The 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers

The Power of You


Sales is a really unique profession.  It follows a delicate dance between seller and buyer.  It is often a solitary pursuit, where the sales person is building a strategy to gain a relationship, which hopefully turns into a sale.

It’s a simple fact that most sale approaches end in failure, in fact, failure might be the most common result of a sales process.  That being said, sales people need to have tough skin and an even tougher attitude.  They need to have a very powerful level of confidence and resilience that allows them to see what failure really is, just a part of the process.  Each failure is filled with lessons.  All of the million dollar producers in the study had an attitude of success and a firm belief in themselves, their processes and their skills.

In the early 1900’s the Texas Rangers were riding a legendary reputation for being the toughest lawman of the West.  Captain WJ McDonald was a legend among the legends.

He was known for his rugged individualism, leadership skills (he was made a Ranger Captain in 1891) courage and honesty.  He faced bank robbers, cattle thieves, long standing feuds and all out gun fights.  It was said that he would “charge into hell with a bucket of water”.  Despite all of that, he was famous for one incident in the early 1900’s.

There was an illegal prizefight scheduled in frontier Dallas, TX.  The fight had drawn an unruly crowd just ready to turn the entire scene into a bloody riot.  The mayor contacted the Texas Rangers for help and hurried down to the train station to meet the Rangers he was hoping would quell the unrest.  At the train station, Captain McDonald got off and looked around.  The mayor hurried to him and asked; “where are the rest of the Rangers?”  McDonald uttered; “Hell aint I enough?  There’s only one riot isn’t there?  One riot, one ranger.”

Captain McDonald stared down the crowd and stopped the riot.


In the 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers, you will find the steps used to build this attitude, to discover confidence in the face of failure and to develop a personal plan to join the ranks of the elite salespeople featured in the book!


The Series: 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers

The Power of Intuitive Thinking

The ability to think differently is a trademark of most success stories.  Sales, science, leadership are all impacted by the ability of people to push their thinking in slightly different directions.

In 1847 Ignaz Semmelweis was a doctor who specialized in delivering babies in Austria.  The mortality level was staggeringly high and his simple thought that if you wash your hands before treating or examining an expectant mother the chance of a good delivery and the survival of both mom and baby jumped astronomically.  He wasn’t sure why (it wasn’t until 1860 that Louis Pasteur made the connection between germs and illness), but he saw the impact.  Despite his record keeping, the majority of the medical community thought he was crazy.  Who has time to wash your hands?

In 1997 Steve Jobs made it back to Apple.  In one of his internal meetings, he told everyone that they needed to get back to basics. That Apple had drifted away from doing their core business well and they were doing way too many things, making way too many things, thus making too many mistakes.  His thinking reduced the Apple product line by 70%!  What, be more successful not by growing but by shrinking?

Wait a minute, wash your hands and expected mothers and their babies don’t die.  Get small to be successful.  These two ideas share a counterintuitive way of thinking, a way of thinking that permeates successful sales professionals.

During World War II, two very secret operations were set up and driven by a type of counterintuitive thinking; one everyone should be familiar with, The Manhattan Project, where the best physicists, chemists, and engineers were working feverously on creating the atomic bomb. The combined effort of thousands of people had to learn to think about the bonds of energy differently.   The other is less known and it was called, The Applied Math Panel with a very unusual division; The Statistical Research Group and it was here that Abraham Wald practiced his craft.

Wald was an Austrian-born statistician who had barely escaped the rush of Nazi Germany.

Wald was tasked with helping figure out how to protect our military aircraft from being blown to bits in the skies over Europe.  The challenge was intense as he viewed photos of planes that had barely made it back to their air bases.  He looked at patterns of impact and came up with a very different solution to the problem than the military had already started on.  His counterintuitive way of thinking is credited with saving thousands of airmen’s lives.  His story is told in Chapter 4 of our book.

In fact, counterintuitive thinking is a pervasive skill set in sales.  Great sales performers have to think differently about relationships, failure and time.

Six chapters of the book deal with how thinking, not outside the legendary box but instead DIFFERENT thinking, right within your sales model, can make a massive difference in the success of your sales strategy.

A New Blog Series from Creative Ventures


Creative Ventures will be refocusing our strategy as it applies to our blog. We want to give our readers more of what they want. We want to share more of our ideas and what inspires us to do what we do. To that end, we are focusing on creating content in three core areas.

