Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Among the attributes of Great Sellers is their ability to achieve consistently uncommon and remarkable performance. "Hot Shot" sellers have terrific wins, but also fallow periods, because their success usually depends upon taking advantage of the "greater fool" theory. Their BIG sales are personal victories, with an emphasis on "personal." And while the reservoir is well stocked with "fools," there are many other hot shots out fishing with alluring bait.

Great Sellers forge large teams to go about the business of effectively serving their consituencies which includes everyone with whom they deal; Customers, colleagues, bosses and employees. They seek the greatest good for the greatest number without regard for themselves because they know that their success is incidental but automatic as a result of helping others be successful. Their victories are anything but personal; They are team victories.

Great Sellers create great teams. They do what they can to elevate others to a standard of excellence with a view toward continuing to increase the team's "wins."

You've worked with loners. Sometimes people behave as loners because they think they have the secret sauce. They don't want to share it because they think that will level the playing field with their co-workers as they each compete for more responsibility. If these type of sellers work in companies where promotion is truly worthwhile, they are playing their hands poorly. Let's see. I'm the CEO of a company that needs to fill an important VP/Sales job. Should I pick Manny who does everything he can to help everyone beneath, alongside, and on top of him perform more successfully, or Moe who is only happy when he brings in a dollar more than every other salesman in the organization, and pretends to have a hearing problem when asked for help by another salesman? And then, what about the inevitable moment when Mr. Hot Shot is stumped for an idea and wanders down the hall for some input? Chances are it becomes coffee break time for his colleagues. Hmmmm.

Monday, September 28, 2009

CORE VALUE: Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly

Great sellers always communicate honestly and fearlessly. These uncommon performers don't tell their bosses, employees, co-workers or customers what they think they want to hear. They tell them the truth, as they see it, all the time, every time. They believe that "truth" will earn them trust; And they are right!

That's not to say that fearless communication might not cost the GS ("great seller" :) a customer or even a job one day. But if so, neither was worth keeping. Being known as a scrupulously honest person, will go a long way toward earning you the trust you will need in order to to establish productive relationships so as to be able to perform remarkably.

Many salespeople (and character rather than inexperience is controlling) forecast either aggressively or too conservatively. "Hey Joe," the manager begins. It's the twelfth of the month and you've got a humongous budget and haven't booked one shilling. Have we a problem?" Joe replies, "A problem? Surely you jest. I will hit 120% of my budget this month. Take it to the bank!"

The boss issues a huge sigh of relief and signs $120,000 worth of purchase orders because Joe's a veritable cash cow. When the boss' checks bounce and his superior begins to wonder about his judgement, it becomes clear that Joe's fear about reporting the truth has cost the company, and his boss, dearly. First because they spent money they didn't have and second, because Joe didn't give his management the opportunity to see if they could intervene and help him bolster sales. Joe's insecurity, leading to dishonesty, may have bought him a little time, but probably very little.

Or, Joe replies to the same question this way, "A problem? I'll say we have a problem. Next month will be okay, but I'll be lucky to keep what I have on the books now much less add a dime this month. That'll put me about at roughly 9.76% of budget. Now Joe, who was determined to be a hero this month, knew he would, and evenutally did, come in over budget. He was sandbagging. But instead of breaking open the bubbly at the end of the month when Joe came crashing through his budget, the trained manager says, "Joe, your inability, or unwillingness to forecast accurately, and/or truthfully, has wreaked havoc with my planning and perhaps the growth of the company. More accurate forecasting is a skill you need to develop; Oh yes, and quickly!"

Expect to be questioned about bad news you deliver, and respond truthfully again. Be prepared for the conversation. Communicate it with neither exaggeration nor minimalization. Be prepared with possible solutions and be open to the boss' ideas. The sun doesn't shine all day every day. Things don't go as planned all the time, no matter how well planned, or executed. If you are nimble, are seen as a problem solver and honest, you are a valuable employee--and a valuable seller--an uncommon seller--a remarkable seller--a great seller!

Tell the truth always; Especially to yourself!

Great Selling!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

CORE VALUE: Collapse Time.

A quick refresher. I'm convinced that remarkable and uncommon performers tenaciously adhere to a set of behaviors, moment after moment, day after day that separates them from the vast majority of sales "executives" and earns for them the respect and trust of their customers and prospective customers. In prior postings we talked about the notion of "Service to All Others, Before Self," as a Core Value that can inevitably help make one's performance remarkable, and lead to uncommon rewards (see prior post; "Mother Nature Has Your Back."). We also posited that "Loving Your Work and Working Tirelessly," is another Core Value predisposing one to notable achievement.

