Baked New York

Cake Boss Inspires At ASI Show New York

Cake BossBuddy Valastro Jr., star of TLC's top-rated show "Cake Boss," was celebrating his 17th birthday when he found out the worst news he could have imagined. His dad, best friend and mentor had stage three cancer. Just three weeks later, Valastro's father, the head of Carlo's bakery in Hoboken, NJ, passed away. Valastro was suddenly without his rock, and the 100-year-old business was without its leader.

"I wasn't really ready to take over the business at 17, but I realized I had to," said Valastro during his keynote speech to a standing-room-only audience during The ASI Show in New York in May. "I grew up in the business watching everything my dad did, so my schooling was really running a bakery. I had the instinct to lead the business."

He's done exactly that every day since. During his inspiring speech, Valastro recounted how he's turned some small publicity in bridal magazines into significantly larger public opportunities through his highly-rated cable television show – and, ultimately, how that PR has helped to balloon his company from one small bakery in Hoboken to six bakeries by the end of this year, restaurants in New York City and Las Vegas, and plans for eight more outlets in 2014. It has grown from a small family business (with mainly family members as the employees) to a company with consumer products being sold in retail stores (of course, labeled with the Cake Boss moniker) and more than 300 employees (no, not all family anymore).

How has he done it? Hard work, and a ton of persistence. "I'll never say no to a promotional or PR opportunity if it's going to get our name in front of a lot of people," he said. "I will die trying to make this business a success. Buddy Valastro don't fail."

It's a work ethic that he learned from his parents, and that he promises to pass onto his four children, as well. "My parents were immigrants from Italy who always taught me to work hard, remember where I came from and to use good ingredients and charge a premium for our products," he said. "People will always be willing to pay more for and appreciate good quality and service."

Valastro, whose TV show has been viewed by over one billion people in more than 100 countries, said that his most important advice to entrepreneurial small-business owners is to maintain, promote and protect your brand.

"I've gotten coverage in over 200 publications because of the cakes, yeah, but also because I'm a fun guy and I'm easy to work with," he said.

Now overseeing more of a business empire than a family business, Valastro advised audience members not to be afraid to fail and to own up to their mistakes. "Listen, it takes guts to grow a business and it can be scary," he said. "But you gotta give it a shot."

Social Media on Menu at Distributor Success Lunch
The main advice for distributors attending ASI New York's Distributor Success Lunch: Get involved. Now. "It can be such an important tool in everything you do in your business today," said Larry Cohen of Axis Promotions (asi/128263), who was one of the session's three panelists. "We're in a relationship business, and social media is a great way to make contacts and engage with an audience."

The lunch panel, which was moderated by Counselor Editor Andy Cohen, also included Jason Robbins of ePromos Promotional Products (asi/188515) and Fran Ford from supplier firm Castelli North America (asi/44305). In an animated and informative discussion, the panel shared strategies for the types of content to provide in social networks and the ways in which each company can make it a part of their everyday marketing and sales strategies.

"We've done some great YouTube videos that we share on our website and through social networks," Ford said. "We find it helps to use video to explain the types of products we have in our line and how they can be sold. That's something distributors can also do in their online social media efforts."

Robbins made the point that every company that uses social media needs to find their own voice and engage with their target audience in unique ways. "Don't do it if you're just going to copy what others do," Robbins said. "Get involved by creating your own personality online. That's what peole want to engage with. Provide interesting information that they can use in their business, and try to do it in a fun way."

Change Your Attitude About Cold-Calling
Cold-calling isn't a favorite activity for most salespeople, but there are some simple ways to make the process less painful, speaker Connie Kadansky told the audience during her session, "Overcoming Cold Call Reluctance," on the first day of ASI New York. To build a great sales pipeline, distributors should aim to have 25 "good conversations" with clients and prospects each day, Kadansky advises.

If you're reluctant to make cold calls, set a small goal – like making five cold calls per day – and work your way up from there. One tip: Put 25 quarters on your desk each day, and put each in a jar once you've made a cold call, until you've put all 25 in the jar.

Here are some other things to keep in mind as you strive to improve cold-calling, according to Kadansky. Seventy-five percent of the success of a cold call depends on the tone of your voice, not what you say, Kadansky says. Record a few cold calls and listen to your voice. If it's friendly and engaging, as opposed to nervous-sounding or abrupt, your chances of success will be much higher. Approach a cold call with the right mindset. If you go into a call thinking that you're providing the person on the other line with a great opportunity, you're going to have better success. On the other hand, if you're worried you're interrupting them or they won't like you, Kadansky says, those fears will come through in the tone of your voice.

Surround yourself by pleasant, familiar smells. It may sound silly, but Kadansky has worked with top executives to overcome their fear of cold-calling by having them smell their favorite scents – like suntan lotion or lavender – before picking up the phone and making a call.

"Smelling your favorite scent makes you feel immediately relaxed and in a better state of mind," Kadansky says. Also, don't take rejection personally. "Don't worry about what others think of you," Kadansky says. "Focus on what you think of yourself. If you think you're a great salesperson with something great to offer, you're ultimately going to be successful no matter how many times you get rejected."

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