Watch Out for These Four-Letter Words

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4-letterThere are certain four-letter words that have no business in business. Many, in fact, are bad for business—so bad that using them may determine whether you stay in business.

No, we’re not talking about profanity here—that’s a given. These are everyday words that really smart people eliminated from their vocabularies early on. Let me share some of the most offensive. I’ve even used them in sentences so you can see how to avoid some common mistakes.

Can’t: As in “We can’t do that” or “You can’t expect us to meet that deadline.” Your customers come to you because they think you can do what they ask. If you truly cannot produce what they’re asking for, be honest but then help them find someone who can, even if it’s your competition. They’ll remember that you went the extra mile to make them happy.

Busy: “I’m too busy to do that now” or “I’ll call you when I’m not so busy.” The last thing your customers want to know is that they rank at the bottom of the food chain. It is acceptable to say that you will need a few days to do the job right, or that you’ll knock off a few bucks in exchange for their patience. It is never okay to imply that they aren’t as important as all your other customers.

Bore: “This project is such a bore” or “Don’t bore me with the details.” Unemployment is boring. Try to find something to love about every customer account you serve. An ingenious salesperson always will. Life is too short to be bored or boring.

Same: “We’ve done it the same way for years” or “Same old, same old.” If you’ve been doing something the same way for years, it’s a good sign you’re doing it the wrong way. Maybe it’s time to find a new and better way to do it. People change. Technologies change. Your customers aren’t asking you to dye your hair purple and wear your kid’s jeans. But their businesses change and they’re looking to you to follow—or to lead. You should question why you’re still doing things the same old way

Safe: “Let’s play it safe.” Safe is important in baseball, but in business you must be prepared to take some risks. The scary part about taking risks is that they don’t always work. That said, I’ll take a good calculated risk any day of the week over the boring, same, safe way. Sometimes it’s risky not to take a risk. To triple your success ratio, sometimes you have to triple your failure ratio. Smart customers know this too.

Rude: No example sentence needed here. There is never, ever, ever an excuse to be rude to a customer, coworker or stranger on the street. You’re staking your name on your behavior, and you don’t want your name to become a four-letter word.

Mean: Your lawyer should be mean. Your tennis serve might be mean. You can’t afford to be mean. You are dealing with customers whose business and referrals will determine where your kids go to college and what kind of retirement you can look forward to. If that doesn’t make you nice, I don’t know what will.

Isn’t: “That isn’t our job.” A salesperson’s job description always includes every last chore that’s required to satisfy the customer. You need to take your turn. That’s how you become invaluable to customers. Never pass up the chance to do something new, just because you’re too good. The farther up the ladder you climb, the farther down you can fall. It’s important for your firm to have secure footing on each rung.

Fear: “I fear we may be moving too fast” or “My biggest fear is that we can’t do this” only demonstrate one fact: you haven’t done your homework. Common sense, thorough research and sound advice should allay your fears to a reasonable level. Knowing what is acceptable risk should help too. If your biggest fear is that rain will ruin an outdoor promotion, plan something inside. If you fear your supplers will keep you from meeting a production deadline, find a more reliable supplier. Take charge.

Last: “Nice guys finish last.” I consider myself a nice guy, and I hate to finish last. But I’ve had to lose a few times in order to win the next round. I’ve learned something from every last-place finish.


Mackay’s Moral:

Sticks and stones can break your bones, but these four-letter words will hurt your business.


Excerpted from: The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World

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Overcoming the Fear of No

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Rejection is a part of life. You can’t avoid it, whether you’re a salesperson with a tough quota or a shy nerd hoping for a date with a supermodel. You can’t let the fear of rejection paralyze you from the start, or you’ll never get any sales—or any dates.

Like many of us, Jonathan Robinson, now a professional speaker and author, was shy as a young man—painfully so, especially when it came to women. One day in college he decided to do something drastic about it. He handed a friend $50 and told him, “Don’t give this back to me unless I get rejected by 10 different women by the end of today.”

The idea was to push through his fear of rejection, with money as a motivator. Robinson headed through the campus, looking for women to ask out. The first time, he barely stammered through his question. The woman he approached thought he was babbling and blew him off. After a while he grew calmer and the prospects warmer.

Then something unexpected happened: His seventh target agreed to go out with him. Robinson was so shocked he was tongue-tied, but he managed to get the woman’s phone number. Number eight also said yes to him.