First, to supplement the content from our upcoming book and share the results of our research, we are creating content to help move your sales model forward. The 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers Series will focus on the key behaviors of top salespeople, what they mean, and how you can implement each one to make you a better salesperson.

Extraordinary People will be filled with profiles, stories, and actionable items from the many people that inspire us and are often found in our strategic platforms. Everyone profiled has done amazing things. Whether it’s business, science, tech, or history these people all have something to teach us. We find inspiration in the often little-known people who have had a dramatic impact in their field and we hope you do too.

The Power of Things is focused on how we communicate big ideas. We often use unusual things in our stage presentations. There is power in the use of things and that power drives our understanding of their impact. From tulips to telescopes, from Big Mac’s to the Big Bang we will profile how ideas became the things that drive progress.

Keep an eye out for our new content and, as always, drop us line to let us know what you think.


On Simplicity and the Mystery of Throw Pillows

We’re having family drop in for a visit to enjoy the beautiful pollen-filled spring time in the Southwest.  This, of course, requires a special level of house cleaning.  Both guest rooms will be occupied and since these rooms don’t receive a lot of use during our regular life routines, they need some sprucing up for the level of hospitality you want your guests to experience.

One of the guest rooms, the “Green Room” (you guessed it), yep, its color theme (did I just write “color theme”?) is green, is my sports room and music room.  All my tennis, golf, and training stuff is stored here and all of my guitars and assorted music stuff is there too.  The Green Room gets a little more attention than the “Black Room”.  This is Laura’s domain and is where all her gift wrapping stuff is.  When Laura wraps ANY gift is it a museum-worthy piece of art.  I kid you not.  Whereas, after 40 years of wrapping various treasures mine resemble the result of an exercise for any creature without opposable thumbs.

Laura came back from our marathon road trip really sick, so I wanted to jump in and get these rooms in GOOD TO GO condition.  Simple stuff, like new linens on the beds, dusting, vacuum, and the general once over.  It was during these housekeeping exercises that I once again stumbled upon one of the great mysteries of the human condition –  the abundance of pillows.

There are pillows of all sizes and shapes.  There are pillows of all colors and textures.  There are sleeping pillows, decorative pillows, and pillows that escape a description of function.  There are pillows EVERYWHERE!

They seem to multiply in some bizarre genetic methodology that would stump even Francis Crick and James Watson (go ahead, Google them, I’ll wait…………).

I am befuddled by these pillows.  I thought I understood the function of a pillow.  I use two to sleep on and take three off our bed every night and then proceed to put them back on every morning.  That’s just MY side of our bed.  Now I’m good with the idea of design and the roll a pillow would play in bedroom creative decorum, but COME ON.  What’s the appropriate number?  I’m pretty sure that a combined 21 is a little high, like 106 degrees is a little high for the Jacuzzi.   Is there some theorem that could be applied like the Pythagorean Theory or the Mean Value Theory?

I have made a living helping organizations understand and apply the principles of simplification and yet our pillows seem to expand like the Universe.  Forget about comparing the grains of sand on our planet to the number of stars in the sky, I’m switching to a throw pillow scale.

I know this is a losing battle and in reality outside of driving me nuts, has little impact on the spinning of our globe, but come on . . . . .

The Competitive Advantage 

This is the eve before I head out on one of the most challenging road trips in recent memory.  Composed of eight cities in about four weeks with only a few hours in Austin to repack, it is a testament to the value of our ideas.

Four of the projects are training sessions where we get to teach specific strategies and forge a link to the success found in their direct application.  Companies that invest in their people, that look to take advantage of learning new ideas, give themselves a tremendous market advantage.  I know that training budgets are the first thing that gets slashed when companies start to pull in their heads, turtle style, when the business climate toughens.  It’s the exact wrong thing to do.  When times get tough, that’s when training becomes critical.  It is an ancient strategy.

In the early days of the Roman Empire they really didn’t have an army.  They would conscript farmers and call them into service.  Not exactly a martial strategy.  In 90 BC the Gaul’s came a callin’ and gave the Romans a good thumping.  They pillaged Rome and its surrounding villages for over six months.  In fact, the Romans dug deep into their coffers and paid the Gaul’s to leave.  It was a good lesson.  Training was about to become the Roman advantage.

For the next century Rome became the Mecca of military training.  They began a process of perfecting their Legions.  No more farmers, Rome began training a professional army.  They built a military machine.

