My Interview With Chris Brogan

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I was fortunate enough to have the chance to speak with marketing and media guru Chris Brogan recently about my new book The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World and about some more fun and interesting topics. I think we had both planned on a quick interview lasting no longer than ten minutes but we really hit it off with some great discussion and let the time slip by.  I drop some great sales tips from my new book and some discussion that I haven’t written down yet.

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What's The Best Way To Save Time?

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Spend more time on time management. You’re in as good a position to save time as your richest and most powerful competitors. Over a lifetime, it’s incredible how much time you can save, and the advantages you can achieve, while you’re sitting on your duff in your car. For example:

1. Use a cell phone… but do it with respect for the posted rules, or you can alienate important people. Investigate smart phones that give you constant access to your e-mail and contact lists.

2. Always phone ahead when you make a call on a customer or a prospect. And, make sure you have both the customer’s landline and cel phone numbers, as well as their e-mail address.

3. Always park your car in a getaway position.

4. Use your drive time to listen to audio books or informational recordings instead of tuning in to the usual babble on the radio.

5. Never travel without a way to keep track of your thoughts. Whether it’s an Ipad or pen and paper, make sure you always have something with you to write things down.

6. Never have coffee with another salesperson, only with a customer. (Make sure you know which sort of latte they’re nuts about.)

7. Just for the hell of it–for an entire week–switch your reading plan. Dumb the sports section or gossip scoop and read the hometown newspapers of your major customers…or trade journals of your key customers or suppliers, so that you can learn what they’re worried about.

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You Show Me Yours... I'll Show You Mine

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The most efficient way to expand your network is to trade networks with someone else. How big is your network? If you answered infinite, you’re right. At this writing, you’re limited only by the number of people on this planet. And that’s  if you don’t count pets. I know several veterinarians who have made a very good living by being extra nice to the right dogs.

But even if you limit it to humans, your network is potentially the size of all your contacts, plus all your relatives’ contacts, your friends’ contacts, your business associates’ contacts, and so on.

Say you have to send out a mailing to advertise a charity event or introduce a new service you have to offer. Are you going to limit the list to just those names you’ve been able to scrape together? Of course not. You’ll ask for my list, and if I like the offer I might even ask a few other people for theirs. Instead of a few hundred names, now you have a few thousand.

A word of warning. Remember to treat anyone’s contacts with the utmost respect. Like tightrope walking, this is a system based on balance and trust. A fall from grace, like a fall from the high wire, can be very hard to recover from.

Mackay’s Maxim: When two people exchange dollar bills, each has only one dollar. When two people exchange networks, they each have two networks.

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Don't Get Clocked

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We save it. We shave it. But we can’t store it, speed it up, or slow it down. It’s the same for all of us. Time.

I learned time management skills at a ripe young age by following my Associated Press correspondent-father around. He lived by deadlines. And aphorisms. “Miss a deadline, miss a headline.” “Time is the only thing you’ve got as much of to spend every day as any Rockefeller.”

When Jack Mackay said to his 10-year-old fishing partner, “Be at the dock at 2:13,” there was no built-in fudge factor. If you got there at 2:14, you were holding your fishing pole in one hand and waving bon voyage with the other. Tough love, kid, but it worked.

My first job after I graduated from college was with Brown & Bigelow. They made advertising and promotional novelties, like calendars and playing cards. I was in the executive training program . . . I pushed a broom in the factory.

When the realization dawned that my future at b&B didn’t extend beyond the handle of my broom, I left, and got the second and last job of my life. Selling envelopes. Not wanting to return to broomwork, I asked my father for some career advice. “What do you want to accomplish?” he asked. My dream was to make twice as much money as my fellow envelope salespeople had made their first year of selling.

“How many sales calls are you going to make in the next 12 months?” Hmmm. My peers made about five calls a day. I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t match them call for call. “No good,” he said. “Do what they do and you’ll make what they make. The answer’s easy. Figure out how you can make 10 calls a day and your income will double.” So we figured it out. We worked out a game plan. It turned out to be a life plan.

  • I poked around and learned that some of the buyers’ working hours were not the usual 9 to 5 of the typical envelope flogger. Some buyers came in at 6 A.M. Some worked until 7P.M. Some came in Saturday mornings. For three hours every morning, two hours every afternoon, and four hours on Saturday, I had no competition.
  • I stopped making cold calls. I called ahead to make sure the buyer was in… and that I had an appointment.
  • I was the first kid on my block to get a car phone. Driving is every salesperson’s number one time waster. I’ll do anything to make the time more productive.
  • Telephone tag is the number two time waster. I never leave my name for a return phone call without a designated time I can be reached.
  • Ah, those magic moments swapping war stories with the bull-pen gang. Forget it. Another wasted hour every morning.

