Do you know what makes you great?

It’s an easy question to ask but it’s very hard to answer. Do you know what makes you great? Do you know what you do differently when you win versus when you foul up? Other than the outcome, can you identify what you do or did different.

My golf game is full of that question. I have enjoyed rounds in the 70’s…but I have also had rounds well over 100. As far as I know, I do everything exactly the same. Should I blame the ball, course…or marketplace?

Each of us has special gifts. It’s been my experience that those most in touch with their gifts make the most of their careers and lives. They invest energy in learning, as all of us should, but they double down where they’re strong. Doing so makes them efficient, successful…unstoppable.

I’ve spent my career in sales. I’ve worked with sales managers and I’ve been one. Likewise, I’ve studied with sales trainers and been one of them too. It’s space full of people that don’t know what makes them great. It’s space full of recipes, spreadsheets, formulas…and lots of misinformation.

Sales management isn’t score keeping. It isn’t reports at the end of the month. It isn’t shifting accounts around and adjusting commissions. Those things are outcomes. They’re the golf score.

Sales management = sales coaching. It’s situational guidance. It’s helping reps with the issue in front of them while leveraging their special gifts. It’s helping reps get in touch with what makes them great and showing them how to leverage their strengths on behalf of their clients, employer and personal goals.

When you help a candidate get in touch with what makes them great, you set them up for an exciting career that requires little of your time. You’ll get asked to make calls with them, but that’s the fun part. You’ll see them grow right in front of you and go home confident that the client and your company are in good hands. You won’t be sitting with them cutting compensation or pulling accounts. They’ll gravitate toward markets that suit them and the finances will be on autopilot.

Now I’m not saying sales management or sales managers are bad. I’m simply saying that much of it is really sales meddling. We get hung up in the weeds and lose sight of the value each individual perspective can bring to our organization. We focus on machines, specs, prices and margins. Doing so can prevent us from seeing solutions that make all of those things take care of themselves.

Focusing on gifts and why they matter changes your company culture. The environment goes from one of pressure to one of possibilities. Excitement replaces anxiety. Success takes over and growth is inevitable. Clients really will beat a path to your door and they’ll pay your price to do business with YOU!

Recently, a client in our resource center said, “this is a special place.” I responded that we had worked hard to keep up with technology. She responded, “it isn’t that. Lots of people have Indigos. Even more have presses. I’ve seen all of those before. It’s your spirit. It’s your manner. That’s what makes this a special place.”

She was 100% right. Focusing on what makes us great on a company and individual level shows. It’s infectious. Our client, one with lots of contacts in our industry, saw the difference. It shows in our work and in our explosive growth.

What makes you great? You owe it to yourself to find out. You owe it to yourself and to your future to leverage those gifts. You owe it to yourself to surround yourself with people that help you be the best you can be. It isn’t score keeping. It’s coaching. The score will take care of itself.

The Future Is Now!

Automation has disrupted a great deal of the manufacturing world.  That’s a fairly obvious trend.  But what may be a little less clear is that automation is already upending the “knowledge economy,” too.  A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute looked at seven categories of high-end knowledge workers – doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, teachers etc. – and found large portions of their roles susceptible to displacement by machines as well.

The study shows that knowledge work automation tools and systems could take on tasks that would be equal to the output of 110 million to 140 million “full-time” workers.  It highlights the idea that the rate at which we are digitizing commerce makes this a remarkably critical time in our history.

It’s becoming apparent that we can no longer rely on one job, one company or even one industry to carry us for our careers.  In turn, a commitment to reinvention and constant learning will be required for sustainability.

While the economy demands a community of lifelong learners, some would argue that the combination of automation and wealth are giving rise to idle hands.  Therefore, we need an emerging group of nimble and gritty workers to thrive in the new landscape.  We need people who are aware of their past, have clear ambition and the willingness to take the pain to get there.

