Sometimes a deal doesn’t go your way. Maybe the terms just aren’t right. When that happens, do you hold to your value? That is a fascinating question, and we will hear our guest’s take on it in this episode. Lance Tyson speaks with Anthony Macri, VP of Partnership Marketing for the Memphis Grizzlies. Anthony’s career has taken him all over the world, from coaching basketball in Baltimore to creating multimillion-dollar partnerships in Indonesia to leading his current team in Memphis. An interesting path with some interesting lessons, including the ability to walk away from a deal to negotiate a better one. Buckle your seat belts and get ready for a fantastic journey as Anthony teaches the lessons he learned from leading organizations to the top.
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Against the Sales Odds and Anthony Macri Outlines Sales Negotiations and the Art Of Walking Away
I’m excited about this episode of the show. A cold day in Columbus, Ohio and Memphis, Tennessee. I have the Vice President of Partnership Marketing, Anthony Macri. I’ve gotten to know him over the last few years. We’ve been in a couple of interesting conversations about deals. I learned to appreciate his style and strategy. That’s why I’m excited you’re on. Anthony, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Lance. I appreciate you having me.
Like I start everything off, everybody has a title. Some titles are similar and some aren’t. Tell everybody who is reading what you manage, lead and strategize for the Grizzlies.
I run our Partnership Marketing Group. We think of that like everything to do with sponsorship. I have a sales team, a development team of six sellers and an activation team of seven activators. They report up through me. All of our corporate partnership responsibilities report through me and then I report up to our team president and on from there. We’re responsible for a good-sized chunk of Grizzlies’ revenue.
I used to listen to one song Walking in Memphis and the part of the song talks about the street. I didn’t know that was the name of the street. What’s that street again?
He sings on and off of Beale. I thought that was some term for something until I went down to visit you guys and I go, “Beale Street, I get it now.” When you think of Memphis, you don’t always think about the biggest brands in the world but one of your biggest partners is one of the biggest brands in the world. Tell people you have the responsibility to manage what bank account.
FedEx is our single biggest partner. The Grizzlies would not be in Memphis but for FedEx. They have 30,000 employees in the city. The name of the building is FedExForum. It’s been that way for years. They also have our jersey placement as well. We manage that relationship. It’s the single biggest corporate relationship that we have and an important one to the team.
We’re talking about two of the biggest brands in Memphis and the person that manages these big partnerships in this team and manages extremely well. As we’ve talked about several times in this forum here is how does one get to managing such a big book of business and a team of people with some of these major brands? Talk about your story. Where are you from? How did you start in sales? What was the beginning? Don’t get me, “I had this paper out deal.” The first job that you got into sales or new to it. You have an interesting story.
It’s the non-traditional way of getting to where I’m at because it is not what most people end up going through. My academic background has nothing to do with sales, business and sports.
Tell everybody what that is because I thought that was the most interesting thing when I first mentioned it. Tell them because it is very interesting.
I have a double Major in Philosophy and Theology and a Minor in Political Science. I have a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology and I thought I was going to go into Law. I thought that one day I was going to become a lawyer, go into public service, maybe go into politics. That was maybe what I was going to do. When I finished my Master’s, I thought maybe I’d go on, get my PhD and teach college somewhere, write books and academic treatises.
What was great about coaching was the development on the court. It was getting guys out and helping them to get better.
That wasn’t the path either. What I found was the thing that I had done when I was a kid, which was playing a lot of basketball competitively, was calling me back and I wanted to coach. I ended up taking that Master’s degree and went to teach and coach at a private high school, North of Baltimore, Maryland and started getting on the court. The team that was Owen 25, the year before we got started. Two years later, we were at 28 and 8 and ranked in the USA top 25 in the country. I’m fortunate to be a part of a big tournament.
I didn’t know that part of the story. You’re almost a professional student with as much school as you’re going through at that point. You’re committed and thinking of going the distance. You very well could have been in another 3 to 4 years with Law school on top of the Master’s degree. You decided to turn and you got into coaching in basketball. How long did you do that?
I was there for five years. What I discovered during my five years there is a couple of things. Number one, one of the things I loved was going into things that were broken and helping to fix them and go from a program that was Owen 25 to building it into a national power. That’s the definition of being able to do that. I was working with a fantastic head coach who had done that before and brought that mentality for fixing broken things.
