A Monty Python Lesson on Selling

Most of us have experienced the humor of Monty Python over the years via their movies and TV shows. I am a big fan, so when I saw that one of the group’s preeminent members, John Cleese, was coming to town for a one man show, I jumped on the opportunity. I am glad I did, because he reminded me of some very important lessons on presenting and selling.

The stage was empty except for a stool. The lights dimmed, a voice announced Cleese and he walked out to the center of the stage. He let the applause die down and then he said . . .

“A man walks up to a ticket counter . . .” 

He did not introduce himself, he did not start a PowerPoint presentation, he just led with a joke, which of course got everybody laughing. He then went into his program which included a mixture of stories and video clips. It was terrific.

I want to capture three things here for us as salespeople to think about:

  1. It is always a good idea when we are presenting to lead with something that will raise the mood of the audience. Ideally, something that will generate some laughter. Public speaking courses always teach this and I like to teach it in my sales training workshops as well. 

    The rule is: “Raise the mood, make the sale.”
  1. Cleese reinforced the notion that the audience and the salesperson are the stars of “the show.” Yes, he had some graphics (videos) to present, but he made sure to establish personal rapport with the audience first, through speaking and telling a few stories.

    We fell in love with him as a person first . . . then we enjoyed his video clips even more.
  1. Even though he had some clips to show, he kept them short, then reestablished contact with the audience between each clip. I often see salespeople launch into a PowerPoint without pausing periodically to reengage with the audience, they just kind of plow through it. That can go downhill fast.

    It is important to keep touching the audience as we go along.

John Cleese is a communications genius. He is 80 years old now and still sharp as a tack. He admitted that mortality crosses his mind occasionally these days and when it does, he said he likes to refer to Woody Allen’s comment about death: “Death doesn’t scare me. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” 

Laughter really is the best medicine.

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