Maybe hip-hop mogul Sean Combs — a.k.a. Puffy, Puff Daddy and P. Diddy — isn’t the first guy who comes to mind when you think of advice for starting your sales career. On the other hand, few people have managed success in so many areas, including sales and marketing.
Combs’ professional achievements go far beyond music. There’s his Sean John fashion line and his high-profile endorsement deal with Ciroq vodka. He has acted in critically acclaimed films (Monster’s Ball) and on Broadway (A Raisin in the Sun). He has branched out into cable television with his music-video channel Revolt TV, and he has reportedly made a bid to buy Fuse, according to Bloomberg.
During an interview session at the recent South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Combs was swamped with audience requests for career advice. Here’s some of his advice and other lessons that came out of his talk:
- Create your own lane. Combs said he was inspired to start Revolt when he saw a market that wasn’t being served. “I saw a wide-open lane to kind of create the CNN of music, the ESPN of music,” Combs said to a room packed with aspiring artists. “To follow our artists that we love, in such a journalistic and passionate way that ESPN follows Kobe or LeBron or Serena.” Takeaway: Find your own lane, specialty or underserved area where you can shine and dive in.
- Success is there for the asking. After answering an interviewer’s batch of questions, Combs said he wanted to hear directly from the people. “Me!” bellowed one brave young man. “I got a question!” Combs directed him toward a microphone, and the man explained his ambitions. He said he teaches in Harlem, and wanted to know how he could get his music to Combs and the Revolt crew, noting that he barely had money for train fare. “What I’m going to do is save you that train fare,” Combs said, “and I’m going to have somebody watch or listen to it in the next 15 minutes.” Combs directed him toward Revolt’s head of music programming, who was standing on the right side of the room. Takeaway: To succeed, or even to get a chance at success, you must be willing to risk rejection. Step up to the microphone and make your pitch.
- Make some noise. Combs advised the crowd to promote their work on social media. “Make noise online,” he said. “If three people see it, they’re going to tell everybody they know, and then they’re going to tell everybody they know. I’m not saying stop there, I’m saying start there. … The cream rises to the top.” Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to promote yourself and put yourself out there in competition with others. If your work measures up, you’ll stand out.
- Never give up on your dreams. If Combs needs an additional notch on his resume, motivational speaker might be a good fit. He admitted to being nervous speaking in front of a big crowd, but he offered words of wisdom, emphasizing how much work is required to chase professional goals. “It’s just really never letting go of your dream,” he said. “I can’t sugarcoat it and say that it’s going to be easy. … Honestly, it’s harder, because it’s just more competition. … The road is going to be rough and tough, but it’s going to be fun and you’re going to enjoy it.” Takeaway: As former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley once said, “Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.” Hold fast to your ambitions.