Covered in This Episode
[02:08] Early Career
[04:45] Co-Authorship with John David Mann
[07:33] Finding that Positive Influence
[15:35] Drive-By Mentor
[20:50] Clout and Leverage vs. Adding Value to Others
[24:00] Adversaries into Allies
[28:55] Taking Action
[30:00] How to Contact Bob Burg
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/burgbob
Chris Ippolito 1:05
Bob Burg 1:06
Hi, Chris. Great to be with you.
Chris Ippolito 1:08
I am honored to have you on as a guest for the “Get Coached Podcast.” A little bit of context for everybody listening. Bob, you are a coauthor of the book that has had the most significant influence on my life, which is The Go-Giver. But you’ve written a lot of other books, but I wanted to share that real quick because that’s why I’m so honored to have you on as a guest. I didn’t expect to be able to interview somebody like you so early on in my podcasting career, I really appreciate the opportunity.
Bob Burg 1:46
The honor is mine, thank you for having me.
Chris Ippolito 1:48
You’re very welcome. I’d love to start off with having you introduce yourself to the audience in case they don’t know who you are, though I talk about you quite a bit, or your book at least. I’d love if you could maybe share a little bit of your story and your background, how you got to be where you’re at right now.
Bob Burg 2:08
Well, I began in sales after actually beginning as a broadcaster in radio, then television. That didn’t last long, I wasn’t particularly good at it. Got into sales and floundered there for a few months because I really had no understanding of selling, I had no formal training and the company I was with didn’t really provide any. I was on my own and failed miserable for a few months. Then I was in a bookstore, this is about 40 years ago, and I came across a couple of books on selling. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but back then it wasn’t as well known. Also, again, it wasn’t part of what had been in my world, I was amazing to see that there were actually books on how to sell.
I picked up the books, studied them voraciously, and started applying, of course, what I was learning. In a few weeks my sales really began to take off. That was encouraging for me and it taught me a really great lesson. That is that if you don’t know how to do something and you want to know how to do it, find out how from someone who’s already done it and has written about it, is teaching it, or put it on video, audio, or whatever it happens to be. It’s really nothing more than learning a system.
To this day I define a system as simply the process of predictably achieving a goal based on a logical and specific set of how-to principles, the key being predictability. In other words, if it’s been discovered that by doing A you’ll get the desired result of B, then you know all you need to do is A, continue to do A, continue to do A, and eventually you’ll get the desired result of B. Knowing that is very confidence-building. That means if you have a goal, you can most likely accomplish it. Just find someone who’s done it and basically duplicate what they did.
Within a few years I think I was the sales manager of another company and started teaching people to do what was working for me and for my team. It just morphed into a speaking business at that point and I wrote my first book long ago just as a way of positioning myself in the marketplace, then wrote a few other books, then The Go-Giver back in, I think, 2008. Late 2007 it came out, 2008 is when it really hit the stores. I coauthored that with John David Mann, who’s a great writer and storyteller. It’s been a fun ride.
Chris Ippolito 4:42
How did the two of you connect, if you don’t mind me asking?
Bob Burg 4:45
No, he was the Editor-in-Chief of a magazine I used to write for. Every month he would send back the articles I wrote. Many editors, of course they’re very busy, but they’ll just cut, you’ll never know, stuff gets out of context and things. He never did that. He always just was very polite, he let me know what he wanted to cut out, move here, “Is this okay?,” and, “Is that okay?” The running joke became that I’d answer him back every month with the same answer, “Not only is it okay, you write my stuff better than I write my stuff.”
Back then he wasn’t well known outside of a particular niche, now he’s the coauthor of choice for many agents and publishing houses whenever they have a celebrity or an athlete or someone who has a story and John is called into write. But back then very few people really knew who he was, fortunately I was one of them who did. He was the only one I wanted to be the lead writer and main storyteller for this story.
I’d asked him, I told him about this idea I had and would he be willing to take a look at it. He was very busy at the time just doing what he was doing, but he fortunately took a look and after a while agreed, too. That was a good thing.
