Jeffrey J. Fox: An interview by Bob Morris

Jeffrey J. Fox

There are over 150 international editions of Fox’s ten books that have been published in 35 languages in more than 100 countries. They include Secrets of Great RainmakersThe Dollarization DisciplineHow To Become a RainmakerHow to Become a Marketing SuperstarHow to Become CEOHow to Become a Great Boss,How To Get to the Top, and Rain. His clients include some of the world’s most successful and most admired corporations and organizations. Fox graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and earned his MBA from Harvard Business School.

Here is an interview of Fox, conducted in 2008. Since then, he has published How to Be a Fierce Competitor

Morris: How do you define “rainmaking”?

There are over 150 international editions of Fox’s ten books that have been published in 35 languages in more than 100 countries. They include Secrets of Great Rainmakers, The Dollarization Discipline, How To Become a Rainmaker, How to Become a Marketing Superstar, How to Become CEO, How to Become a Great Boss, How To Get to the Top, and his most recent book, Rain. His clients include some of the world’s most successful and most admired corporations and organizations. Fox graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and earned his MBA from Harvard Business School.

Here is a brief excerpt from my first interview of Fox, conducted in 2008. Since then, he has published How to Be a Fierce Comperitor. My second interview of Fox will soon become available.

Morris: How do you define “rainmaking”?

Fox: The concept of rainmaker probably originated with the American Indian, at a time when the Medicine Man stood proudly beneath the heavens, did his mojo, and down came the rain. The crops flourished and the folks survived. In business, the rainmaker is that person who creates the revenue (i.e. the rain), produces the profitable new customer, salvages and retains the unhappy good customer. Rainmakers bring in the money that allows the organization to flourish or at least to survive.

Morris: To what extent can anyone within an organization be a productive rainmaker?

Fox: The front line rainmakers are those people who deal with customers and are expected to sell. Anyone can be trained to be a front-line customer facing rainmaker. But to become a rainmaker one must first be willing to ask the customer to commit to an action that will result in an order. Rainmakers understand rejection better than anyone else does but they still ask for the customer’s commitments. Approximately 95% of all salespeople don’t ask for the order, don’t ask for the business. Ordinary salespeople don’t ask because they fear rejection, don’t know how to ask, think it is impolite or impertinent to ask. Once a person is willing to ask customers for commitments his or her professional selling skills training begins.

Why is that so important? Because it is everyone’s job in every organization, directly or indirectly, today or tomorrow, to generate or sustain revenues. Literally everyone must strive to make rain. The brilliant marketing person who conceptualizes and commercializes ten new products is a rainmaker. The accounts receivable clerk who woos back a late paying customer is a rainmaker. The distribution channel manager who gets one additional distributor salesperson to sell one additional product is a rainmaker. The truck loader who carefully packs the product to prevent breakage and customer dismay is a rainmaker. Know how your job makes the company money, always do that job splendidly, and you are a rainmaker.

Morris: In your opinion, what are the most common – and damaging – misconceptions about what marketing is and does?

Fox: Too many companies that sell directly to consumers think marketing is advertising.  Too many business-to-business sellers think marketing is trade shows and literature. Marketing involves the profitable identification, attraction, getting, and then keeping of most highly desired customers. It is the heart and lungs for every organization.  Without customers, members, patients, parishioners, donors, the organization will die.  Every single function, every single job, in every single organization must, directly or indirectly, today or tomorrow, be laser-beamed on the getting and keeping of customers.  Every single job in every business must be a marketing job.  Every single job must be tied to profitable revenue — without exception.  If someone does not know how his or her job gets or keeps customers then, that person is either ill-managed, ill-trained, or, as the Europeans say, redundant.

Morris: During recent years, what do you think have been the most significant developments in how organizations create or increase demand for what they sell?

Fox: Creating and increasing demand for a product or service is one blade of the marketing scissors.  The other blade is tapping into existing latent demand.  Thus, a two-part answer.  Part 1: The most important marketing development duet, since the telephone/television dynamic duo is (a) the Internet and (b) the ability to digitize anything written, sung, printed, recorded, photographed, or filmed.  What we experience today, in 2007, is one-billionth of a fraction of our probable experience in 2017.  If you can dream it, you will get it.

As for Part 2: The most important demand influencing events of the recent past and the recent future are the immense transfer of wealth from the dead to the living, the increased valuation of home equities, low interest rates, the transparency of prices (via the Internet), and George Bush’s tax cuts.  These events put money in pockets and enabled the guy who always wanted to buy a boat to buy a boat, or get a face-lift or a greenhouse or a bottle of 1988 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges De Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Morris: One subject that seems to fascinate you is how to become an effective CEO.  As you survey the current business world, which CEOs seem to you to be especially effective leaders and managers?