In all, he collected six more phone numbers, and had to resort to consciously chilling his charm to reach his quota of 10 rejections in order to get his $50 back. Not only did he get his money and plenty of dates, he vanquished his fear of rejection. I’m not recommending the Robinson gambit to beat rejection, but it pays to know your worst fears are usually trumped-up traumas.

Early in my career, when I was struggling to start my company, I made a list of all the accounts I wanted to sell. Some were immediately attainable, while others were far out of my reach. That list was the impetus for my eventual success. It made me really listen to my potential customers and find out what I needed to do to change “No, thanks” to “Where do I sign?

You can’t escape rejection, I learned. But you can let it go. That requires programming your mind-set. Here are some exercises that paid big dividends for me:

  • Dissect thoughts under the microscope. When faced with a challenge, what do you tell yourself? “I’m no good…” “This is too hard…” “I’ll never make it…” Don’t let negative self-talk sabotage your attitude. Size up the evidence objectively. Chances are you’ll realize your worries aren’t accurate or realistic. Drain the power out of irrational fears.
  • Identify realistic fears. Whom do you fear? What might go wrong? Knowledge is power so clarify the facts: Who has the power to reject you? Why would that person say no? The answers will help you prepare your best offer and facing them will help you keep your composure.
  • Focus on the moment. Keep your perspective. Rejection lasts only a moment, and once it’s over you’ll be able to move on to the next opportunity. Overcoming your fears can be an exhilarating experience, so savor your triumph. Great athletes and ace competitors of all sorts are master of deftly moving through both ups and downs… and not wallowing in either.
  • Be more assertive. Most fears of rejection rest on the desire for approval from other people. Don’t base your self-esteem on other’s opinions. Learn to express your own needs—appropriately—and say no to requests when you genuinely can’t help. People respect peers who stand up for themselves.

Mackay’s Moral:

Don’t regard rejection as failure—think of it as the dress rehearsal for your next glowing success.


Excerpted from: The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World

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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.

You can check out the first chapter from The Mackay MBA for FREE at

Click Here to order your copy of The Mackay MBA now!

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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.

Click Here to help me spread the word about my new book, The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World!

Click Here to get the first chapter for FREE.

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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 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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Never Be Your Own Hatchet Man

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Ike had Nixon; George W. Bush has Rumsfeld; every ball club has the manager of the moment.  You have to get someone who can make the tough, mean, unpopular decisions–and can take the fall when they get too tough, mean, and unpopular.  You are the peerless leader. You couldn’t really know what a meanie old Frogface is or you wouldn’t let him treat people that way. Of course you know. That’s why you hired him. If you’re out there on a shoeshine and a smile, serving on community boards, making new business presentations, being quoted in the paper on the future of the widget industry, you don’t want to be known around town as the guy who lays off employees at Christmas, dislikes labor unions, and shortens the coffee breaks. Your public performance won’t fly if you’re the one who has to crack the whip at home.

How do you run a business? You understand the strengths and weaknesses of the people you’re dealing with and exploit them–in the best sense of the word–to build strong personal loyalties and to make sure everyone plays his or her proper role. Even though that sounds like a bad B-school text, doesn’t it make a little more sense?

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You Know Who, But Does Who Know You?

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Remember, the first strong impressions you make on someone else are the ones likely to end up as notes in their Rolodex.® And they’re also the ones that are likely to stay there forever. Obviously, you want to try for impressions that are both distinctive and positive.

But never forget how important it is to do your homework and find out if you have some common ground when you know you’re going to meet someone new.

That’s not prying. That’s trying to establish a foundation for a relationship based on shared interests.  You would do exactly the same thing if you were going on a date with someone you hadn’t met before and wanted to make a favorable impression.

How do you find out the information that will help you make that good impression?

Any way you can.

If the person is famous enough, check Who’s Who.

If they’re not? Call their office, get a bio, go to the library and check the index of the local newspaper, work your network; try to tap into theirs… In short, do whatever it takes to get the information you need.

Mackay’s Maxim: It does matter how they remember you, but it’s more important that they do remember you.

I wanted to let everyone know how excited I am about my upcoming book The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World.  In fact, I was so excited that I couldn’t wait till the launch on November 1st.  I am giving everyone FREE access to the 1st chapter.  Visit to get it now!

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