The second thing I discovered was while I enjoyed the on-court coaching, it was a lot of fun like going out to games, winning, losing and the ebb and flow of emotion. What I loved about coaching was the development on the court. I was getting guys out and helping them to get better. It was a lot of player development stuff. After my five years coaching there and teaching, I was teaching Religion because I had a Master’s degree in Theology.
I decided that I was done coaching there. I didn’t feel like I could pull anything out of that experience. I was at the max of what I could get from it. I went down to IMG Basketball Academy in Bradenton, Florida. This is where I started to straddle the basketball side and have a foot on the business side. I was hired both to run their business operation as well as to build recruiting but it was a sales operation. A lot of people know the soccer, golf and tennis academies are the ones that people know well as a David Leadbetter Academy and Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. I was in charge of driving sales for the basketball academy.
Was that were you hired for? Are we getting in on the coaching side?
Both. They had me come in, I was doing coaching on-court work with pro guys, pre-draft guys and college guys. The way that I was paying my way was being in charge of their sales operation. Being in charge of it makes it sound like they had a sales operation. They had never had anyone in those roles. They’re like, “Maybe we should put someone in these roles.” Because of my experience at the high school level recruiting players, which we did when I was coaching in high school, we transferred that from recruiting into sales. These are $80,000 tuitions that we’re selling to young men and women.
For the school in the basketball training to both.
It’s a boarding school for athletes that want to be at the top of their game.
It sounds like you had to lay that sales system out and think through what it was. How many steps was that close? I would assume the talent you’re looking at. You’re looking at people who can pay that or find the funds for it. How many steps is that? I can’t imagine it’s always a one-step close.
I had no formal training in sales and I didn’t have anybody that was teaching me. I was teaching myself. I was pulling any resource I could. You talked about being educated. I was pulling books off shelves and getting recommendations. My brother was in sales. He said, “Read these five books, take a look at this internet class. Do whatever you can.” I look back on it and I wouldn’t have said, “Step close? What does that even mean?” Now I can look back at it and say it’s pretty similar to sponsorship sale. It’s going to be a minimum of six weeks that you’re going to get somebody involved.
Most of the conversation is going to be, “Hopefully, what you’re doing is you have them at summer camp because we did a lot of short time summer camps.” You get to know that this is a family that could make this happen. You give a call to the parents and say, “This could be worth having a conversation about.” Bring them on campus. You do at least one campus tour, maybe two where you’re doing the full-on.
“Here is the academic side. This is the living situation. Here is everything with what we do on the court and what your curriculum will be.” That’s for the ones that you can get on site. After you finished your tour, there are maybe 1 or 2 other calls and then you’re able to say, “Are we ready to make a commitment?”
Two questions. The hardest part of that and biggest objection.
We didn’t have enough bodies that were meaningfully qualified. To do an $80,000 boarding school for athletes, you’ve got to find some qualified applicants. The hardest part ended up being not the sale itself but the pre-sale. That meant I had to build out an entire marketing plan for how to get in front of students who could potentially afford this opportunity. We built out like how are we going to go to the richest counties and school systems in America.
Do free clinics at these school systems to get the kids interested in our summer camp so that when they come to summer camp, we can sell them on coming to us full-time. That was probably the hardest part. The single hardest objection was related to the fact that we didn’t have great prospects. It was a price objection. They could always see the value but it’s a lot to make a commitment that’s more expensive than college for many athletes that may not ever play at the college level. They’re not necessarily the best players.
You might be a choice of tuition of some of the best Boston prep schools.
The way we would do it is we would market to where Phillips Andover is in New England. We’re marketing to those folks and saying, “We have a great academic experience but we’ll also give you a top-flight athletic experience where even if you don’t go on and play Division 1 basketball, you’re going to have a background in this sport that you can take anywhere.” It’s for families who want to share or help their son or daughter to experience a true love of the game. That’s ultimately what it was.
How long did you do that?
I did that for two years.
The biggest lesson that you can think of from there?