Chris Ippolito 6:05
That’s awesome. I love stories like that because you never know who you interact with or who might already be in your sphere of influence that, when put together and marching towards the same goal, can create some significant impact. Because I think, obviously, with what you guys have done with The Go-Giver series and brand is spectacular. The first book was very impactful for a lot of people, then you guys have just been building upon that and just adding more and more value to people, which is obviously a huge principle in the book. Yeah, I think that’s fantastic.
Bob Burg 6:47
Chris Ippolito 6:48
One of the things I wanted to touch on, the “Get Coached Podcast,” the whole premise here is helping entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, find perhaps either a coach or a mentor that’s going to help them reach those goals that they’re perhaps currently struggling with. I know mentorship obviously is a big aspect of your guys’ stories and the journey of The Go-Giver. What would be the best way for people who are seeking mentorship, or a coach in that case, what would be the best way for them to find that person to have that positive influence in their life?
Bob Burg 7:33
Well, if they’re seeking out someone as a paid coach, mentor, or consultant, because a coach, a mentor, has different connotations, then that’s a different process than if it’s someone who they just want to have advise them as more of an informal type of relationship. Obviously if they’re wanting to pay for a coach or mentor, there’s lots of great people like yourself out there, there’s people who they can look up, they can find, and they can ask others who have been very successful, “Who have you used?,” and so forth.
But let’s instead go another direction and look at how you might find someone who is more of an informal mentor with whom you have a mentor-protégé relationship with. Because I think those are also very, very important, when it’s just someone who they’ve had years of success. It might be in your field or it might be in a different field, sometimes it doesn’t matter because it might be the general success principles you’re looking to gather from someone and to be guided along with those. Other times it might be much more appropriate or it needs to be someone who’s in your field.
I think most people understand how important having a good mentor can be because having that good mentor can really cut your learning curve time down by years. I think a lot of people, when they seek out a mentor, they make a mistake of just coming right out and just saying, “Hey, will you be my mentor?”
One reason I think that’s counterproductive is because, first of all, this person probably is asked that question by a lot of people. There’s nothing about the way you’ve asked that distinguishes you in any way. They’re busy, they’re not going to have time or want to invest the time with a whole bunch of people. You’ve got to be able to stand out in some way. Just asking, “Will you be my mentor?,” with someone with whom you don’t already have a strong relationship, it’s sort of like saying to somebody, “Hey, will you share with me 40 years of your life experience even though you don’t really know me from a hole in the wall?” Again, it can come off maybe as entitled or as though they owe you just because you’re there, and so forth. I don’t think it makes an impression on them that’s necessarily positive.
A mentor-protégé relationship is just that, it’s a relationship and it takes time to develop. Rather than coming right out and asking someone to be your mentor, you can certain approach anyone who you respect and who you would like to approach, that’s fine. But I think to do it more in a way by saying, “I know you’re very busy. If this is not something you either have the time to do or even want to do, I’ll absolutely understand. I’m wondering if I might be able to ask you one or two very specific questions.”
Now when you do that and you ask that way, you’ve done a couple of things that distinguish you. One is you didn’t come across as entitled, but you came across as someone who really understands that you’re asking for something big. You also gave them an out, or back door. This is so important, you said, “If you don’t have time or if it’s something you just don’t want to do, totally understandable.” Typically to the degree you give someone that out or back door, they don’t feel the need to take it because they know you’re someone who respects the process and is less of a threat to take up a lot of their time unnecessarily.
Third, when you say, “If I could ask you one or two very specific questions,” you’ve let them know now that you’re not just wanting to pick their brain and mindlessly ask them questions. No, you’re coming in with an agenda. When I say “agenda” in this context, I mean that as a positive. They know that you have in mind exactly what you want to ask and they’re much more likely, which it doesn’t guarantee it, but much more likely to say, “Sure, go ahead,” “Let’s make a time,” or what have you.
Now something I would very much suggest is when you research this person, you want to make sure you research them thoroughly. Make sure you don’t ask them anything the answer to which you could have easily discovered by doing your research. That will come off as annoying. You want those questions to really be impactful, make sense, and so forth. Make sure you don’t take up too much of their time, be totally respectful of it. At the end of the call, meeting, or wherever it happens to be tell them how much you appreciate it, you look forward to applying their information right away and, if they don’t mind, keep in touch, and so forth.
