Space Between the Notes

One evening, I went to hear the Boston Pops orchestra, Keith Lockhart conducting, play a program drawn from "The Great American Songbook," songs made famous by Glenn Miller's orchestra, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fats Waller, and others.

They played and absolutely NAILED Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing,” a driving piece that features a furious and relentless drum solo.

The original soloist, Gene Krupa, made a very strong statement in 1937. [One writer has described Krupa performances as “full of flash, cramming as much technical prowess into his playing as to become a disadvantage.”] The Tuesday night Pops drum soloist, expanded on the original — more notes, faster.  I almost had to back away, physically, it was overwhelming. I wondered whether the guy was being paid overtime by the note.

Contrast this approach with another school of jazz thought whose teachers included Miles Davis, a master of minimalism who could play a phrase and let it hover, giving almost as much emphasis to the space between the notes as to the notes themselves. Although I admire the technical skill required to pick or percuss at speed,  I’m in Miles’ camp.  The silence between the notes creates space in which the notes have an impact, deliver a message, draw the listener in.

The same sensibilities apply to sales conversations. If one views the asking of a suggested line of questions as a series of notes to be played through, salespeople tend to ask them with Gene Krupa velocity, almost as if they’re trying to see how many questions they can fit into 30 minutes.  Miles’ approach  (and I know I’m simplifying this) emphasizes silences, or space; this is what we want in sales calls when we’re intending to draw our prospects or customers in.

The typical way to prepare for sales calls is to list the questions we want to ask.  As we prepare for sales calls, we need to be thinking both about the silences or spaces we want to create as well

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