9. The World’s Almost Greatest Salesperson

Can you sell a single red brick?  That was the challenge OgilvyOne, one of the largest Advertising and Marketing firms in the world, had put up for their “Search for the World’s Greatest Salesperson.”  I was one of three finalist flown to Cannes, France to make a live pitch in front of 1,000 people who would then vote for the person who would ultimately become the “World’s Greatest Salesperson.”   Now, I know it’s a cliché to say, “It was an honor just to be nominated!”  And then go and build a voodoo doll of the winner, but I actually really do feel that way.  I mean, to have spent four luxurious days on an all expense paid trip to Cannes is a pretty good consolation prize!  And there is one other reason why I, although disappointed of course, was a little bit glad I didn’t win.

The winner of the contest, in addition to winning the original job of helping to write the new sales manual of the 21st century, would also get to be the host of his own internet reality TV show to be aired on MSN.  Now I have this very rare genetic mutation that seems only to afflict me among my family.  It is called “unphotogenetitis.”  This mutation only rears its ugly head when I step in front of a camera or camcorder.  What happens is, it takes relatively normal looking me, and transforms me into the hideous creature that lives inside me.  Now, it is only evident once the picture or video is taken, my actual self stays the same.  I would say, in the 30 years of my life, there are about 2 or 3 decent pictures of me.

In the days leading up to Cannes, I had the smart idea to go Google the other two finalists.  I’ve seen their videos of them selling their bricks and read some clips of the essays they wrote, but I really didn’t know who they were.  Here are the two men that were my competition, and by the way they are both very nice, genuine people.

Todd Herman:  He is a “Mental Coach” for professional and Olympic athletes. (!)  What he does is he travels around the world training top performance athletes in how to keep their head in the game so that their physical abilities are not hindered by their own psyche.  (!!)  He also does live seminars for large groups including a whole government’s Parliament.  (!!!)  And in his spare time, he runs a second business where he optimizes the use of search engines for entrepreneurs.  (!!!)

Okay.  At this point I was a little nervous.  I mean, this guy is like Superman or something (actually Batman according to his sales pitch!).  When I met him and we were all gathered for the first time and heard the news of the reality show, he nonchalantly said, “Oh that’s great!  I was just working on a Reality Show concept centered around my mental coaching of professional athletes, but that just fell through at the last minute…”

The next guy:

Eric Polins:  Runs his own Ad Agency in Florida.  He directs, writes, and produces TV commercials for a living.  (!!)  Was a professional actor in his early career, and has produced a full feature film.  (!!!)  And he has nearly twenty years of professional experience under his belt.

Now I’m really nervous.  I could have handled one Superman/Batman, but now here comes Captain America!  As I was Googling from the countryside of Hokkaido, Japan with a measly five years of marketing experience to my name, and four years of having been out of the marketing industry, I started to shake – literally shake – with nervousness.  I was going against the BIG BOYS.  I mean, these were heavy hitters, and here I was some little leaguer shaking in my boots!

Luckily, I had two strong men of my own to support me.  The two men in my life who are more important than food, water, or shelter: my husband and my brother.  You already know a bit about Fred, but today I want to talk about my brother.  My brother is my hero.  He is the one person I admire most in this entire world.  Some people may think that having grown up with the perfect Korean genius son who accurately predicted at age 10 he would make his first million before hitting 30, I might get a little jealous, envious, or at least wilt a little in his shadow.  But my brother is the kind of guy that inspires admiration rather than jealousy.  If I was ever in his shadow, he would lift me up on his shoulders to make sure I got enough sunlight.  He has been my rock throughout my entire life, and without him, I would have long ago been swept away into oblivion.

I immediately e-mailed my brother after finding out who my competition was, and this is an excerpt from his reply to me:

“First off, no matter what happens from here, I am very proud of you. Getting this far already speaks volumes about how smart and creative you are! …

Second, keep in mind that in a competition that is supposed to be mostly about pitching and starring in your own commericial…..you’ve managed to make it to the finals despite being much younger and not having comparable experience public speaking. For these guys to be here speaks to their past experiences. For you to be here speaks to your infinite potential.

Third, remember …. You sold them on ideas, not slickness. And razzle dazzle. When you are a bigwig in marketing you get paid the big bucks to come up with the brilliant ideas. Those are rare. … If I were the other two, I’d be more nervous about you….

Fourth, keep in mind, just because you might not walk away this week with a [job], doesn’t mean this trip is a waste. … I have no doubts at all that they will be impressed by your unique combination of education at a top school, work experience at a top tier company, international exposure, and now your creativity and energy as evident by you being at the finals at cannes. Who knows what doors will open up down the road. …you are exactly the type of person a company wants for 2 years…heck 2 decades even!

Last, and most important, don’t worry about the destination….the journey is the real prize! Enjoy yourself. Have fun and soak in the experience. …

I love you heaps and am so proud of you. If there is anything you need from me, plse don’t hesitate to call me. … Have a safe journey!”

With an awesome brother like this, and a loving husband by my side, I can fight the world!  So if any of you are wondering how it was I was able to endure the hardships in my life, my answer to you is this: “Love, Faith, and Support!”

I am a citizen of the United States.  That is what my passport states.  But my love has no boundaries and my heart will always say, “I am a Citizen of Love!”

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9 thoughts on “9. The World’s Almost Greatest Salesperson

  1. Pingback: I am still here! « Citizens of Love

    • ha… all the pics Fred loads and tags me with on Facebook are terrible… and we just spent today looking at the terrible pics of me throughout our time in Japan… it’s really quite undeniable…

  2. Great post Lee… and a little flattering, but I’ll definitely take the Batman comment and stuff it in my back-pocket for later use! 🙂

    Your brother was bang on with his assessment. You’re a star. I know it… Eric knows it… and everyone at Ogilvy knows it. And, you were an intimidating counterpart in this journey… you should probably take a closer look at your resume.. NOT TOO SHABBY!

    Thanks again for the kind remarks. Hope to catch up next time you’re back state-side. Or, maybe we should do a reunion every year and each of us has to pitch a new product to an audience—great way to stay on our toes!

    – Todd

    • Thank you, Batman! I could do without the yearly live pitch, but I would definitely like to catch up with you back in the states! Good Luck with writing the New Sales Manual for the 21st Century (and the reality show, but that’ll be pie for you!). -gu

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