Steve Jobs - The Salesman

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on November 27, 2012

"We're here to put a dent in the universe!" Unforgettable words from the inimitable Steven Paul Jobs. Whether Jobs managed to put a dent in the universe is questionable but it can be said with certainty that he’s put a crater in the minds of many of its inhabitants. It has been a while since Jobs left this universe for heaven (some might say hell) but there is still a lot being written and said about him; most of it pleasant, some of it extremely caustic. What one cannot take away from Jobs is his unparalleled contribution in creating a plethora of Apple evangelists (also referred to as Apple fanboys/Appletards).

Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not one of them for the simple reason that it is not very easy for an average Indian middle-class man to afford American ‘apples’ produced by child labourers in China. However, I'm surrounded by quite a few of these Apple fanboys who often tell me that Sachin is not God; Steve Jobs is. They experience multiple orgasms every time an Apple product is launched and also promote iPill with quixotic vigour as deep down they consider it to be a part of the Apple family. This tribe also tells me that Jobs will go down in history as one of the greatest men to have walked our planet. I usually respond by saying that I'm sceptical if he deserves that place in history, but if one were to compile a list of the greatest salesmen ever, Jobs would be right up there!

When I call Jobs the greatest salesman ever, the intention is not to mock; in fact it is to adulate! No one has sold technology better than him because he did it in a fashion that still hasn't found a peer. While the world often remembers him as an 'incredible innovator', a 'great visionary ' and an 'unconventional leader', very few people talk about his unique communication style that has played a cardinal role in giving Apple products the aura they enjoy today. Without Jobs’s mojo, the Mac would have been just another computer, the iPod just another 'me-too' mp3 player, the iPhone just another banal touchscreen mobile phone and the iPad just another run-of-the-mill tablet. That mojo was always at its zenith when he sold his wares to the world.

Jobs would usually kick-start the selling process at his product launch presentations and that's where the real action would take place. A typical Jobs presentation had many a fascinating element - suspense, drama, villains, a headline to capture the imagination of the world and one magical, stunner moment!

Let's go back to January 9, 2007. The technology world is abuzz with expectation as Steve Jobs is to introduce Apple's first mobile phone at Macworld, San Francisco.

Jobs gets on to the stage wearing his typical St. Croix turtleneck, Levi 501 blue jeans, New Balance sneakers, rimless spectacles and his casual, uber cool confidence. He opens the show by telling the audience that this is a day he's been looking forward to for two and a half years and that, every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.

He moves on to remind them that in 1984, Apple introduced Macintosh and it didn't just change Apple but changed the whole computer industry. There’s a huge applause from the audience. To add to their excitement and nostalgia, he reminds them of the introduction of the first iPod in 2001 and that the iPod didn't just change the way we all listen to music but it changed the entire music industry. There's some more applause, some more nostalgia and the stage is set for the drama to unfold!

Jobs then announces that today he's going to introduce three revolutionary products. The crowd responds with enthusiastic cheers. They came in expecting the launch of a single product, a phone, but here is Jobs telling them that he's got three on offer. Suddenly, the air of expectation is three times more vivid. The suspense builds up.

The first one, he says, "is a wide-screen iPod with touch controls". There's more applause from the crowd. Then he tells them that the second one "is a revolutionary mobile phone". The cheers from the crowd become boisterous. After all, they'd come here for that phone! Jobs adds "and the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device. So, three things: a wide screen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough Internet communications device."

His voice grows louder - "An iPod, a phone and an Internet communicator". He follows it by speaking even louder and faster - "An iPod, a phone... Are you getting it?" He piles on the suspense, the expectations reach a fever pitch and the cheers turn thunderous. It's all perfectly set for the suspense to be revealed. The big bang moment is just round the corner and the magician on stage is all set to bask in its glory.

And then we have that magical, stunner moment - "These are not three separate devices. This is one device, and we are calling it the iPhone." That’s it. It's huge. The crowd goes berserk; whistles, cheers, claps - it's all happening in there! The drama has reached its zenith! Amidst this euphoria, we get the punch - "Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone!" That's the positioning statement of the iPhone, and also becomes the headline in newspapers, tech journals and magazines the world over!

In all the exhilaration, Jobs introduces the villain in the story - the current breed of smartphones which typically provide "Phone + email + Internet". He takes a dig at Moto Q, Blackberry, Palm Treo, Nokia E62 (the top 4 smartphones at that time) by highlighting the inadequacies of their plastic QWERTY keypads and makes it clear how their user interface is not good enough to handle future changes in technology. There’s almost a touch of disdain in his voice as he talks about these phones.

Then he introduces the hero who can overcome these problems. The hero is a smartphone that doesn't have a QWERTY keypad - the iPhone with a touchscreen, and for this screen, he asks sarcastically, "Who wants a stylus?" There’s a little pause from Jobs and then he adds, "We’re going to use the best pointing device in the world. We're going to use the pointing device that we're all born with, and we're born with ten of them. We're going to use our fingers!"

The message is clear - three devices in one. You operate it with your natural stylus, your fingers. Yes, Apple has reinvented the phone!

If this spectacle is anything to go by, one can safely say that when Jobs sold, he was as smooth as a casanova on his zillionth date. Numbers provide a testimony to his superlative selling skills too. Here’s one statistic that will boggle the mind – by the time Jobs expired in October 2011, the iPhone pulled in more than 50% of the total profit that global mobile phone sales generated. When the iPhone was launched, tech circles believed that this was Apple’s way of competing with the prevalent smartphones but Jobs was certain that the iPhone was in a different league altogether. Also, with the iPhone 5 soon expected to touch 10 million in sales, it would only be fair to say that Jobs’s charisma is still bringing in the numbers!

Jobs wasn’t just a phenomenal tech geek, he was an absolutely awesome communicator too. He empathized with his target audience, spoke in their language, which was devoid of jargon, and knew how to be 'insanely great' in front of them by creating an aura of romance around his products. Good salesmen convert prospects into customers; awesome ones like Jobs transform prospects into evangelists. John Sculley once said, “Marketing is really theatre. It’s like staging a performance.” And no one staged it better than the guru in the turtle neck.

Jobs did not sell computers, mp3 players or mobile phones; he sold an experience, a passion and an opportunity to be a part of a revolution that would alter the world. Perhaps that’s what it takes to sell by the millions even after you are long gone!

This article has been authored by Rohit Haldankar from Welingkar.

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