Now that very day I would do two things. One is I would write a personalized handwritten note of thanks to the person. Not text, not e-mail, handwritten note. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, it shouldn’t be, it should be short and sweet, “Hi, Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so. Thank you so very much, again, for taking valuable time out of your day. I realize you’re very busy and this was very special, your suggestions are priceless,” or “Thank you for sharing your wisdom,” whatever is more your style. “I look forward to applying it right away and I’ll let you know how things work out. Best regards.” Sign your name, put it in a regular envelope, whatever, a regular stamp. Not a meter stamp, but a regular postage stamp. Send it up and that will really be impactful.
Another thing though is to find out, and again you should be able to do this just through any online search, find out their favorite charity, charitable cause or what have you. Make a small, it doesn’t have to be anything big, but just a small donation in their name. It will get back to them. You’re not doing it to kiss up, you’re doing it because, again, you just want them to recognize that you take this seriously. That you really respect the process, you appreciate them, and that you’re obviously looking to give value to them in whatever ways you can.
You do that and maybe a couple weeks later, a few weeks later, you’ll contact them again, maybe give some results, another question. Over time, if a mentor-protégé ongoing relationship is supposed to happen, it will. If not, it won’t. I think we’ve got to do it without attachment to it having to work out a certain way. It might be that this person is going to be a one-time conversation or it may be several times. It might be you find someone else down the line or it might be you have a series of people who each give you some advice in a certain way. I don’t know, you never do know. But when it’s supposed to work out, it will, and you handle accordingly.
Chris Ippolito 14:56
Right. There’s a story behind a golden nugget of advice that you received from a drive-by mentor. I’d love to dig into that, but I want to just add real quick context to why I’m asking this question. I wasn’t originally planning on it, but you had said that sometimes these mentors that enter into our lives, it might end up being a very short interaction, maybe it’s a single conversation and that’s it. But there’s value there because obviously they’re probably sharing something. I’d love if you could share that story of your experience of a drive-by mentor.
Bob Burg 15:35
Yeah. This term “drive-by mentor” was coined during a conversation with one of my mentors, her name is Dondi Scumaci, a very, very wise, wise person. She does mentorship programs throughout the world for different companies, she goes in and creates mentor-protégé programs. I think she coined the word because I’m typically not that clever enough to coin such a term and she is, I’m sure I agreed with it. A drive-by mentor is simply someone who, as you said, maybe just is there one time, they pop up. They happen to say something at exactly the time that, first, you need to hear it and, secondly, that you’re receptive to hearing it.
For me it was I’d been in sales a couple of years. Again, I was doing pretty well, but I certainly wasn’t reaching my potential. I was in a sales slump with the company I was selling for. I remember coming back to the office one day really disgusted at myself. This person, who was a much older guy, I think he retired pretty soon afterwards, he wasn’t in the sales department, he was in another department. I didn’t know him real well. He was always a friendly enough guy, but didn’t say a whole lot. But I think he saw me as Joe in The Go-Giver, that would be written 20 or 30 years later, whatever it was. About 30 years later. As that guy who was the up-and-coming, lots of potential, unfulfilled potential, ambitious, aggressive, and really at it but just in his own way and having a focus that was incorrect. Which he was right.
What he said to me was, he was a last name kind of guy, he said, “Burg, if you want to make a lot of money in sales, don’t have making money as your target. Your target is serving others. Now when you hit the target, you’ll get a reward. That reward will come in the form of money. You can do with that money whatever you choose, but never forget the money is simply the reward for hitting the target, it ain’t the target itself. Your target is serving others.”
I know you coach and have many entrepreneurs listening and watching. As an entrepreneur, you’re a salesperson. Anyone in sales, it’s so important to realize, as I did at that moment, that great salesmanship is never about the salesperson. Great salesmanship is never about your product or services, as important as that is. Great salesmanship is about the other person, it’s about everyone whose lives you choose to touch with your product, service, and whatever else additional you bring to the table. It’s about helping another person accomplish what they want to accomplish, somehow making their life better just by you being part of it. That’s what selling is about. When we understand that, now we’re 9 steps ahead of the game in a 10-step game.