The bottom line is that the future is now, and probably every day from here on out.  The value of what we all provide constantly will be challenged.  So, the only way to rise above the smothering present is to push yourself to be a better version of you each and every day.  It’s a scary time, but the marketer who embraces the uniqueness of the period and continues to learn will win.

Our current issue of Connect Magazine is headed to the post office now.  Our cover article, “Dirty Work,” highlights the power of grit and shows why work ethic may be a lost art.  We examine the attributes that make up grit and provide some ideas of how to develop it within the world of business.

Our second feature, “Intimacy Doesn’t Scale,” champions the concept that to have great empathy and trust, you must be close to people to develop it.  The article discusses how to get close when people may not want you to try.

All in all, we love this issue and hope readers will digest it and share it with their peers.  If you would like to receive Connect, you can subscribe free on our website or you can email

Enjoy the rest of your summer.

You are the brand!

I’m on my soap box again.  I have suffered through another customer service disaster.  I actually paid a restaurant for an order I didn’t place and abysmal service.  I only have myself to blame.  I made the choice to go inside.

This morning I couldn’t sleep.  I finally gave up the ghost at 4:30, got up, showered and dressed.  I packed for work and headed to the local “always open” greasy spoon.  I wanted a hot breakfast and I wanted table service.

The place was almost empty.  I like that.  It usually ensures good service along with some peace and quiet.  It allows you to eat slowly and have a second cup of coffee.  The lack of noise makes it possible to think and organize things in your mind.  Once again…I like that.

What I got, instead, was a waitress that couldn’t wait for the day shift to arrive.  Our introduction started with her plight.  She asked me to be patient while she totaled the ticket for the only other person in the restaurant.  Ten minutes later she returned pad in hand.

I placed my order.  She turned to the cook and recited some dialect I didn’t recognize.  It sounded something like “cheese two all, out with bacon, raisin on one.” The kid with the spatula corrected her instructions.  They argued and she walked to the back.  I never saw her again.

About that time, a whole crew of employees entered.  There were two managers, a new cook and four waitresses.  If you include the original two there were nine employees in the restaurant.  None of them seemed to notice the other customer and myself.

My coffee never came.  Neither did my ice water.  All of the seven reporting to work poured themselves coffee.  But mine…it just didn’t seem important.

The cook finished my order.  He shouted some code language to the loitering employees but nobody seemed to react.  I’m sure it was intended to let them know my food was ready.

Finally, one of the waitresses picked up the plate.  “Who does this belong to,” she asked.  I raised my hand.  I was the only customer in the restaurant by this time so I’m confused by the question.

The order was wrong.  I took it anyway and was glad to get it.  My coffee never came.  I drank water and told myself I was being healthy.  I ate as fast as I could, paid and left immediately after my last bite.

I never expect stellar service from this chain of restaurants.  I eat there, on occasion, when I want a specific type of food or convenience.  There is one of these establishments on every expressway exit.

When I decide to go there I accept the fact that the food will be pretty good, mostly what I ordered with “colorful” service.  In other words, I prepare myself for the experience in advance.  I lower my expectations in some areas before I ever enter the restaurant.

What does that have to do with us?  Why is Bill making fun of a national favorite?  What does this have to do with what we do?

Here goes!  What do customers do before they call you?  Do they lower their expectations or do they expect more because it’s you?  Do they take a Valium before they give you an order or do they relax because they know they have the best there is on the job?  Which is it?

You see, the answer tells us everything.  If they are making a sacrifice when they dial your number you can bet they are beating a deal out of you on price.  If they cringe every time they have to talk to you, you’re are on borrowed time.  They will replace you with a better and more service focused supplier as soon as they can.

Everything you do communicates the brand that is you…personally.  If you’re prompt with responses, the client knows you’re paying attention.  If your facts are correct, you won’t put them in the position of backtracking in their own communications.  If your work is first class, they will never have to explain their decision to hire you.