They trained in the use of all kinds of weapons.  They worked hard on stamina with long marches and runs.  They created strategies and taught them to every single soldier.  They had fierce discipline creating a sense of accountability so that every soldier was accountable to the soldiers on their right or left.

Rome went from the plaything of the Gaul’s to the Roman Empire.

It’s a great example of the value of training:

  • They trained every soldier. Every single one.
  • They knew what the basics were weapons, stamina, and strategy. They built their curriculum around three key pieces.
  • They had their generals partake in the training to create a sense of connection.
  • They held everyone accountable for the application of what they learned.

Training often seems like a luxury and in almost any form, it ain’t cheap, but when it becomes a cultural pillar, a strategy as necessary as accounting, you get The Ritz-Carlton , Apple, British Airways and GE.

Knowledge and skills are expanding qualities and it’s incumbent on companies to be the creator of the opportunities that will make their people the most valuable asset in the company

Your Sacred Time

Lately, we have been doing a lot of time or project management workshops for our clients. It seems that the constant demand for more has people scurrying to figure out how to stretch the unforgiving minute into more productivity. That’s not what this posting is about. Instead, I want to introduce the idea of sacred time.In the constant demand for pieces of you, for their need of a pound of time, you need some sacred moments, moments that are yours and yours alone.

I learned this years ago and created my sacred time, time that I revere, time that is critical to my success. It’s about time to rest, to focus on awareness. Mine happens on Sunday’s.

Sunday’s are my sacred days. It is the only day that I’m not up at 4:00 AM to attack the day. I sleep a little longer. I don’t train or follow the insanity of my workout schedule during this time that I hold precious. I share the morning with Laura in our ritual, fresh scones and coffee, the Sunday paper and a conservative news show followed by a liberal news show. I head down to the office for a couple of hours of quiet writing. We head out to the movies or maybe a round of golf. The evening is spent on my learning cycle of Sunday blogs and newsletters. I study the ideas contained therein and usually end up with 10 notecards full of images and stuff I want to save. Here are a few of the resources that come my way:



I allocate time to myself. It’s alright. It’s not selfish. You should do this.  In fact, it may be imperative for your sanity.

There’s so much to appreciate about my life every single day, and I make a big point of taking time to smell the roses and noticing how lucky I am. I never want to take that for granted.

Josie Maran

If this time falls in the “sacred” category, it is worthy of a plan. Maybe it’s not an entire day, but instead time early in the morning ahead of the magnetic pull of your day. Perhaps it is found in the quiet of the evening, just before bed. It might be in a deep stretch from your yoga class. Maybe it’s a long walk.  Believe me, it’s out there and it’s calling to you through the chaos of your endless demands. It takes courage and commitment to carve out its place in your life, mostly because it is YOURS. No one takes it from you.


The basic thing is that I want to do the best work possible, and I can only do that if I’m relaxed and have a lot of energy. And that can only come from taking time off.

Jason Scott Lee

We look at our resources and allocate value to a wide variety of things. Often we miss the most important. Look for your sacred time. It’s out there and once you find it, once you make it important, you will wonder how you ever lived without it.


We’ve codified our existence to bring it down to human size to make it comprehensible. We’ve created a scale so that we can forget its unfathomable scale. Time is the only true unit of measure. It gives proof to the existence of matter. Without time, we don’t exist.

Scarlett Johansson – The Movie LUCY

The Client Experience Doesn’t End At The Point Of Purchase


Our Dazzling Blue program is centered on creating a client experience that separates and differentiates our clients in the face of a creeping sense of everything’s the same.  We are battling the commoditization of what we make, what we do, and how we solve our client’s needs.


When we start one of our Dazzling Blue projects for a client,  we always start at the beginning.  Where do the tendrils of what you do touch your client?  In order to be Dazzling, to be extraordinary, it has to encompass all that you do.  You can’t commit to Dazzling half way.

Here is one of my favorite examples of how NOT to be Dazzling.  Client touch points are critical in a Dazzling experience.  You need to know all of them and see each touch point as an element in the client experience.

I recently purchased a new charging cable for both my iPhone and my iPad.  It was positioned beautifully in a display case which positively impacted my buying choice.

Upon getting it home, I  went downstairs to the office to create a charging station for my gear.

So what could be the problem?  Hmmmm.  I tried to open it.

