Pharrell Wins Grammys Because He's A Master Salesperson

Tony Hughes


Pharrell is a humble, stylish and confident genius but it didn't come overnight. He applied the timeless principles of a master closer to become an overnight sensation, put out a smash hit to accompany the international box office hit from Universal Pictures 'Despicable Me' and cleaned up at the Grammys. Here's how he did it:

Anthony Robbins has been saying it for decades - "Selling is about changing someone's emotional state." Being a musician has so much in common with professional selling: Endless personal rejection requiring a deep well of determination and you have to give your all to be successful... no holding back!

We've all seen it on American Idol or Australia's Got Talent or The Voice - Keith Urban telling the contestant that they "didn't really sell it" or Simon Cowell on X Factor saying: "I didn't believe you." The greatest songs take us somewhere emotionally because they tell a story of love, tragedy, redemption... they reach in and tear our hearts out or lift us to heaven with happiness.

Emotion has far more impact than production values. Passion takes you further than mere professionalism. Yes, you've got to be able entertain and sing pitch-perfect... but that's just the ticket to the dance concert. It's ability to transfer emotion that creates Grammy winners and sales legends.

You've got to believe in yourself, especially when others don't. Don't let the song inside you go unsung or as Wayne Dyer profoundly puts it: "Don't die with your music still inside of you." Stop telling and start selling what you passionately believe in. Show it and dare to wear your heart on your sleeve!

Pharrell gets the concept of building in a unique differentiator. His productions with N.E.R.D. cemented his prowess as a producer blending rock, funk and hip hop. He didn't sound like anybody else that came before: the hybrid synergy created an 'original' sound. Differentiating your product and service in sales is paramount. You can differentiate your own selling style by pulling from old school and new school approaches.

Pharrell understands the Ogilvy "one-word" brand equity. Just check out his signature hat by Los Angeles hat designer Nick Fouquet. The hat has become an icon as has his sound. Some sales people I know wear a pocket square or rock a theme color for their company. I'm not suggesting a gimmick but if it's an authentic point of flair it may make sense. My business mentor, Anthony Howard, embraces this with conservative panache. In no case am I the arbiter of business fashion but I can equate his hat to something that makes you say: 'wow, how cool'! What part of your solution, product or service stands out from the crowd? How can you work to uniquely differentiate yourself in the marketplace?

Pharrell stood out from day one as a gifted skateboarder and began to produce other artists, collaborating with great commercial success including Jay-Z, Gwen Stefani, Robin Thicke, Daft Punk and Snoop Dogg. He embraces the synergy that comes from collaboration. The tie here is the concept of team selling where we fly in with a talented solutions consultant and work with our own internal C-Suite to make the deal happen.

The last piece that makes Pharrell a master salesperson is his ability to be a super networker. He is one of the most connected men in the entire music industry. His productions were in such hot demand because he helped pioneer a new technology called Reason by PropellerHead software that made tapestries of sound against canvases and mash-ups all digitally emulating analogue capabilities. He pushed the software to the limit and everyone wanted one of his tracks as a backdrop. You need to become a super networker in your industry, test out cutting edge software for B2B lead generation, trigger event tracking, drip campaigns and marketing automation and push the envelope as a B2B content marketer with LinkedIn Publisher. Think to yourself: What would Pharrell do here? How might he innovate?

Now it's your turn: What's your song inside? What metaphorical music is dying to get out? What other parallels do you see between music and selling? What music gets you pumped up to go out and give your all?



Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at

Main image photo by Flickr: Shawn Ahmed


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