The single biggest lesson that I learned was great because I mentioned before, the two things I loved from coaching were going into a broken situation. When I went to IMG, they said, “Probably we can be able to keep the academy open for longer than a year.” At the end of that year, we were one of the most successful academies. We had done a great job of pulling in great people and the coaches were fantastic.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from that was sticking to my guns because I left there, I had outlined a strategy for what I felt was the best way forward. There were some changes that they made at the top level beyond the basketball academy up above it. They said, “This is the way we’re going to do things now.” It was not in line with what we had laid out and I didn’t agree. I left and it was a big risk to leave. I was in the middle of basketball heaven but it was the right thing to do. I feel like it was now.
You were in a startup situation, you figured out how to sell and you go wear them.
As opposed to being directly in the middle of all the basketball things, I spent more time with family and focused on what can I do to put myself in a position for the next thing. At IMG, I got to meet a whole bunch of people from the NBA and, in particular some player agents. Some of those player agents ended up using me for a variety of things like I was working on the court with their players but I was also helping them think about their player career choices.
It is recognizing that spending a little more time and grabbing a little more margin in multiple deals along the way is the difference between being good and being great.
We were helping them with marketing deals. I was doing a little bit of athlete endorsement stuff from the player’s side, helping them think through what’s appropriate and not and how we should go about it. One of the agents had left the agency world and put together an investment group that purchased the Philadelphia 76ers. He asked me to do some background work for him. I did a little bit of background work on the acquisition of the 76ers. It wasn’t well known to anybody over there.
I was doing in the background to keep making ends meet. One of the investors in that group was an Indonesian billionaire named Erick Thohir. He said to the guy for who I was doing the work, “I own a professional basketball league in Asia and it’s not doing very well commercially. Do you know anyone that would come to Asia and help us get it on the right track?” They came to me and the guy who was working for the academy said, “What do you think about going to Asia?”
I went home to my wife and I said, “What do you think about Jakarta?” She looked at me and said, “What’s a Jakarta?” About two months later, I was spending tens days in Indonesia interviewing to be a consultant to the ASEAN Basketball League based in Jakarta, Indonesia, with 8 teams in 6 countries. I thought I’d go in as a consultant to help them get things right. At the end of my interview process, the Indonesian billionaire said, “I don’t want you to be a consultant. I want you to be the CEO and Commissioner of the league.” I was hired to be the CEO and Commissioner of the ASEAN Basketball League and spent the next two years in Southeast Asia.
The biggest thing you had to do there, was it driving revenue?
The single biggest thing was fixing a lot of broken things. The single biggest thing was extricating the league from a bad media rights deal. They had maybe the worst media rights deal I’ve ever seen. We had to figure out a way to get them out of that and to keep the leak solvent through it. The second biggest thing that I had to learn how to fix going in, in the US we wouldn’t even think of but it was in a model where the teams were participants in a tournament owned by a third-party.
In this case, the person I was working for. He knew that that was not sustainable. The teams could come and go. There was no real ownership of anything. We had to transition the league from a model where it was owned as a promoter with teams participating to a model that we’re more accustomed to in the US where the teams own the league. We rewrote the constitution for a professional basketball league.
Did that make it easier to do business with the league then?
Yes and no. It made it easier because we got stability. People thought, “The league is going to be here for a while. It’s not something that could fly by night.” It made it harder because we had constituents as any league does. I worked for a team in the NBA, every team has its own set of priorities and the league’s priorities might be different and we might become into conflict. That thing would happen if we are operating from the same group. Hopefully, it was one of those things that we were able to put mechanisms in place or prevent it from being too overwhelming.
From there, the biggest skill you acquired because your journey then continues.
The single biggest thing that I acquired there was learning how to communicate. I talk about it now with our sales team is communicating value to differentiated shareholders. Each of these owners had different priorities and objectives that they were trying to accomplish with their personal business and team, why they were an owner and why they want to be involved. You need to navigate that. You’re the league commissioner, yet it’s not anywhere near Adam Silver or David Stern but it is for this small corner of basketball. These people are essentially your board of directors.
You’ve got to both communicate to each of them individually and communicate what is good for the entirety of the league. That was a real challenge. The second thing I learned was as I was doing this more, the gentleman who hired me, Erick Thohir, the Indonesian billionaire, great family and guy. He had me working on some of his other businesses and consulting groups. One of his other consulting groups was a group that consulted Indonesian soccer, which is huge.