It goes the other way if you’re casual.  It doesn’t matter how loveable you might be.  If you’re late to appointments, arrive with portions of what you promised and sloppy with facts, you’re making extra work for the customer.  If you expect them to forgive mistakes because you and your company are good people, you’re fooling yourself.  They know they’re taking on a measure of risk every time they dial your number…assuming they dial your number.

People don’t lower their standards or expectations for long.  Think about your own buying behavior.  You eat at the restaurant along the freeway when it is the only choice or when you’re in the mood for a very specific thing.

Most days you prefer better.  You make it yourself or you patronize a more service focused establishment.  You buy where you get your money’s worth.

Excited and committed people deliver exceptional service.  Excited and committed people are also where the best ideas come from.  These employees care about what they are doing and truly want to make a difference.  They want to learn and they want to help every tool succeed.  They don’t spend time complaining and waiting on the “day shift” to arrive.  They help.  They’re easy to work with too.  Excited people excite customers.  Let me say that again…EXCITED PEOPLE EXCITE CUSTOMERS!

The people at the restaurant with questionable service were all tolerating work.  It showed.  I will certainly go back…but not for a while.  Most of the time, I insist on better.  I gladly pay more to get better service.  I want my dining experience to be about me and my meal…not about some unhappy waitress.

The same thing goes for your clients…you can bet on it!  Think about that and remember, you are the brand!



Customer Focus (#39) Customer Focus Series by Bill Gillespie 2007, All Rights Reserved.



Embrace the Negative.

Every year we tell ourselves we just want to be happy, build great relationships and make lots of money. But the problem is not that we all want the same things; it’s that we’re asking the wrong questions. Consider the great Charlie Chaplin, who once said, “to truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.” So as a new year begins, perhaps our resolutions need to change from wanting the positive to embracing the negative.

Certainly, a new year brings hope, and we all strive for a great attitude. But the more compelling question may be, what pain are we willing to take in order to achieve our objectives? In other words, what sacrifices are required to make our dreams a reality?

Business objectives are no different than personal goals. We must decide what kind of pain we are willing to take to build our brand and carry our overall strategy. More specifically, can we let go of the immediate gratification that dominates our culture and stay the course through adversity?

Every year begs the question about what we want to have in our business. And the realities of our individual lives are that whatever we wanted to attain soon will be the thing that causes us the pain. The ones we love will be the ones we fight with the most. The dream job we landed will be the one we stress over the most. So it is in business too. The strategies that catapult us to new heights soon will be the ones that no longer have merit and weigh us down.

Accepting the never ending journey of ups and downs in our personal world is human. Similarly, it makes sense to embrace the struggles in business that offer opportunities for growth. Acceptance of challenges is the first step to making the progress we desire.

Joy doesn’t just sprout out of the ground like daisies and rainbows, it grows from problems. And business success is generated from the acceptance and active engagement of negative experiences and challenges…not the avoidance of them.

In our first issue of Connect Magazine (first of the year and on press now), we’re proud to bring you our cover article “20/20 Vision.” The story delves into the major challenge of our business lives-what the future job market looks like. Our second article, “Balancing Act,” examines how to manage our needs along with those of others-a key component to any great company.

If you receive Connect, keep an eye on your mailbox. If you would like to receive Connect, you can subscribe on our website and it’s completely free.

We wish each of you a year full of challenge and growth, and look forward to developing along with you.

The Revolution!

In August, analysts at Morgan Stanley using data from an Oxford University study predicted that nearly half of U.S. jobs will be replaced by robots over the next two decades. It’s said we will have cars that drive themselves, waiters we won’t need to pay and personalized butlers. Looks like we’re moving rapidly toward a future without actual jobs.

According to a 2013 Stanford University study, some manufacturing robots now cost the equivalent of about $4 per hour – and they keep getting cheaper and better. We even have robots that think. Editors at the Associated Press claim robots write thousands of articles a year for them. It would seem as if the dream of living a WALL-E-type existence, where we float around in auto-piloted chairs, sip on a liquid turkey dinner and stay glued to the attached monitors may become a reality.