A third and important Core Value that portends outstanding results is the ability to Collapse Time. There are some among us who seem to be able to accomplish things in time frames that mere mortals could never match. These extraordinary sales folk don't agonize; They recognize early on when further analysis will reveal little more, and they don't procrastinate. They have a bias for action. Simply put, they get more done! My partners and I have investments in a number of portfolio companies. Almost every week, at least one of those companys' top executives spends a half day with us in whiteboard sessions. We circulate an agenda before the meeting so that all come prepared with thoughts on the issues to be discussed, and then our founding partner facilitates a roundtable brainstorm. My partners and I have been approaching sales, branding, marketing and operational issues in this fashion for over twenty-five years. We are led by the hardest working, fastest thinking discussion facilitator I have ever seen. And we consistently get more work done in these half day sessions than many executive teams could get done in a week of off sites. We are not cowboys but we do understand decision making.

One of our partners is a very well known and skilled researcher. Before we address decisions on the agenda, he's done the research that we need to guide us. But we also understand that a decision is an action you have to take in the absence of clear research leading the way. If the research tells you what to do, there's no decision to make. Follow the research. In the absence of hard data to tell you left from right, pick one. (As Yogi Berra says, "when you get to the fork in the road, take it."). Make a decision. DON'T AGONIZE, which is really an excuse for PROCRASTINATION, which in turn, is a behavior (or non-behavior) in response to FEAR OF FAILURE. "Should I call this prospect or that for a sales appointment? This or that? Or perhaps him, or her? Oh wait a minute. Mom asked me to call today. I'll get back to prospecting later."

Get it?

One of the rules we work under at our firm us "the 24 hour rule." From the point of decision-making, almost everything gets done in 24 hours. Let's not quibble about logical exceptions to the rule. I don't have the time.

Don't "agonize." Don't be afraid to fail. If this guy won't see you, that one will. Make the calls. Many calls. Many more than anyone else can possibly make. The number of people you can help is unending. You are on the way to being uncommon, yes, remarkable, and in a collapsed time frame.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

CORE VALUE: Love Your Work & Work Tirelessly

People who love their work tend to be terrific at it and are great to spend time with. They're always "up." If you love your work you can work tirelessly. And if you work tirelessly, there's precious little you can't accomplish, and, there are few who can effectively compete with you. Some years ago we owned several radio stations in Wichita, KS. While I lived in New York, I spent a lot of time in Wichita and the surrounding towns, riding along with the stations' sales executives and meeting the advertisers. Once outside the city, it was mostly farm land, mile after mile. One beautiful Spring day, late in the afternoon, I asked the salesman to stop the car. I had been struck by the image of a farmer standing next to his tractor in his field just off the road. He was mopping his brow with a red bandana while leaning against his machine. And he was gazing over his land. He looked tired but I imagined it to be a sweet fatigue. There was a hint of a smile on his face and I'd have bet he was satisfied with the work he'd done on this lovely day, in his field. I would have bet my radio stations against a dozen ears of Kansas sweet corn that the last thing on that farmer's mind at that moment was how much cash the crop would bring. I'd have bet rather that he was enjoying the end of a good day's work on the land that he loved. For that farmer, the cash the crop would bring, at least at that moment, was incidental, important but nonetheless incidental, to the love he had for the land and his work. And when you love your work, you work tirelessly. And when you work tirelessly you get a remarkable amount done. And when you love your work, life is very rich indeed, quite apart from its monetary rewards.

I've been blessed. I've worked for CBS, NBC, the old Westinghouse Broadcasting Company, Storer Broadcasting, Time Warner and AOL. I co-founded an advertising agency with the iconic Jerry Della Femina and built, operated and sold four radio station holding companies. I've partnered with friends in a private equity firm. This has been taking place for almost forty-years. And in all of that time, and all of those endeavors, there was only one job I disliked. It was the manager that made work unpleasant and after only six months, I quit.

Do the math. You're going to work eight to ten hours a day (some folks more) and sleep eight hours a day. This leaves you a third or less of your day for most of your adult life; For family, friends and other interests. A third or more of your life will be spent at work. How sad it would be, if you had to, much less chose to spend it at work you didn't love. Just how much would you sell a third of your life for?

My dad made a good living at a job he found unsatisfactory. Towards the end of his career, he went back to college, finished his degree and taught in a New York City Community College at a third of his first-career income. He loved teaching and his life was measurably improved. We never missed a meal in his first, long term career, but we never would have missed a meal had he been teaching all along either. However, he would have lived what would have been in his view, a happier and more productive life. If he had only put it up for a family vote early on, or better still just gone ahead and made the switch, how much happier he, and we, would likely have been. If you don't love the work you are doing now, find something you can love as soon as possible. When you do find that position representing a product or service that you admire and can help people do or get what they need, you will love the busiest third of your life, and have a leg up on being a great salesman and know where.