Indonesian soccer league is huge. The ISL, the Indonesian Super League is a massive league over there. People don’t realize Indonesia has as many people in it as the US does. The Indonesian Super League, they have never monetized their property appropriately. He asked me to come in and help them to get a media rights deal in place that could be sustainable for the league. We were able to negotiate. This league had never gotten more than $1 million a year in media rights.
We were able to negotiate it to a $17.5 million media rights deal, which is pretty good on a ten-year guarantee. From a good faith negotiation standpoint, we were in a good place with a media rights holder to help us resell it. The company is not around anymore. It’s called MP & Silva. The second thing I learned since getting back to your question, they put together this deal. They were coming to have us sign the deal and they sent us the term sheet in advance as the guy who lives in Milan was coming to Jakarta to have this deal signed.
I looked at the deal and I called Erick and I said, “Erick, there are provisions in here that we never discussed that are not part of this deal and that we shouldn’t accept.” This is my first experience with this size of a deal. He said, “If they are not provisions that we’d accept, tell him to get back on the plane and go home. We’re not interested.”
This is a time when a lead that’s gone from $1 million a year to $17.5 million a year. Being able to walk away from that deal and tell them, “No, it’s not good enough. This isn’t what we agreed to.” Learning that I could do that with the backing of someone above me but felt like it was within my power to say no. It was a huge value. We said no and we got a much better deal.
Which come out there? Extreme confidence?
The autonomy and ability to make an assessment, say it’s the right thing and then go with that assessment and not feel like I’ve got to spend all this time justifying that assessment later.
Where is the journey from there?
At the end of my time in Asia, I said I was going to spend two years there. My family stayed back in the US so I was doing a 24-hour commute every 4 to 6 months to see my kids. Otherwise, it’d be on Zoom or Skype at the time. At the end of that time, Erick, that same Indonesian billionaire, had acquired Inter Milan, the Italian soccer league team. I spent my last six months in Asia jetting back and forth between Jakarta and Milan helping him put that property together.
He said, “I know you’re leaving Asia. I know you want to go back to the US but would you consider going to Inter Milan and helping run that property for me?” At the same time, some people that I knew from previous had landed here in Memphis. They had opened up the position. They had cleaned out the partnerships group. I’m probably the only person in history who had a choice between Milan, Italy and Memphis, Tennessee and chose Memphis, Tennessee. I came to Memphis, came back to the NBA. I was a basketball guy from the start.
Was it more of a basketball league for you?
It was mainly a family lean. My family didn’t want to live internationally. Secondly, it was a basketball thing. The third thing was the role that Erick wanted me to do at Inter was a marketing role. It was their chief marketing officer, which would have been fantastic. It’s a top 15 soccer club in the world. I like revenue because I like keeping score and feeling like there is a win and loss. The game and journey of persuasion and influence and all of that I find exciting and enjoy it very much. In the end, coming back into the US, be back closer with family, be in the NBA, get a chance to run a revenue group was the key pieces for me.
You get there and to the best of your ability, you inherited what situation? Give me the good, bad and ugly. What I’ve always appreciated about you is you’re pretty direct, transparent and authentic. I know why you and I get along so well is we have a tendency to attack processes, not people. What’s it like because I know the changes you’ve made and what you’re pretty passionate about. You’re beyond even what I do with your group. They’re always well-prepared.
When we got here, there were some challenges. One of the reasons that Memphis was attractive was not just because it was available and I knew people but also because the Grizzlies have an identity. That’s so important when you’re doing sponsorship sales. If you can create this grit and grind identity, take that and align that with brands, it doesn’t matter if it’s grit and grinds or if you’re in the Lakers or Showtime, you know what the identity is.
It’s not just having the property but that property having a clear identity that manifests through all that you do is so critical. That was important. A second good thing the team was doing and that they had done for a long time before I got here was the commitment to community engagement was so strong in Memphis. That is a real undervalued asset from a team perspective and partnership opportunity side. Those two things were good. From a partnership process standpoint, things here were not great. They had way too many partners at a very variable investment level.