Not So Fast! While it certainly seems like we’re headed toward a scary and confusing robot revolution, it is best to remember that technology always creates more jobs than it destroys. Progress creates angst, but it’s still progress. And this time will be no different. Consider that computers destroyed a great deal of manufacturing jobs, but enabled hundreds of millions of new jobs. The reality is that technology augments humans, rather than replaces them.

We don’t need to fear the robots, but we do need to understand that the jobs robots can replace aren’t good jobs in the first place. As humans, we climb the ladder of success using our brains. So we must tap into the greatest computer inside of us, embrace a strategic mindset and start anticipating the kinds of jobs that will emerge over the next 20 years.

Leadership is not about getting people to work harder. In fact, it’s about discovering new paths and new ideas, and incubating the skills needed to sustain us in the future. Leadership is about identifying markets that are important and providing that community a competitive advantage. The future is bright, and while we can all concern ourselves with the changing job climate, take solace in the fact that history proves progress is good.

This month’s Connect Magazine has a cover story titled “The Great Escape.” We discuss some of the strategies and marketing ideas that will gain momentum next year an over the next several years. A second article speaks to how your employees are your best branding asset.

Both are compelling articles that remind us where our focus should remain. If you would like to receive a copy of Connect Magazine please let us know. You can subscribe on our website and it’s completely free.

What If…we just asked our client?

In 1975 I was a print buyer. I ran a small graphics department for a door manufacturer and bought the things we couldn’t do ourselves. That meant any job with photography and four colors was a purchase. I collected bids, selected the printer and awarded the jobs. I was like many of the people you sell to now.

One of my first projects was an “Entry Door” brochure. I can still remember the sales reps, their companies and approximate bids. Some of these guys still do business in Atlanta so I’ll skip the names. The point will be clear, regardless.

Printer #1 quoted $17,300. That was a lot of money in 1975. It was much more than a year’s pay for me. I remember being astonished that printing could cost so much.

Printer #2 quoted $16,900. I consider these two numbers essentially the same. If you get bids like this you can assume that both companies understand the specs and know how to produce the job. At least they know what their costs are.

Printer #3 quoted $13,000. He explained that they had gotten aggressive and wanted the order. He convinced the estimator to give him a good price. It was this guy’s number that taught me pricing (not estimating) is an art. He and his managers “guessed” what the other two would do and really low-balled the quote.

Apparently, I did not respond fast enough. All I did was visit my boss to discuss the prices. This 30 minute delay concerned printer #3. He called me back and cut his price to $12,000. He explained that they really wanted the order and found some savings when they took another look at the estimate. I thanked him and got off the phone.

About an hour later he called again. This time he cut the price to $11,000. They were continuing to look and found even more savings. He wanted to make sure I knew how much they wanted this order.

Well…he got the order. He never knew how much he cut his own price. He never knew how big a laugh my boss and I enjoyed at his expense. His salesmanship amounted to nothing more than price-cutting. He was like a contestant on the old TV show, Name That Tune. “I can produce that brochure for…$11,000.”

Think about this a minute. The nearest price was $5,900 higher than the lowest bid. The printer left thousands on the table. He convinced his company that I was a shrewd buyer and that he had to be cheap to get the business. He was going to get the order before he started cutting. He was already the best price.

I could have easily told the other two printers that they were approximately $6,000 too high. They would have been astonished and would have assumed that I wasn’t comparing apples to apples. The whole charade would have served (perhaps it did) to cheapen the work and to create a downward spiral in price and profit…and…the buyer didn’t do it…the sales rep did.

Now…fast forward several years. I was selling printing. I had an opportunity to quote a large color project for a computer graphics company. I can remember this bid too.

I quoted $36,000. My competition (a much bigger company) quoted $44,000. I didn’t get the job. The customer was more confident in the other guy. He had more experience and this was an important project. His grasp of the situation showed and it won him the work.