Each time I began a new executive position, I gathered everyone I had inherited and asked them in a group meeting if they loved working for the company? I suggested that if in their hearts the answer was "no" they think about what changes in the company culture, or their responsibilities, would make them feel differently? I finally suggested, again rhetorically, that if they believed nothing practical would make a difference in their negative feelings about their work, they should think about making a career change. I always finished by inviting them to come and talk with me if changing jobs made sense for them, because, if so, I would try to help make it happen. I always meant that and more than once fulfilled the promise.

Love your work. Next time I see you, I'll know if you do. Be forewarned. I may ask you if I can help?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mother Nature Has Your Back

Nature abhors imbalance. Moms, all moms, know that because this law of nature is carried in their DNA. That's why up at the top of the list among Mom's teachings is, "What goes around, comes around." A story or two to make the point.

First, non business related. One March, many years ago, I was on the road for several weeks. I arranged my return flight and car service so that I could reach my home with a half hour to spare for the tip-off of a final four NCAA basketball game. We had three young kids at home that year. Traffic cut it real close. I rushed in the door, gave the wife a peck on the cheek, threw my top coat on the bench inside the front door, started toward my favorite TV room and announced, "I'll talk to you later Dear, gotta catch the game." "Oh really you must watch the game? Well let me tell you this, Mr. World Traveler. The school called about your son Tate." (Uh oh, "my son Tate." This will be bad.). "Tess has been so defiant I could pull my hair out; Your mother called yesterday and is visiting Saturday and you know that I've made plans for the weekend..and..and..and." So how much of that game do you think I saw? Fast forward a couple of years, same scenario. But this time I open the door with "Hi Honey, it's so great to see you. Tell me, how was your week?" She told me and I missed the first quarter. But I saw the rest of the game.

Easy Lesson. Focus on the needs of others; Serve them well and nature will take care of the rest.

One More: This time business related.

Years ago, a young program director working for me at a radio station did great work and went on to cable to program a new genre of television that transformed the music business as well as cable television. Some years later, I had just sold a radio company as he was exiting Time Warner where he was a division president, and we decided to build another radio station holding company together. We quickly raised the money and bought some stations. I was CEO and he, Executive Chairman. Three months after we "closed" on our first station he was named President of the most important Internet company of the time and things got pretty busy for him. At a radio Board meeting, three months into his new responsibilties he announced that he was transferring two-thirds of his interest in our radio company to me because, "Bob is doing all the work." Few would argue against this being generous, and atypical business behavior.


A few years later, that generosity took care of my kids' college educations when we sold the company. I asked him years after that, what motivated him that day in the Board room. He answered that early in our business dealings, long before that event, I made what seemed to him a totally altruistic decision by which he benefitted greatly, and that he had filed that gesture and looked forward to returning the favor. I had long forgotten what he considered my selfless service to him. He hadn't. Mother nature stepped in.

Make serving them all your mission. Customers, prospects, bosses, colleagues and employees. Trust the Moms.

Friday, September 18, 2009


You know, you've got to be somebody. You've got to stand for something. It's okay to be definable and predictable as long as you are defined as respectable, trustworthy, caring, indefatigable and dependable. Tall order? You bet. But a well thought out code of behavior (your personal core values), internalized over time because you tenaciously adhere to them regardless of obstacles, temptations and momentary failure, will get you there. They'll get you there because unlike the vast majority of sales folk, you will approach everyday with a purpose that fires your imagination and energizes every cell in your body. You will be a zealot, but not in the service of a polemic ideology, but rather in the service of the success of others, all others, everyone you interact with. And over time, I promise you will radiate that commitment, and your customers, and prospective customers will lower the buyer/seller barrier, and work with you to solve their problems which will inevitably involve you and your product or service as a meaningful part of the solution. YOUR FIRST CORE VALUE: SERVE DON'T SELL!

I'll bet I can find any number of chapters in any number of text books and "how to sell manuals" about how to get appointments with influentials via the telephone. I am convinced that no phone technique is more effective than a well researched reason to call and an introduction that includes the sincerely delivered phrase, "Mr. Jones, I am calling because I believe I can help you." Your time with Mr. Jones will be in his service.

Did you know that in Feudal Japan, the second richest class of folk were the Samurai. The translation of "Samurai" is "one who serves." And serve they did. By dedicating their lives, quite literally, to service, they grew rich. Now these Samurai weren't punching time clocks, negotiating compensation or attending union meetings. They were too busy serving, parrying and thrusting. They weren't focused on how much commission they would earn each day. Rather they were focused on keeping the Boss alive and filling his coffers. But the Samurai got rich as incidental by-products of serving the master. If the Samurai mused or schemed for his own benefit as he defended his Lord and plundered, he'd likely miss a parry and lose a head. Again, by focusing instead on the service to be performed, he got rich. SUCCESS COMES FROM SERVICE TO OTHERS, FIRST AND WELL.

