Hallelujah Multitasking (Issue 712)

In which we are reminded to plan ahead and multi-task in our sales calls.

We 300 in full voice began the final chorus of Handel’s Messiah.

“Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halle-lu-jah!”

“Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halle-lu-jah!”

120 members of Boston’s Back Bay Chorale and a five piece brass ensemble in the Quire, 200 or more of us audience in the nave, and the Emmanuel Church pipe organist behind and above us in the loft, together not quite shaking the foundation… and fully engaged.

Conductor Scott Allen Jarrett swiveled counter clock wise to cue the organ, then back to the Chorale and brass, then back again to cue the eager amateurs in the pews, then back to the brass.

With bright smile, quick swivels, and strong, clear gestures, he kept us all together …. Nobody rushing, no missed entrances, finishing the final “Hallelujah” together, richly fortissimo, elaborately sustained… oh, my goodness, I thought we’d pass out. I was practically shaking in the brief silence that followed.

Lucky me, I happened to be standing next to another Boston area conductor who works with chorale and instrumental ensembles in the city.

As we picked up our coats, I asked, “How does he DO that?,” thinking about Jarrett’s coordination of us all.

“You have to be able to multitask if you want to be a conductor,” she replied.” You have to be in the moment so you can hear what’s happening and make adjustments, but you have to be anticipating so that you’re ready to lead the group into the next phrase.”

Sounds like… a sales call to me. [But then, you’d probably guessed that.]

We speak often about “be present, listen to what the client is saying,” and “don’t be off in your head thinking about the next question because you’ll miss what the client is saying,” and “don’t be thinking about the product you’re going to pop when you should be listening.”

All good counsel, except….

We have to multitask, just as conductors have to. If conductors are completely in the moment, they aren’t anticipating; the orchestra or chorus ends up leading the conductor who then becomes reactive. If conductors are too many bars ahead of the performance, they can miss what’s happening NOW and the opportunity to adjust. They have to shuttle back and forth between “now” and “a few seconds from now.”

“Ah,” one might object, “but conductors have a specific score to follow; sales people do not.”

“True,” I might respond, “particularly if the sales people did not write call plans.”

EVERY conductor invests hours of study before and after rehearsals, planning cues to pull the very best from their musicians. When they have a plan, they have a base from which to work and they can be “present” and “anticipate what comes next” – they can lead. If they’re just winging it, inevitably, the chorus and orchestra end up leading them.

Same for us as sales people. If we have call plans, we have a base from which to work and we can multi-task. We can be ‘in the moment’ and we can also ‘anticipate’ where we need to lead the discussion and cue the client at the appropriate times. Hallelujauh!

If we’re just winging it, inevitably, the client ends up leading us. Disaster.

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