Sunday, November 6, 2011

Boost your skills to compete, author says

It's easy to sell when the economy is expanding.

Now that companies are competing for a small number of recession-scarred consumers, sales professionals need an edge, said best-selling author and syndicated columnist Harvey Mackay.

Mackay shares advice on selling products in a down economy in "The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World," which he will sign in Scottsdale on Thursday.

Mackay, who built a multimillion-dollar envelope-making firm, has written five business and motivational books. Top sellers such as "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive" and "Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt" have sold over 10,000 copies worldwide. His column is syndicated in about 50 newspapers, including The Arizona Republic. His trademark is to end his syndicated columns and sometimes book chapters with a simple "Mackay's Moral."

"Today's game is to take the business away from somebody else," Mackay said. "That person who is prepared, hopefully the person who reads my book, can take their game to the next level."

That includes melding online tools and social networking with traditional selling techniques, a topic that Mackay covers in his new book.

"In the marketplace today, people, customers, are way more knowledgeable, demanding and sophisticated than ever before," he said. "Selling in this kind of climate is all the more important."

Mackay, a part-time Paradise Valley resident, also counsels sales professionals on to handle rejection and to invest in their own development -- skills that the businessman practices in his own life.

Mackay has hired coaches for many activities, from improving his golf game and to learning Chinese.

"When people ask why I have all these coaches, I say, 'I'm not spending a single penny. I'm investing in myself,'" he said. "Once I try my guts out, I can't worry about anything because I'm just doing the best I can with the best coaching."

The book also touches on how professionals can make a seemingly mundane job more exciting to increase their output and allow them to move up to more interesting positions. Mackay said his envelope business has to combat the perception of dreariness.

"When you hear the word 'envelopes,' you think boring," he said. "But being able to make any product, manufacture it, sell it and create some employment is exciting. There's a lot more excitement in that little envelope than meets the eye."

Mackay's recent book is the culmination of his years of business experience, the author said.

His first job as a paper boy, at age 11, taught him basic business lessons, Mackay recalled. He made sure that he got paid every month and signed as many people as he could up for early payments.

After college, Mackay spent five years working at an envelope company, which stoked his desire to be his own boss. He left to found Minneapolis-based MackayMitchell Envelope Company in 1959 at age 26, a business that now turns out 25million envelopes per day.

Several decades later, the business generates $100million in sales each year and employs 500 people at its various offices. Mackay is chairman of the board and remains active in the company.

The advice he shares in his book are steps he takes every day to continue his own success. The first section of the book is simply titled "You."

"I've never met a successful hermit," Mackay said. "You have to be out there, you have to be networking. You have to ignite your own passion."

by Yvonne Gonzalez The Arizona Republic Oct. 29, 2011 02:15 PM

Boost your skills to compete, author says

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