Leonardo da Vinci and a lesson in sales and marketing communication.
Before he painted the portrait of Lisa del Giocondo (Mona Lisa) and the Last Supper, before his helicopter and submarine designs; before he sketched out the most famous image of man; before he designed rope-making machines, parachutes, gears and hydraulic pumps–before he was any of these things–in fact long before he was the “Leonardo da Vinci,” Leonardo was a military engineer/designer.
You may be surprised to know that like most of us he had to put together a resume to get his next assignment. In 1482, at the age of 30, he wrote his resume; a letter to Ludovico il Moro, the Duke of Milan.
“Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to anyone else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.
I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.
I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.
If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.
Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.
And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.
I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.
I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.
In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.
Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvelous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.
In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.
I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.
Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.
And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency – to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc.”
This letter is a wonderful chance for all of us involved in sales to grasp his brilliance in salesmanship, something he is not known for but should be. He does not list or mention a single past achievement but rather, what he does. There is no mention of his painting achievements and art forms. There’s no mention of his experiences in notable art studios such as Andrea di Cione’s.
Leonardo understood that listing all of those achievements would focus only on his own achievements rather the real issue: focusing on the needs of the Duke of Milan. The letter does exactly what every successful and wise sales and marketing person does: he sells his prospective employer on what he, Leonardo, can do to solve the challenges at hand, right now, in the moment.
As he read the letter it’s not difficult to imagine the scenes that were flashing across the Duke’s mind theater – “kinds of mortars, convenient and easy to carry; fling small stones as though a storm; cause great terror; the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince.”
What is Leonardo’s letter painting on the canvas of the Duke’s mind? Defeat of the enemy. Credible solutions with immediacy. Don’t lose this man to the opposing forces.
Imagine the Duke reading other letters/resumes with nothing more than long lists of achievements and platitudes with no direct and compelling tie to his military problem. Who do you think the Duke would have left standing in that great hall of interviews?
Leonardo’s resume painted a picture of action, of overcoming and advantage. Above all he conveyed in compelling ways, his differentiation. That is exactly what all of us who sell must do every time, time after time. The boring list of achievements in list form alone, are not enough. What you know and have achieved is only valuable to the prospect or customer when it clearly defines (paints a picture), of what solutions you can implement now. Leonardo inherently painted not only on his canvas but obviously on the mind of his prospect.