Fox: In the US there are at least 25,000,000 small businesses (companies with less than 500 employees).  Each small business also has a CEO. However, the general public is rarely aware of these business leaders because 90% of the most effective CEO’s are modest, unassuming women and men who work to get their products pictured on the cover of Rolling Stone, but not photos of themselves. There are numerous excellent CEO’s who are well known because of their attractive personalities or because of the size and importance of the companies they run or ran.  Herb Kelleher, the irrepressible showman of Southwest Airlines; Steve Jobs, the visionary marketing superstar at Apple; Jeff Immelt who is reshaping GE; Leslie Blodgett, the dynamo who stars for Bare Escentuals cosmetics on the QVC shopping channel; and George Steinbrenner who, in 1983, rescued the New York Yankees from the killing corporate clutchery of CBS are all big leaguers.

But who runs companies such as Johnson & Johnson, McDonalds, Tavern on the Green, and millions of other superbly managed companies?  The stockholders know who runs these companies, but not the general public. The CEOs who run these companies are deliberate workers, not wannabe celebrities.  Effective CEO’s are like Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis of the juggernaut Army football team of 1944-1946.  These two super running backs were dubbed “Mr. Inside” and “Mr. Outside.” Effective CEO’s are, at once, Mr. (or Ms.) Inside and Mr. Outside. They ask questions, quietly listen, enthusiastically give credit, relentlessly remove barriers that frustrate employees, firmly shepherd, politely persuade, and calmly decide. But they are also apostles, missionaries for the company.  They fearlessly fly the company flag, pitch the products, meet the customers, thank the suppliers, and take care of stakeholders, show the way.  Every single employee, in every single job, from the first day on the job, can be another Mr. Inside/Mr. Outside.  And, oh, what a merry company it will be!

Morris: Obviously, few executives become CEOs. However, you assert that all executives should “think like a CEO.”  How so?

Fox: One reason the U.S. military services are better than any others in the world is that a corporal, a platoon leader of twelve soldiers, can decide, in the heat of battle, what is the best course of action.  That corporal is acting like a CEO.  A cab driver is the CEO of her cab.  The waiter is CEO of his assigned tables.  The UPS driver is CEO of his route.  If you manage your job as if it were your own business, you will do what is right more often than not.  Great CEOs look to the corporals, the waiters, the drivers for ideas, input, facts.  CEO’s are shepherds of the organization, allocators of its investments, custodians of the brand, flag-waving patriots for the company.  And, so too, should be every other person in the same organization.

Morris: How do you define “rainmaking”?

Fox: The concept of rainmaker probably originated with the American Indian, at a time when the Medicine Man stood proudly beneath the heavens, did his mojo, and down came the rain.  The crops flourished and the folks survived.  In business, the rainmaker is that person who creates the revenue (i.e. the rain), produces the profitable new customer, salvages and     retains the unhappy good customer. Rainmakers bring in the money that allows the organization to flourish or at least to survive.

Morris: To what extent can anyone within an organization be a productive rainmaker?

Fox: The front line rainmakers are those people who deal with customers and are expected to sell.   Anyone can be trained to be a front-line customer facing rainmaker.  But to become a rainmaker one must first be willing to ask the customer to commit to an action that will result in an order.  Rainmakers understand rejection better than anyone else does but they still ask for the customer’s commitments.  Approximately 95% of all salespeople don’t ask for the order, don’t ask for the business.  Ordinary salespeople don’t ask because they fear rejection, don’t know how to ask, think it is impolite or impertinent to ask.  Once a     person is willing to ask customers for commitments his or her professional selling skills training begins.

Why is that so important? Because it is everyone’s job in every organization, directly or indirectly, today or tomorrow, to generate or sustain revenues. Literally everyone must strive to make rain.  The brilliant marketing person who conceptualizes and commercializes ten new products is a rainmaker.  The accounts receivable clerk who woos back a late paying customer is a rainmaker. The distribution channel manager who gets one additional  distributor salesperson to sell one additional product is a rainmaker.  The truck loader who carefully packs the product to prevent breakage and customer dismay is a rainmaker.  Know how your job makes the company money, always do that job splendidly, and you are a rainmaker.

Morris: What about rainmaker pretenders?  Other than the continuation of “droughts” despite their efforts, how else to recognize their ineffectiveness?

