”, I thought. Tell me what to say, give me a step by step process to sell things and I’ll be fine. But I just didn’t understand.
Getting yourself to do it is the hard bit
The thing I didn’t understand was that what you say and the steps you follow is the easy bit. The hard bit is getting yourself to do it. Cold calling people who never return your calls, or who say, “I’m not interested”, and put the phone down. The person who told me, “if you were standing in front of me now I’d knock your f*****g head off”. That’s the hard bit. Ending each day with a feeling of defeat, feeling like a loser and yet trying to assure yourself that tomorrow will be different. That’s hard, and that’s why sales books always start with one or more sections on getting yourself to do it.
They won’t hit me, will they?
Is songwriting any different? Further down the line I’ll be sending songs to artists, producers and publishers and while they might not threaten to knock my head off, I am expecting a lot of rejection. We need some techniques to help us with this. So a lot of the skills the sales books attempt to teach us will come in very handy for us as songwriters. I should just say here that most people I met were very nice when they turned me down. Very few people threatened violence.
Not just outside but inside too
It’s not always the other person, whether on the end of the phone or face to face, that makes us feel rejected and unworthy. We all have an inner critic who can cut us down just as much, if not more. In fact, I’ve heard it said that even when the negativitiy originates outside us it’s our inner critic that reinforces it and this is what actually causes us problems. So we need to watch our inner critic and silence him or her before they sabotage our work.
Silence those critical voices
There are many techniques that can help us do this. From NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), for example, we can learn how to reduce the power the inner critic has over us. For example, we can listen to the voice and see where it comes from in our heads and note the quality of the voice (how it sounds, does it remind us of anyone, etc) without letting it affect us. Then make it sound ridiculous – high pitched, drawly or whatever, so that we don’t respect what it is saying anymore. Then we won’t let the voice tell us that our songs are no good, that no-one will be interested in them, that we might as well give up or whatever.
Take a picture of this
We need to actively cultivate another voice that tells us our songs are great. Imagine successful artists hearing your songs and begging you to let them record them. And when they do? That should shut your inner critic up for a while! So it’s time to get your head in the songwriting game. Beginning writers often think of it as an arty pursuit that is above all that grubby hustling; but it’s not. Remember, it’s the music business.