I was furious. I ranted, “If $8,000 in savings won’t justify the business what will? Just how low do I have to be to get your business? Would $10,000 do it…$11,000?”

The client calmly replied that he didn’t plan to exclude me when the bidding started. During the process he became concerned that I didn’t have the experience necessary to protect his interest. My low quote added to this and my tantrum sealed the deal…for the other printer.

Now why am I telling you all this? What does this have to do with you and your sales career? What lesson could there be for us today?

It’s simple. Every sales staff has reps that will and reps that won’t. You notice I didn’t say can’t. I said won’t.

This very day there are salespeople adding money to quotes without a second thought. There are service reps on house accounts doing the same thing. These people believe in their service and realize that price is only part of the contract. They know that they bring value. They know that clients will pay what is fair.

This very day there are also salespeople that won’t do it. They believe that price is all that matters and can’t imagine that anyone thinks otherwise. Their work is marginally profitable, they don’t sell as much and their earnings show it.

Please trust me on this. Your confidence about price is directly related to your self esteem. If you have a low opinion of yourself and your company…you are going to put a low value on your product. It will show in the price you submit.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t have to be fair. I understand that you need to be competitive. That isn’t the issue here.

The issue is asking for the price you deserve. The issue is, understanding what the client is really buying. It isn’t just price. If it is…you haven’t been selling. You have only been quoting. One pays much better than the other.

What a privilege! Thank you everyone.

Forty one years ago today I drove to my first day (job) in the printing business. I remember how excited I was. I was going to run the in house printing department for a door company and buy the printing we couldn’t do ourselves. It sounded so glamorous. I had been out of school for five months and I was the new Graphics Manager for Peachtree Door.

What it was…was a one man department. There was a 12 x 12 room with a duplicator and a table top cutter inside. There was another 12 x 12 room with a litho camera and sink for developing negatives. Between them was my office which was really the end of the hall. There was a door on every wall. I had made it and I was only 23.

What ensued was a journey I could have never imagined. I went to work for a supplier three years later and found myself in sales. Suddenly, I was exposed to customers, printing as a business and the reality of how hard the things I demanded as a client were to do.

I’ve had a ball. I had the privilege of working with Coca Cola, IBM, American Express, AT&T, DuPont, Hershey, Nike and a host of others. I also had the honor of working with and learning from people like A.C. Castleberry, Wiley Tucker, Buddy Towery, Jim Pipkin and Sonny Pruitt. These men were giants of the industry at a time when good work had almost no right to happen. Technology makes things possible today that were impossible 41 years ago. I owe them a great deal…so do many others.

I also saw color scanners arrive on the scene in Atlanta. Then came color imaging and retouching systems that cost more than a yacht. Finally there was the Macintosh, desktop publishing and digital printing. I actually bought my first digital press in 1992. If you know anything about that segment, you know that was very early.

I’ve had the privilege of launching new products, informing employees of new benefits, announcing new services and have signed forms preventing me from telling people I sold to what I was doing for their boss upstairs. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to rub elbows with some of our world’s most creative minds and have stood amazed as I watched new ideas take shape. More than $100,000,000 in personal sales later I have to say that this has been one amazing career and so much more than I ever expected.

On this 41st anniversary I have a heart full of gratitude. I’m grateful to an industry that has exposed me to its best. I’m grateful to the men that gave me a shot in the business and allowed me to make mistakes and learn. I’m grateful to everyone that ever called my phone number. I’m grateful to everyone that answered the phone when I was calling theirs. I’m also grateful to my current coworkers for allowing me to continue to do this wonderful thing every single day.

It’s been a great career. This is a fabulous way to earn a living. Thank you everyone!

The Wrong Question!

Change has been the topic of conversation within the business community for decades. In May 2005, the Harvard Business Review cited the need for a radical departure from traditional thinking.