You have to understand that you’re trying to win a game. You’re not trying to just win that possession. You’re trying to win multiple possessions.
Memphis has its own challenges too. You’re pretty authentic about that. Memphis is probably not even the size of Columbus, Ohio. It’s a smaller market. Is it one of the smaller markets in the NBA?
It’s the smallest market in the NBA. It’s right there with New Orleans. The Pelicans have a little bit of a built-in advantage because it’s the same ownership group as the Saints. We don’t have anything like that. It’s a little bit of a double-edged sword to be the only property in town. That’s great that you’re the only property, there is nothing to compare you to. We end up having to go it alone a fair amount and describe our value in absolute terms are almost in a vacuum. There were challenges with the process here. It wasn’t a great situation.
Thankfully, Jason Wexler, our Team President, had only been brought in about six months before me. He had come onto the team after Robert Pera. He came in as a controlling owner. There was a breath of fresh air from an organizational standpoint. We wanted to do things in a little bit of a different way, more data-driven way, more process-oriented way. We were able to do that and put that into place over the next couple of years. I told Jason when I came in, it would take three sales cycles to put it in the best position that it could be. In the third sales cycle, we set a revenue record that blew away anything they had done before. We were in a good spot.
You were paying for sins of the past for two years.
When I arrived, the average term length on contracts in place, including the FedEx naming rights deal, which was a twenty-year term, you include that. The average term length was 1.7 years. Every other deal was a one-year deal.
The salespeople that were there because it was like going on the golden crown with one of your buyers, “What do you want, the rice pudding first?” What a great negotiated deal for the buyers. Essentially for everyone reading, it’s one thing to negotiate with parameters in sales. It’s another thing to negotiate without parameters. You could ultimately be flexible. You weren’t that popular with some of the salespeople after year three.
We weren’t popular after year one with some of the partners because we told them that the free ride was over. We needed to address the fact that our value was much higher than what they had ever invested and that we were going to hold to our value. You go back to the things I learned, like holding to value, where IMG and I diverged. I felt we should hold to our values. They felt we should give up on that value. I said, “Give me one year where things don’t go perfectly and we’ll be fine.” They didn’t want to do it. I left.
I get this empowering experience in Asia where an owner said to me, “If it’s not the right deal for us, even though it’s 17.5 times better than anything we’ve ever done, walk away.” Here, I said to Jason when I came in, “We’re going to walk away from some of these deals and lose some of these partners. I want you to trust that will be better in years 2 and 3 as a result.” We were significantly better in years 2 or 3 as a result. Those sellers who were a little bit maybe like, “Is this the best idea?”
By year three, their commissions were significantly improved. They were pretty happy about where we were at that point because we were doing bigger deals. We had fewer of them but we’re doing much bigger deals. We were staying more true to what real sponsorship should be. It was a good turnaround in that perspective.
You have two very distinct philosophies that are your strong suits. You started to allude to it in your statement about the value and sticking to your guns there. You would describe the sales methodology you adhere to besides the one I teach but Anthony’s philosophy on that because you’re very long-term. How does that bleed into your negotiation philosophy? Your sales and activation people are buttoned up when it relates to this.
I had a coach. When I coached at the school when I was there for five years, he had a phrase that I love and it’s, “Don’t get distracted by the flies.” He would tell players that all the time. I try to think about that in terms of the way that we operate. We’re thinking about what is the best way we can position ourselves for long-term success. If that means taking some hits now because it’ll help us maintain maximum flexibility or to optimize our revenue opportunities later on, let’s do that.
Especially here in Memphis, I’ve been gifted with that. I’ve never been like, “You have to get this number. This is the number you must do.” Instead, it was like, “Anthony, what’s the best decision for the company?” Being empowered to make all of those best decisions, having the autonomy to make those decisions and then being empowered to make them has been a useful tool. It’s helped us to be as successful as we are in the smallest market in the NBA.
How do you lead with that empowerment comment? That was an invoke statement but very powerful statement in the mid-‘90s everybody was empowered. You have two roles that you’ve been in that you’ve been empowered or autonomous to make decisions. How do you lead with that?
