Closing the Sale with Panache

Some greatest hits:  In September 2008, the New Yorker had a profile of the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. His secret for closing sales? Writes Rebecca Mead:

Calatrava has made sketching in public another signature move. In Dallas, where two Calatrava bridges are being built, he pulled out the watercolors after lunch at the home of Margaret McDermott, a local philanthropist who contributed two million dollars to the project. (“He reached into his briefcase and dipped a brush into his water glass,” Mary McDermott Cook, McDermott’s daughter, recalled of the occasion. “My mother said, ‘Get him another glass of water!'”)

Seven teams competed to build a new railway station in Belgium. While the other contenders played it safe and came in with proposals and past work samples, “Calatrava showed up alone, with his paintbrush, and won the commission.”

You always have to guard against your product being perceived as a commodity–something that customers can line up against your competitors and compare on price. Calatrava did something bold and set himself up as a craftsman and expert–not a peddler.

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.