Fox: Rainmaker pretenders are the fakes, the phonies, the frauds that sneak into and slither around organizations. They most often survive in companies that have low hiring standards, or don’t pay for individual performance, or are riddled with politics, or some combination thereof.  They rarely endure in good companies.  Pretenders are often slick.  They are not buffoons.  They know how to steal credit for the efforts of others, and they do so without shame.  They are masters of the mendacious memo.  They know how to avoid making a tough call, any call.  Whenever there is a crisis, they are always MIA.  They are counterfeits.  Amazingly, and ironically, they are unmasked by all in the organization, with the possible exception, of the person(s) who hired or promoted the pretenders.  They hide in the open in good economic times. This is because 75% of all consumer package goods purchases are made unilaterally by the consumer, and 25% of all business-to-business purchases are made unilaterally by the customer.  Thus, in good times, lots of business is generated without the seller’s direct involvement.  Pretenders ride the elevator up.  Downturns flush the pretenders from their lair, and the host management, desperate to cut costs, finally flushes the pretenders from their stage.  (And the crowd silently cheers).  Economic tough times showcase the real rainmakers.  Real rainmakers, real leaders, don’t hunker down when the business sours.  Real rainmakers out innovate, out hustle, out sell the competition.  Real rainmakers gird their loins, unsheathe their swords, and sally forth into the fray.  Rainmakers make rain.  Pretenders go down the drain.

Morris: Please explain your concept of “dollarization.”

Fox: Dollarization is the translation of product benefit claims such as “better,” “maximize,” “faster,” “more reliable” and a million other adjectives, into dollars and cents, or Euros, or Yen.  Dollarization puts the buzz into “value added,” one of the emptiest, and most meaningless buzzwords in business (A Google search will identify at least 7,500,000 references to companies claiming they “add value.”) A company claims its product is lighter, longer lasting, quieter, cleaner. What does the customer know?  The customer knows nothing.  If the company dollarizes its claim and accurately states, for example, “Waterworks® will reduce your water usage by 18% saving     you at least $1000 a week,” now the customer knows something.

Morris: How specifically can “dollarization” be calculated?
Fox: You are a marketer selling a $12 cutting tool that you claim “cuts longer” than a competitor’s $10 tool.  This “cuts longer” claim must be based on some verifiable data, experience, facts, or else it is a wish or a lie.  Using facts, “longer” can be quantified.  Your tool cuts for eight hours, let’s say, and the other tool quits at six.  So, “cuts longer” is better stated as “Precision Tools cut for two additional hours than do ordinary tools.” Eight hours vs. six hours means that in 24 hours the customer needs three Precision Tools, but four ordinary tools.  In 24 hours the customer would invest $36 in Precision Tools, and $40 in the ordinary.  Precision Tools are higher priced, but cost less.  In addition, ordinary tools have to be replaced more often, costing the customer extra labor, reduced productivity, more inventory.  All of these benefits can – and should — be dollarized.

If someone asks you, “What did your new car cost?”  The answer is, “I won’t know until I’ve stopped driving it.” Sellers must be able to answer the same question for every product and service they sell.

Morris: From your perspective, what do you expect to be the most significant developments in marketing during the next 3-5 years?

Fox: Consumer marketing is directly all about consumer demographics.  Business-to-business marketing is indirectly all about consumer demographics. (Business-to-governments marketing should be all about consumer/taxpayer demographics, but, alas, often is not).  Thus, marketing developments will devolve from the demographics.  Successful marketers always ways to profitably sell illness prevention to Baby Boomers, youth maintenance to agers, ethnically acceptable products to unassimilated immigrant groups, and find ways to catch up in Cuba where stunningly myopic government policy has put the U.S. ridiculously behind.  We will see the decline of the traditional retail store as online shopping becomes the norm.  We will see UPS become the largest “gray” industrial distributor on the planet.  We will see a resurgence of brilliant advertising as non-traditional media, without the manacles of federal oversight, become the primary communications medium.  We will see prominent business schools finally start teaching MBA students how to sell, and how to manage sellers.

Morris: Given your response to the previous question, what challenges will these developments create for marketers?

Fox: American marketers must learn to sell anything to thousands of market segments, using whatever communication and distribution systems reach those segments.  In Japan, a homogenous society, if 10% of the segment likes your product, then 80% of the segment might buy your product.  In America, if 10% of the people like your product, then 10% of the people might buy your product.

Morris: Here are two separate but related questions.  First, what are the most significant differences between the selling of products and the selling of services?

Fox: First, we have to understand the fundamental similarity between the selling of products and services.  Customers do not buy products or services.  Customers do not buy features or benefits.  Customers do not buy technology.  They buy what they get from the products or services.  People buy outcomes, solutions to problems, fulfillment of needs.  These outcomes are always tangible, regardless if delivered by product or service.  For example, one customer buys a burglary alarm system.  Why?  To prevent burglaries.  If each burglary cost the customer $10,000, then the alarm system is worth up to $10,000, whether its price is $1,000 or $9,000.  Another customer forgoes the alarm system and hires a security firm to provide its burglary prevention services.  Same need, same outcome, same value, probably a different price.  Products and services differ on how they deliver outcomes, but are the same when measured by the outcome delivered.