Chris Ippolito 19:00
Yeah, I like that a lot. That is a lesson I learned a little while back. Because I’ve been in sales or business development roles for pretty much my entire working career. It was actually a drive-by mentor, I don’t even remember who it was. But it wasn’t me that came up with the idea, but it just hit me at the right time. That you should consider sales to actually be the highest form of service, “customer service” was what the person said. I was like, “Oh, really? Why?” Then we went back and forth and it was like, “That makes a ton of sense.” Because the highest level of customer service is what’s going to earn their business, then the reward is going to be the commissions or whatever it is that you’re working towards.
Bob Burg 19:47
That’s why we say that money is simply an echo of value.
Chris Ippolito 19:51
Right. On the topic of value. Great transition, I love that. We are in a really interesting time right now with COVID affecting the entire world, and specifically certain economies. I know the U.S. is getting hit pretty hard. Canada is, too, but I feel like U.S. is getting hit a little bit harder. But if somebody is in search of a mentor or looking to add value, a lot of people associate value in dollars. They’re going to go, “Well, how can I add value if I’m a little tight on money?,” I’m maybe not working right now, or whatever it is. What would be your advice to them or your thoughts on that? I feel like it’s almost a limiting belief that they think money has to be used to add value, but what would you say to that?
Bob Burg 20:50
That’s a great point. No, “value,” by definition, is simply the relative worth or desirability of a thing to the end user or beholder. In other words, what is it about this thing, whether it’s a product, a service, a concept, an idea, advice, a connection, or whatever it happens to be, that brings so much worth to that person that they see it as being of value.
I think at this point what we do is we ask the question, “How do I bring value to another person? How do I give them something of worth?” It doesn’t have to be about money, not at all. I mean even when it is when it’s business, it’s always an exchange of value in terms of your product or service holds a certain value to that person that’s higher than the money they have, which is why they will gladly exchange it. That’s the business end of exchanging a form of value for another form of value, a product or service in exchange for that cash value. That’s fine. But when it comes to finding ways to add value to others, it’s really through who you are.
How you would do it specifically, that always comes down to what does this person need, what does this person want, what does this person desire, how is it going to help them, how is it going to make their life better. But no, bringing value to another human being typically has nothing to do with dollars.
Chris Ippolito 22:27
Yeah. I think it’s an unfortunate misconception that a lot of people have. Because if you think about it in a slightly different way, what’s a more valuable resource to money? Which is probably time, I think we can all agree with that. Now if somebody takes the time to go and, like you said, do a little bit of homework on that person, find out what it is that they would place value on, you’ve invested probably something that’s more important than money. You took the time and consideration to try and look for how you could add value to them.
Bob Burg 23:03
Yeah, wonderful point.
Chris Ippolito 23:06
The book I most recently read was, what’s it called again? Adversaries…
Bob Burg 23:12
Oh, into Allies.
Chris Ippolito 23:14
Yes, Adversaries into Allies. I ended up tweeting at you that as soon as I finished the book I said, “I think I may have found a replacement to How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
Bob Burg 23:27
That’s a great compliment.
Chris Ippolito 23:28
Because I just felt it was so in tune with where we’re at now, I thought it was a very modernized way of looking at it. It was very detailed, as well, you’ve got so many different sections in there. It’s a loaded question, but I’d love to get your thoughts on why is it that influence is such an important skill that really everybody should be looking to develop?
Bob Burg 24:00
Well, I think what it really comes down to is there are two types of basic skills. There’s technical skills, which could be called competence. Then there are people skills. Now we have to have competence, we have to know what we’re doing. But there’s a lot of people who know what they’re doing, there’s a lot of people who can do the thing right, they have that certain skill set. They also might have some other great character traits, they might be ambitious, hardworking, charitable, kind, thrifty, and lots of good things about them. But unless you’re able to influence others, move people to the desired action, and that’s what people skills are all about, you can only accomplish so much, you can only go so far.