At AOL, Vice-Chairman Ted Leonsis struck me as having it right. During the post Internet implosion, when the entire sector was on a downward spiral, Leonis was addressing a meeting of some 250 managers. He said, "Listen every one. The Internet is not only still the wave of the future, it continues to change the way people organize their lives and communicate with each other. What we have to get back to," he continued, "is to re-learn how to love and serve our customers." Ted Leonsis understands that selfless service to others reaps the greatest rewards; first a fulfilling satisfaction of work well done for others--and quite incidentally, personal riches.

Great Selling! Uh, Serving.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I'll get into core values next. (Email me if you can't wait :)

Great selling!

Whose Chair is That, Anyway?

So I ask you, would it matter to the overall performance of your company if someone else sat in your chair? If you want to be a great seller and go you know where, I suggest you ask yourself that question and shoot for an honest reply. Critical self analysis is a good jumping off point to determine if you are on the way toward a distinguished and remarkable career, or rather are destined to be among the vast majority of average performers.

I believe that the roadmap for uncommon and remarkable performance, begins with a set of core values that paves the way for outer focused behavior. Such well chosen core values and the behaviors they foster, if practised religiously (remember where we're off to:) will over time be woven into the very fabric of your character, and you'll be worthy of the trust and respect of all with whom you interact. These attributes, trust and respect, are the foundations of successful business relationships. Once earned, account attrition becomes something you will hear about from others, and all but never experience personally.

Just about every salesman when asked will point to good relationships with customers as the as the key to sales. But to the veteran (and average) performer, the guy in the chair across the bullpen from you, or maybe closer than that, a good relationship means lunch, a round of golf and birthday cards to the customer's wife. You and I know however that it's all about trust and respect. But in what?

Remarkable performers live to make others successful. It is their primary and genuine motivation. And so they are trusted and respected!

Stop squirming in that chair. You can own it. Later. Great selling!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Can You Play Point?

I've been called a "master salesman." I hate that expression. It sells me short and doesn't define what I've done over forty years and do to this day. Once I learned what great salesmanship was about, I stopped selling. I learned that the more sales people worry about selling, the less they sell. The more they think about their own success, the less successful they are. Here's the secret to uncommon, remarkable sales performance: Your success will be in direct proportion to your effort to help other people be successful. It's about them, not you! This is not a spiritual doctrine but rather an observable phenomenon. The great sellers I know are devoted to, and focused on the success of their clients, bosses, colleagues and employees. And because they are, they become rich as an incidental, and automatic, by-product of that devotion. Listen, do you like basketball? What's the knock on Stephan Marbury, ex-point guard for the Knicks? Here's a guy that can score at will and yet what do guys who know the game say about Stephan? He's a point guard that doesn't make his teammates better. He's a selfish player only out for himself. And guess what he doesn't win. I'll bet he couldn't sell either. Good selling to you!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Great sellers go to Heaven because selling is all about the art of getting people to let you help them achieve their goals. Their goals. Not Yours! If you learn how to do that effectively and consistently over a lifetime of work, you will have helped many, many people live better than they would have had they not met you, and had you not been determined to get them to let you help. If there's a God, I'm guessing he values those of us who go around helping.

Having watched sales people and myself interact with prospective customers my entire adult life it became clear to me early on that success, at anything really, is directly proportional to the degree we focus on the success and fulfillment of others rather than ourselves. As related to selling, the more we worry about selling, the less we sell and the more we concern ourselves with the success of our prospect, or client, the more we sell. Selling isn't about getting someone to buy from you so that you can earn a commission (uh, that's what bundling all those high-risk mortgages recently was about), selling is about solving someone else's problem. By the way, an incidental by-product of day after day behavior of helping others is the success of the "helper."

The selfless daily, hard-working practitioner of the art of selling consistently meets and exceeds personal and company objectives, month after month and year after year. They are the first people to come to mind when one executive asks another who the stars are? Now, I am not talking about the man or woman who makes a killing on a couple of deals, buys a big house in Westchester at age twenty-eight and knows they are the smartest people in the world. I'm talking about the Heaven bound sellers who day after day sends their customers children to college and their customers to early retirement.

Here's my resume: Two VP jobs at the CBS Broadcast Group managing company owned media properties, VP/GM WNBC-AM, EVP NBC Radio Division in charge of all company owned radio stations, Co-Founder and Partner, Della Femina, Sherman Advertising Agency, Founder, operator and seller of four entrepreneurial radio station holding companies, Senior Advisor to the COO of AOL Time Warner, President Time Warner Cable Advertising Sales, President of AOL Worldwide Advertising Sales--dad to Scott, Jessica, Luke, Tate, Tess and Nell. Adoring husband to Mandy.