Motivator in Chief

Former President George W. Bush inspires the ASI Dallas audience. Plus, check out a sampling of the education and new products shown off in the southwest.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush recounted the harrowing moments of 9/11, reminisced about growing up with a famous father, and cracked plenty of jokes during the keynote at The ASI Show Dallas in early February. In “A Personal Conversation with President George W. Bush,” the 43rd President sat down for an hour-long Q&A with ASI President and CEO Tim Andrews that touched on many of the key moments of his presidency and his life.

The President recalled the anger he felt initially on 9/11 when he was informed that the second World Trade Center tower had been hit. But as a leader, he said, he didn’t want to panic or lose control of his emotions. Sitting in that Florida classroom, watching a young child read and processing the news, “There was a moment of clarity that I had to protect her, her family, and the country in which she lived,” he said. He talked about the immediate aftermath of the attacks, from the false alarm that night of the White House being attacked (a U.S. airplane pilot had forgotten to turn on his transponder) to his decision to authorize the legal torture of the number-three man in Al Qaeda, but only after vetoing certain methods like waterboarding.

President Bush also touched on many other topics, from the war in Iraq to the financial crisis. He recalled growing up in a family that wasn’t very political at first but very involved in sports and competition, as well as serving others. He cited his reluctance to enter politics and run for President because he knew firsthand how difficult it was on his family during his father’s presidency.

“It’s hard watching someone you love being characterized in ways that aren’t true,” he said about his father, George Bush. But he also learned in that time that “you can do your duty as a husband and a father. You don’t have to sacrifice what’s important in life.”

During the Dallas session, President Bush also offered business advice for the enthusiastic show audience, ranging from the importance of surrounding yourself with knowledgeable people to the essential quality of honesty in personal diplomacy.

“It matters in life that you keep your word,” said the President. “The leaders who kept their word to me, I admire a lot.” He urged that the private sector must be reinvigorated by the current government to encourage job growth within small businesses.

At ease with his audience, President Bush was quick with a joke and generated consistent laughter. “I never wanted to be President,” he recalled about growing up. “If I wanted to be President, I would have behaved a hell of a lot better in college.”

He also talked about his current pursuits, including taking up oil painting and trying to stay away from the limelight. “I had all the fame I need,” President Bush said. “I don’t want fame now. I don’t want power.”

Distributors Share the Secrets for Fast Growth

In “Secrets of Fastest-Growing Distributors,” an Education Day session at ASI Dallas, the panelists agreed that carving a unique niche in the marketplace will put distributors on the road to success. “What are you best at?” asked Brad White, vice president of sales for Top 40 firm Boundless Network (asi/143717). “What’s the one thing that makes you unique to your clients? Focus on that.”
That was one of many tips offered by session panelists in detailing ways to spur fast growth. Another key theme was being a consultative seller who knows the client inside and out, rather than just being a seller of products. Mark Roggenkamp, senior vice president of marketing for Top 40 firm Safeguard Business Systems (asi/316203), cited a scenario where a client asks for a quote on a project and distributors race to get the information.

“How many of you stopped and asked the customer what do they want to do with that item?” Roggenkamp said.

Cliff Quicksell, president of Cliff Quicksell & Associates and sales consultant for Top 40 firm iPROMOTEu (asi/232119), cited the biggest mistake distributors make in trying to achieve growth as “not having a plan in place and trying to do too much too quick.”

The panelists agreed that owners can try to take on too much at once, and that services and partnerships are available to relieve the burden in those situations. “Are you alone going to drive results through marketing?” said White. “If not, there are a million services out there you can turn to.”

Company culture was regarded as important, too, and the thought extended to the overall attitude of the distributor owner or sales rep in jump-starting their companies. “When you approach all this opportunity, do you think ‘This is a lot of work’ or ‘This is exciting,’?” said Scott Sutton, vice president of franchise development for Safeguard. “Mindset is important.”

Become a Powerful Presenter

Want to avoid the brochure barf and power point paralysis that cripples one-on-one presentations? Conversational interaction is the way to go, said Troy Harrison in his Education Day presentation, “Command the Room: Become a Powerful Presenter” at ASI Dallas. One-on-one presentations come to a screeching halt if you don’t treat your prospect like a human being and talk to him directly. “Focus on the dialog between you and your customer,” said Harrison, the owner of SalesForce Solutions.

Harrison touched on three key elements of becoming an ace presenter: content, one-on-one techniques and group presentations. “And content should really be one, two and three,” he said. The content of the presentation should be geared to the customer’s current situation, then offering recommendations and citing the advantages of following through on those suggestions. You present the result that will help your client, and not the product.

Harrison said that while many salespeople concentrate on the client’s pain points, there is lucrative opportunity to take something that the client does well and try to make it better. “Part of a powerful presentation is the courage to admit your customers are doing something right,” he said.

Successful sellers use their presentations to paint a word picture that allows prospects to envision their success. These are part of what Harrison terms “achievement statements” that show the ways to achieve the desired result. By envisioning that success, prospects buy in and get excited about what can be accomplished. “Make sure the customer is mentally agreeing with you,” said Harrison.

Win the Attention of Today’s Buyers

Getting noticed by top prospects requires more than just a creative product pitch – it takes personality and pizzazz, according to Don Sanders, one of the Education Day speakers at ASI Dallas. In his session, “Grow Your Customer Base: Prospecting and Retention Strategies,” Sanders emphasized the importance of building a personal brand that’s engaging and even unexpected.

“I have a bomb shelter outside of my house and I’ll send prospects photos of it in e-mails,” said Sanders, owner of Don Sanders Marketing (asi/318050). “They want to know what that is. Then I know I’ve got them and I can sell them.”

Sanders acknowledged his taste in real estate is unusual, as is his Mohawk-wearing, loud shoe style. Still, he believes there are a few simple things all distributors can do to stand out from their competition and earn a closer look from customers. First, he says, ditch the paper business card and go for something unique like a screen cleaner, calling coin or Post-It note. Second, highlight something about yourself that’s uncommon – like a talent or hobby – and seek out customers that share your interests. And third, use a series of offbeat self-promos to soften more challenging targets.

“I go after big accounts through repetitive mailings of cool products,” Sanders said. “I’ll send the same product four weeks in a row and people will think I’m crazy, but some will want to get to know me.”

Sanders also told session attendees they can differentiate themselves by actually charging more than other distributor firms. “I never show price,” he said. “If people complain about cost I’ll ask them what they think a fair price is and that shocks them. I’ll tell them I’ll give them a better deal if they give me their credit card right then. If they don’t, they’re paying the catalog price.”

Finally, Sanders explained his approach to networking, which includes contributing time and money to organizations to gain access to parties, events and potential clients. “I only deal with people who can buy from me,” Sanders said. “If they can’t, I’ll excuse myself from the conversation and move on.”