Now influence itself can be defined simply as the ability to move a person or persons to a desired action, usually within the context of a specific goal. Now that’s the definition, more importantly though is the essence of influence. The essence of influence is pull, pull as opposed to push. How far can you push a rope? Not very. At least not very fast or very effectively, which is why great influencers don’t push. They don’t try to push their will on others, they don’t try to control others, they aren’t pushy. No, they pull. Pull is an attraction. Great influencers attract people first to themselves, and only then to their ideas.
Again, this goes right back to The Go-Giver. Law number three of The Go-Giver is the law of influence, which says your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first. Now when we say that, we don’t mean you should be a doormat, a martyr, or self-sacrificial. No. It means always keeping in mind the interest of the other person and making it about them, as we’ve been talking about.
Well, let’s go back to Dale Carnegie, as you were kind enough to mention and even put my book in the same sentence as How to Win Friends and Influence People, which I appreciate. What I believe was the underlying principle of his book and philosophy was one sentence, and this is where he wrote ultimately people do things for their reasons, not our reasons.
The great influencer, they attract by always focusing on that other person and their interest. They ask themselves questions to make sure their focus is correct. “How does what I’m asking this person to do align with their goals, with their wants, with theirs needs, with their desires? How does what I want this other person to do, how does it align with their goals? How am I helping them? What problems or challenges am I helping to solve through my suggestion, through what I’m asking them to do? How does what I’m asking align with their values?”
See, when asking ourselves these questions thoughtfully, intelligently, genuinely, authentically. Not as a way to manipulate another person, another human being, into doing our will, but as a way of helping to build everyone in the process. Now we’ve come a lot closer to earning that person’s commitment to our ideas. That’s influence. Unless you can do that, it’s really difficult to attain that real stratospheric success no matter how competent you are at what you do.
Chris Ippolito 28:02
Right. There’s another author that talks about influence, Robert Greene, in one of his books. I listened to a podcast where he was talking about influence and saying, “You’re kidding yourself when you say you don’t want to have influence because imagine a world where you have zero influence.” I’ve got a young son who’s nine months actually today. As he gets older, if I can’t influence him, oh boy, that’s going to be tough.
Bob Burg 28:30
Oh, absolutely, of course.
Chris Ippolito 28:31
Yeah. I want to be respectful of your time.
Bob Burg 28:33
Robert Greene is a wonderful author.
Chris Ippolito 28:35
Yeah, Robert Greene is a great author. I think we’re getting close to the end here. I wanted to ask my one question I love to ask all my guests to help the audience take action. What’s that one piece of advice that you would want to share with the audience to help them level up wherever they need it most?
Bob Burg 28:55
Well, I think it almost goes back to that system aspect of finding out how to do what you want to do. But then very key, taking action on it. Taking action on it, that’s so very important. Because it can be so intuitive to say, “Well, I don’t know it well enough yet, I’m going to wait.” Now certainly you don’t want to do something haphazardly. But once you’re 80% there, once you know what needs to be done, take action, go out and do it. Understand you’re going to make some mistakes, and that’s okay, that’s just what being human is about and what business is about. But definitely to make sure that, yes, you find the information, take that information in, then take action on it.
Chris Ippolito 29:39
Right. Great advice. It’s, as I mentioned at the beginning, an absolute honor to have you on the podcast. Where can people go, learn more about you, and find out all the different books that you’ve authored or coauthored so that they can start consuming the great content that you’ve put out?
Bob Burg 30:00
Thank you. The best place is burg.com. They can scroll down and they can actually get a free chapter, or excerpt, of any of the books so they can see if they like what they see thus far. Then they can always click through to Amazon if they like. I suggest signing up for the list, the newsletter list, because we send out some really good information, always value-based information.
Chris Ippolito 30:27
Awesome, perfect. I’ll make sure that’s all included in the show notes. Bob, thank you so much. I know I could keep you busy for a couple hours with questions, but I really appreciate it and it was an absolute honor to have you on the show.
Bob Burg 30:44
Thanks, Chris, I appreciate you. Thanks for everything you do.
Chris Ippolito 30:47