(Spoiler Alert: This post will have a lot of spoiler alerts from American Horror Story: Coven. If you haven’t seen this television program, I recommend that you stop reading right now, and return after you watch the show).
What can salespeople learn from watching American Horror Story: Coven?
If you are not familiar with the TV program, here is a quick summary –
It is a modern-day story of a group of witches living at Miss Robichaux’s Academy in New Orleans. The academy is a boarding school where bad or confused young witches are sent to learn how to effectively use their dark powers. They learn to accept themselves and avoid being detected by outsiders. Once they master their skills and don’t kill others (or themselves) in the process, they return to the real world and try to live normal lives.
The underlining theme of the 13-episode program is that Fiona Goode, the Coven’s “Supreme,” is running out of time. Fiona (played by Jessica Lange) is dying from cancer. To survive, she must find and kill the new Supreme. Powerful and selfish, she refuses to step aside and die with dignity. Rather than take the new Supreme under her arm and train her, Fiona hopes that by murdering the new Supreme she can return to her youth and cure herself.
But Fiona has a problem – she doesn’t know who the new Supreme will be. All she knows is that one of them is among the young witches living at the academy. So besides each witch vying for the prized position of being the new Supreme, each one of them must also watch their backs. Suspicion and fear take over. Loyalties change.
Let the story begin.
There are numerous subplots throughout the show, but for the sake of this blog, I will not discuss them.
Now, how can we learn to be better salespeople from watching the program?
1). Have a Clear line of succession:
History is filled with power struggles when it comes to succession. However, the sales department isn’t the place for that sort of drama. Every sales department should have a manager, an assistant manager, and some basic understanding of the line of succession. This avoids petty backstabbing and allows everyone to focus on doing what all sales teams should do best – sell.
In Coven, the young witches should be focusing on developing their skills and learning how to adjust to the outside world. They should prepare for the coming of the new Supreme and welcome her with open arms. Instead, they are distracted by fear of being knocked off by the Supreme who is hell-bent on maintaining control. In addition, some of the witches try to kill each other or refuse to revive a dead colleague, which only adds more anxiety and stress.
Letting go is difficult. I know that. But to grow and generate new ideas and perspectives, the old must step aside for the young.
Sales departments shouldn’t turn into medieval feuds, where various camps are pit against each other, fighting to determine the next sales manager.
Have a clear succession of leadership. If some people aren’t happy with the current or new leadership, they can always find new jobs.
2). Don’t underestimate your abilities:
To determine who will be the new Supreme, each witch must be tested to see who can master the “Seven Wonders of Witchcraft.” The tests include transmutation, where each witch must teleport from one place to another, and telekinesis, where each witch must move an object with magic.
During the tests, one middle-aged witch, Cordelia Foxx (played by Sarah Paulson), is encouraged to compete. At first, she is reluctant, because she doesn’t feel she has the same skill sets as the younger witches. Nevertheless, she accepts the challenge. After passing all the tests, she becomes the new Supreme.
The message is obvious – don’t underestimate your abilities. You know more than you think. Stretch your limits. Climb new heights. Don’t let self-doubt and fear discourage you from achieving your goals.
As part of the test in the “Seven Wonders of Witchcraft,” each witch must send its spirit to hell and return by sunrise. If they don’t return, their bodies turn to dust and they are forever living in eternity in their own personal hell. All the witches pass the test except one. Misty Day (played by Lily Rabe) is forced to stay in a high school lab where she constantly revives and then dissects a frog, all the while being mocked by her fellow students and criticized by her teacher. Misty can’t let go of her personal demon. She is trapped in hell forever.
In sales, we all have to overcome our own personal demons. We all have self-doubts. We all are plagued by negative thoughts. We sometimes have bad attitudes. To become successful, we must break through our own hell through positive thinking, independent learning, and ongoing training.
4). Don’t be ashamed of your profession:
In the last episode of the season, the new Supreme decides to come out to the rest of the world. She holds a TV interview and encourages all young witches to join the Coven, where they can find a safe place to develop their skills.
Witches are no longer hiding in the shadows. They can now become part of regular society.
As salespeople, don’t we sometimes feel ashamed of our profession? When someone asks you what you do for a living, what do you tell them? Do you reply “I’m a new business development manager,” or a “consultant”, or an “account manager.”
Do you ever say – I’m a salesperson.
Like the witches in Coven, don’t be ashamed of who you are. Be proud of your profession. Embrace it.