The No Sell Sales Pitch?

There were some dancers who were vacationing in the area who contacted me via a local dance critic to set up a meeting for this morning. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be a hard sell about why we should book their company. What actually transpired I don’t even know if I can label a soft sell because we really didn’t talk about their company or what it did at all. In fact, the name of the company was only mentioned once at the beginning of the meeting in response to my assistant theatre manager’s query. But for his memory, I would have no way to check out their work because they didn’t leave any print or video materials.

You might assume from that description of the meeting that they were unprepared to promote themselves and advance their interests. Promoting their company and work didn’t seem to be their intention. Instead they talked to me about the local arts environment and made notes. They talked about some of the other geographic places they hoped to have performances and promised to submit a proposal for the sort of work they hoped to do.

I was somewhat bemused by their whole approach and pretty much let them determine the direction of the conversation. The whole situation intrigued me enough to give their proposal full consideration when it arrives.

I don’t know if the proceedings were part of some business model they had in mind. It is pretty labor and time intensive to visit and discuss things one on one with different performing arts venues so this will never be viable large scale. They said they want to move beyond operating in Los Angeles. It appears as if they have chosen geographic locales where they would like to work on the Pacific and Rocky Mountain regions and set out to develop relationships with venues in those places.

The benefit will be having a deep understanding of the needs of each venue so they can create performances and residency activities suited for those places. They mentioned they would have a home season too, so they probably aren’t looking for these partnerships to provide all their support.

Sales professionals will likely find a lot wrong with how they conducted our meeting, especially those from the always be closing school. It was all wildly inefficient and they have no more inkling as to whether I am interested in presenting their group than they did before calling to set up the meeting.

What really appealed to me about the portion of their approach I have seen thus far, whether they intended it or not, is that it places them in a more active decision making role. Instead of making a shotgun solicitation of people to present their work, they are choosing where they would like to work and approaching those places. I still have a great deal of decision making power, but if I do decide to accept their proposal, our relationship will be a more equal one because we both know we choose to work with each other.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


4 thoughts on “The No Sell Sales Pitch?”

  1. I think this goes a long way toward demonstrating the merits behind sincere networking. I’m curious, did you ever ask them if this approach was planned or just “is” based on who they are?

  2. Wow, what an amazing job of ‘networking’ they did. They actually asked people questions instead of telling them stuff? More of us should do that–take they time to listen and understand.


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