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Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022
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Sales Self-Helper

Jim Cathcart, 70, was a college drop-out with little ambition when a five-minute radio program by Earl Nightingale inspired him to change his life. Nearly 50 years later, Cathcart is a world-renowned sales expert, motivational speaker and author whose bestselling books include “The Acorn Principle,” “Relationship Selling” and “The Self-Motivation Handbook.” He is a member of the Top Sales World Magazine Hall of Fame and has received both the Cavett Award from the National Speakers Association and a Toastmasters Golden Gavel Award. His TEDx talk ranks among the top 1 percent for views. Today he delivers his message of self-empowerment at speaking engagements through his organization Cathcart Institute Inc., which he runs from his home in Westlake Village. He was recently appointed California Lutheran University’s first entrepreneur-in-residence, where he will mentor aspiring business professionals through the School of Management. Cathcart sat down with the Business Journal to discuss his top sales tips and the value of self-awareness and personal development. Title: Founder Company: Cathcart Institute Born: 1942 in Little Rock, Ark. Education: High school diploma Career Turning Point: Hired by Mass Mutual Ohio as a seminar speaker in 1976 Most Influential People: Earl Nightingale, motivational speaker Personal: Married to wife Paula for 47 years; son Jim is director of human resources at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village Hobbies: Performing rock-n-roll once a month at Bogie’s Bar; hiking and trail running Question: Did you have big dreams as a kid? Answer: I was raised to be a nice person, but not to believe that I would ever make much of a difference in the world. Dad fought in the Pacific during World War II, came home and became a telephone repairman, did that for 35 years and retired. So I expected I’d probably go to work at the phone company, maybe be a middle manager, retire at 65 and die at whatever my gene pool’s statistical average was. I thought about doing great and exciting things, but it didn’t occur to me that I would ever do them in life. What’s one experience from your youth that carried over into your sales teachings? In 1965, I failed out of college, so I went to work as a bill collector for GMAC (General Motors Acceptance Corp.). I was 22, repossessing logging trucks and automobiles in the Ozark Mountains. The people I met were often armed, and some of them pointed their guns at me. But I learned how to change the energy between us. That’s where I learned the concept of relationship selling, though I didn’t know it at the time. What other jobs did you have before becoming a motivational speaker? I went through 40 different jobs. Now, that’s counting mowing lawns around the neighborhood, but it also includes stacking bowling balls at a bowling alley supply company, selling donuts door-to-door from a basket, working at a drive-in movie theater and being a teller at a bank. I also sold life insurance and cars. Were you a natural salesman? Not really. After struggling for a year and a half selling life insurance, making just enough sales to get by, I quit and took a job as a car salesman. I hated it, but when another salesman said they were paying more at the Lincoln-Mercury dealer down the street, I went with him. That first month, two guys sold less than me. They fired them both. The second month, the sales manager calls me in. He says, “Terminations are seldom pleasant.” I said, “Are you firing me?” He said, “Yeah, you’re last this month.” So I ended up fired from a car sales job. My self-esteem was rock bottom. When were you introduced to the field of personal development? In 1972. I was 26. What was going on in your life at the time? I was newly married with a baby on the way. I’d gotten a job at the Little Rock Housing Authority as an assistant to Bob Moore – but Bob Moore wasn’t busy. So I sat there day after day drumming my fingers, waiting for Bob the loan specialist to need help from his assistant, and most of the time he didn’t. I had no money in the bank, no connections in the community, wasn’t privileged with successful parents, had never been an academic and had never been an athlete. I was smoking two packs a day and was 50 pounds heavier. Can you describe your first experience with personal development? So I’m sitting there at my job at the housing authority, bored to tears, and there’s a radio playing in the next room. A little five-minute show called “Our Changing World” comes on, and I hear the deep, fatherly voice of a man named Earl Nightingale. He says, “If you spend one extra hour each day studying the field you’ve chosen, five years from now, you’ll be a national expert in that field.” And I thought, wait a minute, an hour a day? Even if you take off two weeks for vacation, that’s 1,250 hours. I thought, wow, I could actually become a national expert on something. Did you know then that you wanted to be a motivational speaker? Not right away. I realized immediately I had no desire to be an expert on urban renewal. I studied for the real estate exam thinking I might go into it as a salesperson someday, but I changed my mind. Then I thought maybe law, so I took some business law courses at night, but that wasn’t it either. And after a while it occurred to me, you know what I really want to do? What the guy on the radio does – I want to help people grow. But I had two limitations to that: I had never given a speech, and I had nothing to say. Did you have a plan for breaking into the field? I didn’t at first. Then it occurred to me the obvious answer was right in front of me: Spend an hour a day studying it. So, what do you study if you’re interested in personal development? I didn’t know, so I asked around and got a copy of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Wonderful book! It really helped – people noticed I was getting better at interpersonal communication, and that I was getting more optimistic, too. Think about how you will assist or serve your customer. What is in it for them? Forget about a good “pitch.” Smooth pitches don’t build trust, they just convey information. Information does not sell. People buy because they want to buy, not because they understand your offer. Measure two things every day: How many potential buyers did you call today and how many times did you talk with them about how you can be of value to them? Don’t “close” sales, confirm them. The purchase is not an end – it’s a point that makes buying official. Don’t “overcome objections” – address concerns, and do so before they become so strong that your customer objects from buying from you. Ask yourself daily,“Who have I tried to help today? (by making a sales contact),” and “How can I help another person before this day is through? Notice what time you start contacting people each day to sell to them. Don’t reward yourself for paperwork, planning, office time, etc. Just focus on making one more