Mackay’s Moral: Time is precious. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back

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Your Best People May Spend Their Most Productive time Staring At The Wall

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There’s a story making the rounds that a manager who couldn’t use his concert tickets for Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony gave them to his work study management executive–in non-jargon, the efficiency expert–and received the following report after the performance:

1. For considerable periods, the four oboe players had nothing to do. Their number should be reduced , and their work spread over the whole orchestra.

2. Forty violins were playing identical notes. This seems unnecessary duplication, and this section should be drastically cut. If a larger volume of sound is required, this could be achieved through an electronic amplifier.

3. Much effort was absorbed in the playing of demi/semi quavers. This seems an excessive refinement, and it is recommended that all notes be rounded to the nearest semi-quaver. If this were done, it should be possible to use trainees and lower-grade operators.

4. No useful purpose is served by repeating with horns the passage that has already been handled by the strings. If all such redundant passages were eliminated, the concert could be reduced to twenty minutes. If Schubert had attended to these matters, he probably would have been able to finish his symphony after all.

Efficiency achieved at the expense of creativity is counterproductive. Don’t equate activity with efficiency. You are paying your key people to see the big picture. Don’t let them get bogged down in a lot of meaningless meetings and paper shuffling. Announce a Friday afternoon off once in a while. Cancel a Monday morning meeting or two. Tell the cast of characters you’d like them to spend the same amount of time normally spent preparing for and attending the meeting at their desks, simply thinking about an original idea. And it has to be something they’ve never mentioned before. Don’t even require them to submit the results. Just see what happens.

If you discover one of your executives looking at the wall, like the oboe player, instead of filling out a report, go over and congratulate him or her.

They are probably doing the company a lot more good than anything else they could be doing. They’re thinking. It’s the hardest, most valuable task any person performs. It’s what helped get you where you are.

THINK! don’t stifle it. Encourage it.

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The Wisdom Of Dirty Harry

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I’m always amazed when I ask someone who their customers are and they say “everyone.” You can’t log on with that one. “Everyone” equals “no one.”

I make and sell envelopes. Everyone uses envelopes. So is everyone my potential customer? No way. The margins in the envelope business are paper thin, so my profitability depends on volume, huge volume. That eliminates 99.9 percent of the world’s envelope users.

Geography does it for another 99.9 percent. Delivery costs are a huge factor in bidding an envelope job. Almost any envelope company within 25 miles of a customer can offer a similar product at a better price than another outfit a couple of hundred miles away.

That’s why there are few national envelope companies. We all carve out our little territories and protect them like put bulls. Who are my customers? They are relatively few, but they are very, very precious to me. Everyone has his or her own special needs, requirements, and quirks. Knowing what those are and how to respond to them is not just a concern. It’s a career.

It’s the same for every salesperson. Your success does not depend on your product, no matter how universal or indispensable you think it is. It depends on how well you know your customers. It means meeting their needs before they even know they have them.

The same advice applies even when you’re not calling on customers, but are buried somewhere in the bowels of the corporate bureaucracy.

Years ago many computer companies grew by filling the niches IBM wasn’t serving. IBM couldn’t be bothered with niche markets. They were too big; the niches were too small. Their strategy was to wait until those markets developed sufficiently to become profitable. Then they would roll in and co-opt the customers with their own products.

It turned out that the little companies serving the little niches were on to something. Increasingly, end users wanted their own work stations, not the big mainframes IBM made. By the time IBM woke up, it was too late. The customers they had hoped they could co-opt had already found the products that met their needs.

A sadder and wiser IBM is now back in the game, but not before they got a new president, this time a marketing guy from R.J. Reynolds, and a new attitude about serving their customers.

The cautionary tale has not been lost on me. I’m aware that waiting around for a customer to meet my requirements is a lot riskier than me meeting their requirements, even when they are a little too small or a little too distant to be predictable. No, not everyone is my customer. We don’t need every customer, just the right customers.

Mackay’s Moral: “A man’s got to know his limitations.” –Dirty Harry

If you have enjoyed my writing so far, I encourage you to visit MackayMBA.com to download the first chapter from my upcoming book the Mackay MBA of Selling in the real World for FREE!  I am confident that it’s my best work yet.

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Creativity Killers

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Want to know how to kill creativity? go to a cocktail party. No, I’m not talking about tossing back Bahama Mamas until the only joke you can think of to tell is the latest Doonesburry cartoon. I’m talking about listening. Cocktail parties are all about unwinding, and when people unwind they tell you things. The thing they tell you most is what happened at the office that put them down–then stopped them cold on the path toward creativity and left them feeling disempowered, demotivated, and defunct.