The big difference in selling is that products — unlike selling services –    can usually be tried, tested, touched, tasted, sampled, and demonstrated before purchase.  This is generally not the case with a service.  More often buying a service requires the customer to take a bigger risk.  Consequently, the successful sellers of services, especially those selling a new service, are often better salespeople than are product sellers.  Service sellers rely on personal selling skills, referrals, case histories, and word-of-mouth to alleviate customer reluctance.  Of course, more and more, the distinction between what is a product and what is a service is blurring.

Henkel/Loctite, for example, sells adhesives in hardware stores with no attendant service, and sells the same adhesive to assembly manufacturers, but replete with application engineering, dispensing equipment, and technical service.  Valenite, a division of Sandvik, shows customers how to increase manufacturing productivity. The customer pays for this knowledge by buying Valenite’s tools.    The absolute goal for the sellers of either a product or service is to get the customer to understand the financial dollarized consequences of not going with their product or service.  In the burglar alarm system example, the good seller might say, “Our security guards are all ex-FBI snipers.  If we weren’t on the job, and there were a burglary, you would lose $10,000.  Try us for one month and decide for yourself.  No burglar will get through our hail of fire.  How does that sound?”

Morris: How does selling which involves several people in a complex decision-making process (probably with an extended sales cycle) differ from selling to only one buyer?

Fox: The single biggest difference is that the complex sale has more decision makers and decision influencers than does the one buyer sale.  Duh-uh!  The fact that there are multiple players in the complex sale is glaringly obvious.  But what is not so obvious, or at least not acted upon by 90-95% of all sales and marketing people, is that, to make the sale, it is imperative to identify all the hidden decision makers and decision influencers, and then fully satisfy each and every person’s purchase concerns.  Only rainmakers assiduously deal with this selling challenge.  Rainmakers do so by asking two killer sales questions.  The first is, “In addition to yourself, who else will be involved in making this decision?” (And they ask the question exactly this way).  After the rainmakers get the correct pronunciation of the names and specific titles of the other decision makers, they ask killer question #2, “And what might be their concerns?”  Every time the rainmaker meets another of the decision makers,  he or she asks the same two questions.  The rainmaker now knows on whom to call, what objections to pre-call plan to overcome, and which benefits matter most to each decision maker.  The rainmaker can then work with a detailed blueprint of how to make the sale.

One other big difference is that complex sales take longer to close.  Also, glaringly obvious.  However, the rainmaker     does not assume a long sales cycle.  On the contrary, the rainmaker always plans for a one-call close. He or she starts by calling high in the organization.  The rainmaker sells money, the dollarized value of why the customer should do business and asks for commitments.  When the rainmaker shows the customer that it is costing the customer, let’s say $1,000 a day, or week, to go without the rainmaker’s solution, the sales cycle is instantly shortened.  Good managers do not like to lose $1,000 a day. Rainmakers always close the sale faster than do ordinary salespeople.

Morris: If you were asked to offer advice to someone who is preparing for or only recently embarked on a career in marketing, what would that advice be?

Fox: Do a stint in sales.  See your company, your customers, your competitors, and every job through the salespersons’ eyes. Spend time behind the counter, on the customer service phone.  Work for your best supplier for a month.  Work at your advertising agency.  Work for a customer.  Be your prospective customer.  Call your 800 number. Read your sales literature.  Does the literature persuade you to at least consider investing your money to buy the product?  What     do you see that can be improved?  Accept no givens as given.  Listen to those with experience.  Be respectful, but think for yourself.  Read Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout.  Read On Advertising by David Ogilvy as well as every ad and direct mail piece he authored.  Read five pages of any one of my books, and then decide for yourself if you should read more.

Morris: What do you plan to explore in your next book?

Fox: My next  book (#9) is titled How To Get to the Top: Business Lessons Learned at the Dinner Table.  This is a cool little book, with lots of counter intuitive, edgy, correct advice.  Some of the contributors are Jim Donald, CEO of Starbucks, Tom Chappell, Founder of Tom’s of Maine, Leslie Blodgett, CEO of Bare Escentuals, George Steinbrenner, and Jacques Pepin, the great chef.  My tenth book will probably be about customer service, as in getting customers to leave you, or to love you, forever.  I also have a very little book, only about fifty pages, titled Rain, which might get published soon.  I love the story.  It will be a surprise to my wonderful readers around the world.

 

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