When it comes to the people that I’m leading, one of the things we talk about is that I want them genuinely to be their own entrepreneurs. I want them going out there and building out their pipeline, thinking about it differently and building their book of business. We’ll help guide. If we have specific areas or categories that we want to focus on, we can focus on that. Otherwise, my job is to clear brushes and let them be professionals.
If you say you want to lead and provide autonomy, I feel like I get autonomy when I give them autonomy, if you’re going to do that, you got to accept the fact that they’re going to make some mistakes. That’s pretty consistent. I’m okay with mistakes as long as we’re learning and growing from them. Those are powerful lessons that help you to become a better seller, professional and a better person.
Get it back into that negotiation strategy then because that’s another one of your strong suits. What is it in a nutshell? You and I love a few books. We love some of the things that Foss does. We’d like that high ground mentality. We like to think three moves out. What encompasses that philosophy?
A little bit of optionality. I want to make sure I’ve got a variety of different potential directions that things could go. You mentioned before about negotiating without limits. One of the things I think that’s so liberating about sponsorship sales is when you’re doing it well and have control of a property as we do here, you can do anything you want. Don’t be confined by convention or tradition. Let’s think about things a little bit differently. If that means pulling a lever that people don’t even know exists, let’s do that.
I genuinely believe that closing happens in the discovery phase. You get things are largely done if you do them the right way very early in the process. The rest of it is a little bit window dressing and confirmation of the feeling. That buyer has bought in discovery but the rest of it is confirming that they want to make that purchase.
I put a post up about sell into the gap and someone jumped in and said, “That’s a great book on.” I said, “That is a great book but people have been selling their gap forever.” The wider the gap, the easier it is to sell. The best way to deal with the objection and we went over this with your team. I thought some of their heads were going to pop off. I said, “When’s the best time to deal with the objection?” They’re like, “The moment there was a couple of.”
I go, “It’s before it ever comes up and you would have dealt with stuff way beforehand or at least took the edge off.” I agree. There are unconventional questions and rhetorical things that you can do to take the edge off and position yourself differently, everything in three steps ahead. Let’s talk about selling a little bit. This might not just be your salespeople because you deal with other salespeople too. What frustrates you about salespeople?
Rushing. They’re way too eager to finish things. One of the biggest challenges that sellers have is they don’t recognize the value of putting the time in to get to an eventual end result and recognizing that spending a little bit more time and grabbing a little bit more margin in multiple deals along the way is the difference between being good and being great. People want to move on to the next sale instead of saying like, “There is more to get here. There is more ground to cover.” Don’t rush to answer an objection immediately. Let the objection hang out there. Answer it later.
You can ignore it. Some dialogues you don’t have to address. Everything is not a problem and priority because if everything is, nothing is.
You still have to adjust but that doesn’t mean you have to adjust to everything immediately. Let it be a process. What frustrates me about sellers is they run to features and benefits because of the level of dedication and time that it takes to focus on a real conversation with a prospect and be genuinely curious, that’s a lot of time investment and energy and they’re not willing or able to do it? That’s what frustrates me.
Safe to say that when you coach basketball, you don’t have a problem using the shot clock.
Don’t rush to answer an objection immediately. Let the objection hang out there and answer it later.
None at all. In the end, you take the best shot you can. If it’s there, you take it. You also understand that you’re trying to win a game. You’re not trying to just win that possession, you’re trying to win multiple possessions.
If you’re using the shot clock, you might expose yourself to several best shots.
A better example is a game that I play as well. I can’t play basketball anymore. I’m too old to play. My knees don’t work as well. What I do play a lot is poker. I knew more about sales from poker than almost anything else. It’s the ability to say, “I’m going to sit down for a long session with a group of 6, 7 or 8 people. I’m going to make some mistakes early, almost on purpose to learn how they play.”
We should do the same thing in sales. Make some errors early, figure out what the other side is thinking, how they operate and their mindset and then use that over time because my goal is not to take their money on the next hand. My goal is to take their money over an eight-hour session. It’s the same thing from a negotiation position. Let’s use this to maximize the revenue.