Now, I’m pretty smart and after a dozen attempts and a study period equaling getting ready for the SAT,  I couldn’t get the top off.  I obviously had the wrong tools, my hands.  I checked the packaging.  No opening directions.  I looked for some unique tool that came with this Chinese puzzle box.   Apparently, this chord is more valuable than the gold in Fort Knox, because I believe I could have accessed that shiny bullion easier than anyone could have accessed this damn charging cable!

Then I thought I needed something, a tool, and tried to pry it off with a screwdriver.

Nope, the lid would not budge despite my Archemidian attempt to use the screwdriver as a lever.

I was now 20-30 minutes into just trying to get the damn thing open, so I decided to change strategies and thought about the following tools.



I settled on the hammer and proceeded to beat the ever lovin daylights out of the plastic vault like container.  And . . . . .  I’ll be damned but, it opened and shattered into a hundred pieces.

I had my cord and, though I somewhat enjoyed the destructive process of opening the case,  I can’t believe that was the intended design.

Though the packaging was beautiful and its ability to stand out in a custom display case enticed me to buy, it is as far from a Dazzling Blue experience as a company can get.  Surely they tested the case?  Surely they gave it to some folks to open?  Surely they thought of the client, the customer, the end user, beyond the cool way it looked?  NOPE.

A Dazzling Blue experience wraps itself around the client.  It is found in the way you greet a client, in the way you deliver your product, in the way you handle problems.  You have to see the whole picture to separate yourself from the vanilla world and creating barriers is as far from Dazzling as you can get!

Is the holiday mall experience a thing of the past?



Hey, you goin to the mall?

It wasn’t all that long ago when the mall was both the conspicuous consumption capital and social mecca of suburban culture.  Pre-driver license teens would be dropped off by dutiful mom’s to begin evenings of food court courting.  Heck, even zombies hung out there as in George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and then Kevin Smith’s Mallrat’s stuck a pin in the map defining its cultural epicenter.

online-shoppingBut, as all elements of cultures go, the destination mall began to lose its luster.  Online shopping started to eat away at the mall’s allure and the 2007/08 housing bust/recession completed the mall’s fade from glory.  But all did not die and many of these superstructure marketplaces still exist and they are fighting for retail relevance.


With the upcoming Holiday season already in full “I want this” swing, finding an avenue of importance for malls is more critical than ever.  Enter the strategic relevance of the customer experience.  With malls shedding customers faster than a Golden Retriever sheds its mane; a laser-like focus is in order to get those automatic doors swinging open again.

The key tool is creativity and the ability to add a little risk to the formula, in fact, that’s the best prescription for approaching client experiences that beckon to a customer.

Start with a simple goal; how can we get more people back to the mall at Christmas.  The season itself provides needed momentum just like the spinning of santathe earth helps a rocket get to space.  So you have Christmas energy and you have a central location for all the parents looking for the legendary king of the season, Santa.  With a visit and photo op on waiting to be checked off Holiday to do lists, malls are looking to  shift the traditional experience.  Many malls are ramping up the old sitting on Santa’s lap event.  Here are a few of the ideas in play:

  • At the New Jersey Short Hills Mall, kids get to help Santa load his sleigh through a fantastic electronic experience where pushing buttons and pulling levers move packages. They can choose reindeer routes and fill the sleigh with the needed magic.
  • At the Simon Property Group, owners of a gazillion malls, you can reserve your photo time with the jolly old man himself and they have special times for those that want a photo of St. Nick with their pets.
  • Some of the malls in the more tropical areas of our country like Florida have actually brought in snow and connected a real winter experience with a spectacular holiday light show, making their locations actual destinations!

The idea is that a refocus on the customer by providing experiences that get them in the door may also separate a few dollars from their wallets for the shop owners.


The client experience is the saving force in the separation and differentiation companies desperately search for.  It should be high on your strategic wish list!

How Do You Show Gratitude?



Creative Ventures is part of the Pay If Forward corporate movement where companies pledge to pay a percentage of either net revenues or profits to various charitable causes.

At Creative Ventures each team member is given a share of net revenues to donate to any charity or cause they feel connected to or whose mission speaks to them.