contact with a qualified buyer today. Forget “always be closing.” Replace it with, “Always seek to help one more person today.” Build direct connections with live interaction – don’t try to sell just by e-mail and text contacts. Did you quit your job right away? No, (but) I joined the neighborhood chapter of the Junior Chambers of Commerce, the “Jaycees,” and became hyper, hyper, hyper active. The reason I triple that is because I went to 400 meetings in two years. Every day after work I came home to spend some time with my wife Paula and our new baby Jimmy, then either was off to a Jaycees meeting or someone came by the house and we worked on a Jaycees project, or we got together in someone’s kitchen and talked about the techniques and interpersonal skills required to become a leader. How did others react to your newfound passion? My circle of friends changed; the people I’d been hanging out with drifted away because I was too intense, but the people who also were interested in personal development were attracted to me. We compounded each other’s energy. And that’s how I found out that Earl Nightingale, the radio guy, had a series of cassette recordings on philosophical concepts and practical strategies for living a successful, abundant life. A salesman named Harold Gash let me borrow them for a month, because I couldn’t afford them. At the end, my wife suggested I keep them – she liked the new me! So we set up a payment plan. That was in 1972. In 1974, Harold asked me to leave the housing authority and come work with him selling Nightingale’s recordings door-to-door. Were you hesitant to take him up on the offer after your other experiences? Initially I said, “But I’m not good at selling, I’ve tried it before and I’ve failed.” He said, “Jim, you’re excellent at selling.” He’d seen me in front of groups of Jaycees, because by that time I’d started getting leadership positions. And once I got started, I was making some sales. What was your first professional speaking role? While I was working with Harold, the U.S. Jaycees called me and said, “We want you to be the national program manager in charge of leadership training.” At that time the Jaycees had 350,000 members. So I took the job and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I wrote training manuals and flew around the country to give big speeches at conventions to convince people to use them. I was a professional speaker – not in the strictest sense, but I was speaking for pay to large groups of people all over the country and writing books that were being bought by the tens of thousands. What was the turning point of your career? In 1976, I was asked to do a training seminar for a life insurance agency. At the end of it, they asked me to stay on as a coach. I agreed, and in five years the agency went from $17 million in annual sales to over $230 million with only a few additional salespeople. That led to me being booked by the rest of the company’s agencies, then hired by banks, other insurance companies, you name it. My speaking career had launched. On April 1, 1977 – April Fools’ Day – I became the Cathcart Institute and went out on my own as a professional speaker. When did you know you’d really “made it”? I was sitting in my office with Tony Alessandra, who had been my business partner since I moved to California in 1982. The phone rang, and when I picked up this deep voice said, “Can I speak to Jim Cathcart?” I said, “This is he,” and that voice said, “This is Earl Nightingale.” I was completely star struck. He’d read an article of mine and thought it would make a good audio album. He said, “My company publishes those.” I said, “Believe me, I know.” Did you work with other big names in professional development? Yes; I was really fortunate. Who are some examples? I met Stephen Covey in 1979, when we were speakers at a lecture series. His topic was one on which he hadn’t written a book yet: the seven habits of highly successful people. Another was W. Clement Stone, founder of “Success” magazine. Its publisher was Og Mandino, who wrote “The Greatest Salesman in the World.” Og became a personal friend of mine. In 1989, I was president of the National Speakers Association, and guys like Zig Ziglar and Jim Rohn were members. Anthony (Tony) Robbins spoke at one of our conferences when he was just a newbie. What was the greatest honor of your career? In 1989, I asked Earl Nightingale to let me interview him onstage at the annual National Speakers Association conference. He said, “I might,” and I said, “Good enough.” In May, his wife Diana called. She said, “Jim, Earl died.” She asked if we could have a memorial service for him at the convention, and I said, “Of course!” Then she said, “I’d like you to speak.” Looking back, what was the most difficult part of your journey? Believing I could pull it off. Believing I could do it. That was the hardest part. When someone doesn’t reach a goal they set out to accomplish, why do you think they fail? Doubt. We see our vulnerabilities through the worst possible filters, and take that as being more true than what we’ve learned ourselves. It’s true for everybody – the greatest, most powerful people in the world have self-doubt. What is your key to overcoming that struggle? Taking Earl’s advice – “an hour a day – to becoming who you want to be. After a while 15 focused minutes will do it, but it has to be consistent – every day, every week, every month, every year, year after year, knowing the payoff will ultimately come. How do you stay optimistic? Honestly, I don’t find it difficult. I believe depression comes from dipping below your “natural velocity,” which I talk about in “The Acorn Principle.” If you don’t challenge yourself enough or pay attention to your needs, you’ll get out of your zone of natural velocity. Instead of being at your best – your natural self – you’ll start feeling bored, then apathetic, then depressed. So how do you avoid depression? When you get bored or apathetic, stop yourself and get back in the zone. In other words, be self-aware and learn to intentionally manage your patterns. What’s your response to people who think positive thinking and personal development is fluff? I had no reason to believe I could ever do anything substantial, or that listening to some recordings or reading some books was going to change my life. People downplay the power of goal-setting, or repeating mantras or keeping a mindset. Of course, if it’s done superficially, it will remain superficial. But if it’s done with integrity, it will sink in. When you started out, did you know those ideas would take you so far? When I said, “I want to do what Earl Nightingale’s doing,” it never occurred to me that I would do it at his level, ever. That came about as I reached each new threshold and was able to see the next horizon. It never occurred to me that I could write a book – I’ve written 18 books. It never occurred to me that I would meet Earl in person. Can self-motivation make things possible? No, it’s just a bunch of fluff. My life proves it’s just a bunch of fluff, right?

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