Interesting enough, negotiation is a subset of sales. If you’re playing your cards right and you know some brands out there like Anheuser-Busch are killer. They start from the high ground early. They’re negotiating from the moment that they’d make that last sale. It’s so well thought out in advance and it’s a long game. I love it. Thoughts from a sales leadership side, moving forward. If you’re a leader reading this, what are we looking around the corner? What are we going to have to be aware of? I know you think about this a lot in the next 12, 18 or 36 months.
I love The Challenger Sale. It’s a great book. They talk about three things that are necessary for a seller to be good. These things will continue to be the case but I’m going to speak about them specifically. One is product knowledge. For us on the sponsorship side of things, product knowledge is going to be about understanding. There is a whole new world of assets in the social and digital space that for me, years ago, I had no clue what they were. Now I’m only learning it so finding sellers that can understand what that world is and how to apply it to the objectives and business needs of a brand is critical.
Finding someone that has that product knowledge is important. The ability in that same The Challenge Sale book talks about to communicate value to differentiated shareholders. That’s something we have to continue to do. It’s getting more complex. I’m not certain if my team and I have gone through a sales process that didn’t involve less than five decision-makers along the way. You’ve got to be able to communicate to all of them individually and all of them together and do that effectively.
Get the one contact to end up getting the door with to expose that org chart early. Later, you find out the worst shape you are in. You might as well add not only five decision-makers, five additional engagements with them. It’s that brutal. That’s well said.
The last one is you talked about negotiation and closing. We’re in a world where if you’re doing it right, you almost don’t have to ask for the close. They close themselves. If you set the prospect up, they’re eager to buy. You don’t even have to ask them to commit. They commit to you. If we can get people to get there that’s a much better position to be in.
Last thoughts around the world here. Number one, from a sales song standpoint or even at your funeral, what song are you playing?
I don’t know if it would work at a funeral because of the nature of the song. Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen. I’m a big Queen fan. The rock anthem is a thing. That’s one that I would highlight. That notion of, “I have never been one to rest on my laurels.” People say three things about me, transparent, thoughtful and thorough. I don’t rest.
We call that the three tools of Anthony.
Those are my three T’s. I don’t rest. I’m not able to turn it off. I don’t do well with people getting in my way. I’m not particularly good at that.
Do you have some younger children?
How do you define success to them?
I try to do it in the John Wooden way. It goes back to my coaching days, which is success is defined as the absolute knowledge of knowing you did everything you could to accomplish the things in front of you. As long as you did everything you could, that’s a success. It’s a peace of mind of knowing that you did everything. I have two daughters and one of them has no interest in sports whatsoever. The other one plays soccer.
All I try to do when I watch her play coming off the field is I tell her, “I love watching you play.” What I want her to know is success is that notion of, “Did you do everything you could? You should be proud of yourself. You don’t need me or anybody else to be proud of you.” That is all you need in life to be successful. That self-knowledge and self-assessment of doing all you could.
The last thing. What’s the book you give the most besides mine? Let’s get it out to my readers.
I’ll do the two that we use on a regular basis. Every single person that gets hired to our department, regardless of activation development or sales, they have to read Leadership and Self-Deception. It’s a fantastic book around understanding your place in the grander scheme of interpersonal conflict and relationships within your business situation. We ask everyone to read that. If you’ve read that before, think about the times you’re in the box. I know I’m in the box as that book will say a fair amount and I want to make sure I spend more of my life out of it.
You mentioned Chris Voss. I’m a big fan of Never Split the Difference. There are a variety of tools and structures in there that even if you don’t have perfect charisma or you’re not naturally influential or persuasive, there are structures there that can help to bridge the gap whether you’re on a sales team and negotiating big deals or you’re in an activation team and you’ve got to work internally to create buy-in across various stakeholders. Let the other side have your way. We’re in negotiation all the time and that can be helpful.
This has been great. I couldn’t wait for this interview. We spent so much time together. You and I are in the trenches together and we’re always thinking the next step. That’s why I love this conversation. Thanks for sharing your story. I loved the IMG stuff. That’s the toughest sale. It’s because you’re touching so many things there.
It was a good learning experience. I had my Master’s degree for real and then two different Master’s degrees. I had one at IMG and a different one in Asia. Those are my MBAs. That’s the way I think about it.
Anthony, it’s been great. I appreciate you being on.
Thank you so much, Lance.
About Anthony Macri
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