It’s amazing, if you go to as many schmooze-fests as I have over the years, how succinctly people will explain to you how their boss failed them at the crucial moment when they needed encouragement to go forward. Here are some of the creativity killers I’ve heard at receptions, conferences, seminars, speeches, and cocktail parties that are guarenteed to make the person on the other end of the conversation go dead:

  1. It’s not in the budget.
  2. The boss will never go for it.
  3. Great idea! Let’s form a committee to tackle it.
  4. It will never work.
  5. That’s against our policy.
  6. Who will we get to do it?
  7. Let’s think about it for a while.
  8. Let’s discuss it some other time.
  9. Why not leave well enough alone?
  10. It’s too late to fix it now.
  11. It’s too soon to fix it now.
  12. We have done it this way for so many years, and we still make a profit.
  13. Why fix it if it isn’t broken?
  14. We tried it five years ago and it didn’t work.
  15. That’s not how we do things around here.

Mackay’s Moral: Cowards die a thousand deaths. Unfortunately, cowards kill thousands of creative ideas before death catches up with them.

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The Rule Of Ten Thousand

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When you were a kid, you wouldn’t get the pie unless you ate the peas. As we get older, it gets more sophisticated. They don’t threaten to fire you to get a day’s work out of you.

But there is a variation of the peas/pie gambit that still gets results. One of the country’s most successful college basketball coaches uses the Rule of Ten Thousand. Or rather, ten thousand dollars.

“You miss more free throws than any other starter on this team,” he says. “You say you can’t make free throws?”

“Now, what if I were to pay you ten thousand dollars to shoot about the league average in free throws the rest of the season? Could you hit sixty-five percent?”

“Yeah, I know I can.”

“Yeah, I know you can, too. Only there’s just one thing. I’m not going to pay you ten thousand dollars. You are going up to that line, and every time you shoot I want you to think you’re shooting for that ten thousand dollars.”

A 50 percent free-throw shooter became a 70 percent shooter, for a coach whose teams appeared in the NCAA tournament more often than any other team in his region.

Same problem, different scenario. “You are late to work more often than any other employee in this section. I’ve heard all the excuses. They don’t cut it. Here’s what we’ll do. I’m going to bribe you. It’s strictly against company rules, but if you are not late to work once, that is, once in the next year, I’m going to see to it that we give you ten thousand dollars. Okay, for an extra ten thousand dollars, can you get an alarm clock that works and remember to set it? Can you get here on time for ten thousand dollars?”

“You bet I can!”

“There’s just one thing. You aren’t going to be late, but I’m not going to pay you the ten thousand dollars. But I want you to act exactly, exactly, as if you think I’m going to, because now I know you can do it. It’s just a question of motivation.”

Still the same problem, still another scenario. This time the setting is your head. The problem, whatever it is, is yours. The boss is on your case. Vague threats. Try the Rule of Ten Thousand on yourself. If you were given an extra ten thousand dollars could you, would you, get your act together?

You can do it after all, can’t you?

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Let's Make A Deal

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I got a phone call from a Fortune 500 CEO whom I had never met. After decades of begging the government to relax their regulatory grip and let his industry experience the joys of competition, his wish had been granted–and his bottom line had plummeted.

He wanted me to talk to his top executives for two hours and zero in on negotiating strategies.

A bit overwhelmed, I said, “I’m very flattered but frankly, I don’t know if I can talk for two hours on negotiating.” The I realized I was actually negotiating with myself. As my brain finally reconnected, I cut myself off.

“Well, let me sleep on it and I’ll get back to you.” Later that evening I began to write down some of my negotiating experiences and saw that my problem was going to be holding the speech down to two hours. I’d already brushed up against the first and second laws of negotiating that morning in my conversation with the CEO:

1. Never accept any proposal immediately, no matter how good it sounds.

2. Never negotiate with yourself. Once you’ve made an offer, if the other party doesn’t accept it, don’t make another offer. Get a counteroffer. It’s a sign of weakness when you lower your own demands without getting your opponent to lower theirs.

Here are some more rules of the road:

3. Never cut a deal with someone who has to “go back and get the boss’s approval.” They can take any deal you are willing to make and renegotiate it.

4. If you can’t say yes, it’s no. Just because a deal can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done. No one ever went broke saying no too often.

5. Just because it may look nonnegotiable, doesn’t mean it is. Take that beautifully printed “standard contract” you’ve just been handed. Many a smart negotiator has been able to name a term and get away with it by making it appear to be chiseled in granite, when, in fact, they would deal if their bluff were called.

6. Do your homework before you deal. Learn as much as you can about the other side, Instincts are no match for information.

7. Rehearse. Practice. Get someone to play the other side. The switch roles. Instincts are no match for preparation.

8. Beware the late dealer. Feigning indifference or casually disregarding timetables is often just a negotiator’s way of trying to make you believe he/she doesn’t care if you make the deal or not.

9. Be nice, but if you can’t be nice, or if you’re too nice, go away and let someone else do the deal. You’ll blow it.

10.A deal can always be made when both parties see their own benefit in making it.

If you’re looking for more business, sales, negotiating and life tips, make sure you get a copy of my upcoming book the Mackay MBA.  Click Here to get a sneak peek now!

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