Intent is more important than technique
I first heard those words about 5 or 6 years ago from Mahan Khalsa, author of the excellent book Let's Get Real or Let's Not Play.
(Which, believe it or not is a book about selling consulting services).
A few years earlier I'd been working in Basel in Switzerland, doing some strategy work for a large pharmaceutical firm.
Back then my favourite pastime outside of work was magic. Not the “sequinned suit, girls jumping in and out of boxes” type. But close up magic – the sort done right under your nose that leaves you completely mystified.
I was pretty good (I had a lot of time to practice in hotel rooms working away from home so much). I'd performed professionally a few times in restaurants and at parties. And I wanted to take my skills to the next level.
It was never going to be a career option. Frankly, unless you're really, really good, it just doesn't pay well enough compared to consulting. But I wanted to be the best I could be.
I found out that Roberto Giobbi, famous magic author, inventor, collector, and one of the world's leading teachers, lived in Muttenz a short distance away from Basel. So I booked a lesson.
I remember my taxi pulling up at Roberto's house and studio one evening in the rain, and feeling both excited and apprehensive in equal measure at meeting someone whose work I'd read for so long and who I'd seen perform many times on DVD.
After looking round Roberto's studio and some of his collection of historical manuscripts and books we got down to work.
I did a short routine for him (a combination “ambitious card”, “Triumph” and “card to impossible location” if you're interested).
We then sat back and analysed the routine.
What I'd expected was to focus on my technique. Roberto is schooled in the “Spanish style” – complex yet artistic sleight of hand.
What we did was very different.
Roberto asked me what I was trying to achieve with my magic. What I wanted my audience to experience and to feel as a result.
Tough question. But a good one.
Was I trying to fool them? Amuse them? Astound them? Make them laugh? Give them a once in a lifetime experience of sheer wonder?
And who was I trying to be? A suave entertainer, a clown, a skilful cardsharp?
Roberto and I worked through these questions over a number of hours and a couple of drinks too. It was hard work. These were questions I'd never really thought about much before.
But it turns out Roberto was right. If your goal is to entertain your audience. If you're playing with them, rather than trying to outwit them – then they play nicely back.
Rather than your performance being you trying to impress them – to “make” them laugh, to “make” them like you – it becomes one where you work together with the audience to help them have a good time.
When they know they're in safe hands. That you're not trying to make fun of them or embarrass them. Then they can relax and enjoy the ride.
In magic, intent is more important than technique.
Though as Mahan would say – technique is still important. Clumsy technique spoils the illusion, breaks the spell.
But if your audience doesn't choose to join you. If it's you vs them rather than you with them – then all the technique in the world won't save you.
Marketing is like magic.
You must start with the right intent. Your goal must be to help your clients succeed, not merely to sell them your stuff. You with them not you vs them.
When your potential clients see your intent, they too can relax knowing they're in safe hands.
So before you go into any sales meeting, ask yourself the questions Roberto asked me. What are you trying to achieve? What do you want your clients to feel and experience?
Get that clear and you'll see a difference in how they react to you.