According to the article, “Your Company’s Secret Change Agent,” while isolated success strategies can be brought into the mainstream, doing so requires a departure from the notions of bench-marking and best practices that we are all too familiar with. The key is to engage the members of the community you want to change in the process of discovery and make them evangelists of their own conversion experience.

The ideas for creating change are pretty sound. Involving the people you want to change in process of leading change is brilliant. However, we collectively still lament the willingness to change what exists within our worlds.

So what gives?

Maybe we’re just asking the wrong questions. For example, instead of asking “How do I get this done?” or “How can I validate my work?” we should ask, “What is holding us back from opportunity?”

No matter what the solution is for change, the thing that ultimately holds us back is belief or lack thereof. In other words, maybe there is a feeling that once change is implemented we will be destroyed in some way. Belief can go a long way as long as it’s true.

We must all have faith that sticking our collective necks out is a good thing. We must believe that when we choose to do the unconventional, we will end up stronger and more educated. And we must feel confident that we can become the kind of people who not only make change, but change things for the better.

The Buzz

Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a concept that has received a great deal of buzz from the marketing world. As you know, ABM is part of a 1:1 process that has replaced mass marketing.  Specifically, organizations now are trying to sell more solutions to once customer at a time.

As markets become more competitive, clients see little delineation between brands.  ABM is the latest trend to try and find that differentiation and many companies are starting to see the long-term value from the practice.  According to the Marketing Practice Decision Maker’s Index, “77 percent of decision makers say that marketing from new suppliers is poorly targeted and makes it easy to justify staying with their current supplier.

So crafting messages to specific clients will make you downright buzz-worthy!

ABM may be a hot trend, but we contend that it’s simply the natural progression of how to interact with customers.  With all of the power existing with the consumer and the decision makers within the B2B world acting more like B2C professionals, it makes sense that the role of sales and marketing changes and aligns.

Due to time restrictions, people would prefer to find partners by themselves rather than being called upon.  ABM treats each account individually, allowing the company to address the audience with more relevant content than an un-targeted direct marketing activity.  In addition, it enables the company to expand its connection within an account and cements that connection in various parts of your organization.

ABM underscores the need for marketing to take a more active role within individual accounts and align with a sophisticated sales team in serving that client.  Clearly, both marketing and sales have changed over the last 10 years.  But the on thing that will never change is the importance of aligning your efforts to better understand and serve specific customers.

As jobs morph, people will need to adapt.  Many of our future roles don’t even exist today.  That’s why it’s important to incubate new skills and talents within your current organization.

We dedicate some space to this topic in our current issue of Connect Magazine.  Our cover story “Home Grown” shares a few ideas on why and how to cultivate talent that will serve you for years to come.  Our second feature “Crash Course” shares insights on current marketing tools.

If you don’t receive Connect and would like to, send us a message at  We’ll make sure you never miss an issue.

Meanwhile, good luck, good marketing and good selling!

Bennett Graphics loves labels!

A few months back, Bennett Graphics made an investment in the labeling and flexible packaging business.  We researched the space, bought the equipment and added experienced staff.  It was our goal to deliver our same attention to detail and client experience finesse to an area of the industry that has often been more of a commodity.

We’re very excited by what we’ve seen.  The market has responded and it turns out that almost everyone we work with has some sort of need in this area.  Labels, packaging and flexible packaging have applications well beyond what we expected.

If this is a service that touches your business or organization, please let us know. We want to sit with you, hear what you do and earn a solid understanding of what would make your business run better.  We’ll enjoy brainstorming with you to arrive at exactly the right program that ensures you have exactly what you need when you need it.  We’ll protect you from inventory obsolescence in the process.

At Bennett Graphics we really feel that printing should be easy for you.  If it isn’t, we haven’t done our job.  We’re excited to bring that same idea to your packaging.

Call us.  We’re adding people and new services continuously.  Bennett Graphics is a fun place to be part of whether you’re a vendor, employee or customer.