Today Barry Maher is in demand for business audiences of all types. But Barry first made his mark as a world-class salesperson and sales manager, then as a management and sales consultant, helping clients improve their productivity, often dramatically. Selling Power magazine declared, “To his powerful and famous clients, Barry Maher is simply the best sales trainer in the business.”
It soon became apparent that the strategies that were so effective in helping managers and salespeople succeed worked every bit as well with the issues all of us face in business.
Those clients include organizations like ABC, the American Bar Association, the American Management Association, AT&T, Blue Cross, Budget Rent a Car, Canon, Country Kitchen, Infiniti Automotive, Johnson & Johnson, Lufthansa Airlines, Merck, the National Lottery of Ireland, the Small Business Administration, Verizon and WellPoint as well as innumerable professional and trade associations.
MO: What was the turning point when you decided to stop working for other people and start your own company?
Barry: I was working in the corporate world and doing very well. Having written what was considered to be the definitive book in the field I was in, I’d managed to generate a bit of a reputation in the industry.
But even though I was one of his top people, when accounting told the VP that I was working for that I’d been slightly overpaid for a year, he decided to the best course of action was to threaten me, throwing his weight around and issuing an ultimatum. Either I either pay the money back or he’d let me go. Since I considered myself underpaid, I simply resigned. Shocked and amazed, he cut the amount of money I supposedly owed in half. But having immediately experienced a massive sense of relief the moment I quit, I wasn’t about to go back.
Instead I began consulting, writing and speaking. Within a year, that same company brought me in as a consultant, at a rate several times higher than the “overpayment” rate. And several years later, my former boss got to sit in the audience and listen as I delivered the opening keynote at his new employer’s annual conference, for a daily fee that was considerably in excess of what I’d been “overpaid” in a month when working for him.
I always try not to be petty, but I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed giving a speech more.
MO: Your book, Filling the Glass was cited as “[One of] The Seven Essential Popular Business Books” by Today’s Librarian magazine. What insights have you provided that has made the book such an invaluable guide and did you anticipate its resounding popularity?
Barry: The response to Filling the Glass was very gratifying and considerably beyond what I’d expected. And though I was in pretty good demand as a speaker before it came out, the book pushed that part of my business to a whole new level.
The basic premise behind Filling the Glass is that it’s not whether you see the glass as half empty or half full, it’s what you try to do to fill it up. And if you can’t justify to yourself what you are doing with your life, if you aren’t working toward goals in which you honestly believe, then you will never be—by your own standards—successful. For many of us, there’s a disconnect between what we believe we should be doing in our careers and our lives, and what we actually find ourselves doing. Filling the Glass aims at bridging that disconnect.
MO: Can you talk about your latest book, No Lie: Truth Is the Ultimate Sales Tool? What inspired you to write it and what did your creative process look like?
Barry: I’ve met far too many salespeople who didn’t feel they could be completely honest and still sell. They didn’t feel they could be themselves and/or they didn’t feel they could be completely and totally honest about their products. It’s as if they believed that had to pretend that they had the one perfect product that ever existed.
But the reality is that nothing builds trust like pointing out the flaws, once you know how to do it correctly.
Since I’d never found a book or a sales guru that really addressed that issue, when McGraw-Hill approached me about doing a sales book, I knew exactly what I wanted to write.
As for my creative process, it’s very simple. I sit my butt down in front of the computer and write. I treat writing as a profession, as a job. I do it as well as I possibly can for 8 or 10 or 12 hours a day. And eventually the book is finished.
MO: What are some tips to improve productivity and attitude and ultimately, the bottom line? What are some more long term strategies and techniques?
Barry: First of all you’ve got to start with reality. While I certainly believe in positive thinking, positive thinking that isn’t firmly rooted on reality shouldn’t be called thinking at all. It’s nothing but Pollyannaism—pixie dust. Pollyanna positive thinking strategies often make the problem worse. People want to be positive so they try and block out the negatives. Unfortunately, reality has a way of refusing to stay blocked.
Some of the strategies I use are:
Brag about the Negatives: Nothing builds trust like admitting the negatives. Doing it right can turn your biggest liabilities into your strongest assets.
Bring out the Prospect in Yourself: If you can’t be yourself when dealing with people, you may find that nobody—yourself included—is buying.
Be Your Own Guru: The most important decisions take place when Stephen Covey or Tony Robbins can’t be with you.
Fail toward Success: Make new and better—and more valuable—mistakes.
Change the Scale: Size may count, but it’s not how big it is, it’s how big it seems.
MO: You’ve been called the best sales trainer in the business. What are you doing that sets you apart from the competition and produces consistently impressive results for your clients?
Barry: To the extent that I produce results, impressive or otherwise, I do it by hard work. The greatest praise I can get after a speech or a training session is “It sounded like you were talking to me. You really know our business.”
What people don’t realize is all the time it took to learn their business, all the time it took to create a session that would speak to their issues in a way that makes a real difference for them. It may look effortless but only because such a massive effort went into it.
MO: How do you define success both personally and professionally?
Barry: It’s the same both personally and professionally. Success to me is simply having the freedom to try to create a positive impact on the people I touch.
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