We are pleased to announce this year’s recipients:


THE NOT IMPOSSIBLE FOUNDATION:  I had the honor of meeting and working with the charismatic and incredibly fun founder of The Not Impossible Labs, Mick Ebeling this year and was stunned at the phenomenal work Mick and his team does.  Taking small amounts of resources and marrying them with imagination and a dogged determination not to fail, Mick and the Not Impossible gang are changing the world, literally!  With a three-part mission:

  • Technology for the sake of humanity
  • Help one, help many
  • Help through making things

They are changing the perspective of what can be done – ANYTHING!  And nothing, I mean nothing, is impossible!


st-judesST JUDE’S CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL:  St Jude’s has been a core charity for Creative Ventures during our 31-year existence.  Their work in the prevention and treatment of pediatric catastrophic disease is world renowned.  NO child and I mean NO child is ever denied treatment.  NO family ever received a bill for their child’s time at St. Jude’s.  St Jude’s is in the miracle business.



open_graph_heiferHEIFER INTERNATIONAL:  Their mission is to empower families in the most poverty stricken areas on this planet, through sustainable agriculture and commerce, to find hope and prosperity.  Through the idea of not just giving a fish, but teaching them to fish, families receive livestock that provide nourishment for the family and the ability to create small pocket businesses with the surplus provided by the animal.  Their work across the planet has changed thousands of lives and given hope, where hope did not exist.


operation-smileOPERATION SMILE:  Every child deserves exceptional surgical care and to be treated like they were your own.  That’s what Operation Smile does.  They provide hundreds of thousands of surgeries in poverty stricken areas providing children a chance at a normal life where that chance never existed before.  Operation Smile is one of the oldest volunteer-based organizations in the world and offers their medical services in over 60 countries.


We are honored to be chosen by our clients to work with them on the core strategies they plan.  Our services are unique and fit a very distinct value proposition.  We are grateful for the relationships that inspire our thinking and drive us to new ideas and actionable plans.

This is just one of the way’s we say; THANK YOU!

To Grow or Not to Grow



We were recently working with a client on a project that had, at its core, the idea of connectivity.  We were working on taking the existing suite of services offered by our client and looking for ways to connect new ideas, creating a bridge of value between the new and the old.  It was a challenging to create something that used that type of leverage to develop impact.

walt-disney-logo-88195Perhaps no company in history has been more successful at this idea than The Disney Company.  The brains and imagination behind the most successful acquisitions of the past 50 years has been Bob Iger.  It would be safe to say that over the past decade Iger has spearheaded the greatest group of connected acquisitions in corporate history.

The challenge of any acquisition is finding the highest and best connection points so the both the parent company and the acquired company have the best chance to succeed.  There need to be connections on balance sheets, within budgets, on the cultural front and the actual services and products provided.

150313103547-bob-iger-mickey-mouse-780x439Iger is a man of vision and his role in marrying Pixar Animation, Marvel Comics and LucasFilm demonstrates his genius in connectivity.  It might make many of us think how can Darth Vader, Nemo and Iron Man find common ground with Mickey, but not only did they connect, they shared a creative spark unlike anything the business world has ever seen.

Disney has always been a master at connecting.  Disney stories formed the heart of their theme parks and made seamless transitions to product lines.  The number one rated ride at the Disney parks has long been Pirates of the Caribbean which then became a tent pole film franchise.  The Lion King went from a smash at the movie theater to a revolutionary hit on Broadway and soon to follow The Jungle Book in becoming a live action film.

In 2006 Iger personally negotiated the purchase of Pixar from Steven Jobs.  He focused on keeping the creative team together and cultivated the existing culture.  Disney now had a new cadre of characters and a seemingly endless pixarlogostream of computer-generated, Oscar-winning animated films.  Next, he set his sights on Marvel Comics.  In 2009, for a mere $4 billion Disney grabbed Marvel and brought with them over 400 heroes and villains.  Their transition to the silver screen, in the Disney way, made The Avengers the third most profitable film in history.  The caped good guys and bad guys just seem to keep coming.  Then, in October of 2012, Disney scrounged around for another $4 billion plus and acquired LucasFilm and a data base that contain literally thousands of characters on 1000’s of planets spanning 20,000 years with a mythology as rich as that of the Greeks.

Now continue on the connected value journey and you will soon discover more connections than a DNA molecule.  Movies, TV, toys and products, theme park rides and attractions are just the highly visible leverage found in these connections.  Iger and Disney were able to see the value of an imaginary universe.

You need three things to create value-based connections:

  • It has to be worthy. It must elevate and not damage your brand.
  • It has to help you competitively. Does it continue to separate and differentiate you in your market?
  • It has to endure. The better decisions you make on creating connections, the better your chance that all your effort will carry you into the future.

In 1985, when a very young ex-surfer had the idea to create a strategy based company around a series of unique and dynamic ideas, I was honored that my first client was The Disney Company.