Last fall I attended a couple of talks by Richard Sherman, who, along with his brother, wrote the music for the Disney movie Mary Poppins. He related stories about the difficulty encountered by Walt Disney in obtaining the rights to make the movie from the story’s author, P.L. Travers, as recently dramatized in the movie Saving Mr. Banks.
Ms. Travers had a vision for how the story would be told, and had definite ideas about everything from the cast to the music. Since I had heard the back-story from one who was there, I was among the first to see the movie over the holidays. I was struck by how Disney used his magic to persuade Travers to allow him to make Mary Poppins.
Reviews of Saving Mr. Banks have been, for the most part, positive. One "negative" review was written by Lou Lumenick of the New York Post, who said “Saving Mr. Banks is ultimately much less about magic than making the sale.”
And what is wrong with that? Disney was an incredible marketer and salesman, selling his innovative concepts to investors from a young age. Disneyland was built as a result of Walt Disney’s need to have a fun place to spend an afternoon with his daughters. (Spoiler Alert!) P.L. Travers finally let loose of her stranglehold on Mary Poppins once Walt realized the story was about how her father was depicted.
And, there is magic in making the sale:
- Find the real need. Disney didn't assume Travers was holding out for money or just being difficult. He had to dig to find out what was really holding her back. Your clients often have reasons that are not obvious for not saying “yes.” Find out what they are and answer them.
- Come up with a great idea. Disney had storyboards and catchy music. Travers didn't always agree with him (the Sherman brothers' concerns about “Supercalifragilistic…” when Travers says she doesn't like made-up words is priceless), but it kept her talking and engaged. You can always modify the idea once the real need comes out.
- Establish a relationship. Don’t think that Disney and P.L. Travers became close. In fact, the story goes that once they came to agreement, Disney muttered to his assistant, “I’m going to the ranch. I'll be back when she is gone.” However, Disney made every effort to impress Travers, accepted or not, and it was his ability to listen and understand her upbringing that gave him the insight needed to “make the sale.”
- Consider your client’s wants as well as their needs. Not saying that you have to change an entire concept that you know will work, but be considerate and refrain from, “Yeah, but…” Notice that “Supercalifragilistic…” is in Mary Poppins after all. Consider all solutions, like letting the grandchild be in the spot, but not voicing it as the proud grandparent/business owner desired.
Your listening skills, your ideas, your experience in what will work and your engaging personality can all be magical in media sales.
By Kitty Malone, Efficio Solutions Manager of Client Services