Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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Fat Cats and Long Sales Cycles.

Hey, is it just me, or do you find that almost nobody out there understands how to do business? I mean, the higher up I go -- with a killer business proposition that's practically guaranteed to make people money -- the less these guys seem to get it.

Either nobody wants to take the call. Or they take the call but won't do a meeting. Or they'll do a meeting but won't sign the contract. Or worst of all, they'll sign the contract and STILL not return your call.

What's with these guys?

I'll tell you what: they're what we call fat cats. A breed unto themselves, which unfortunately, are breeding like rats throughout corporate America, keeping people like you and me from clinching those deals and actually producing something. And unlike me or you, fat cats have their own rules by which they play. To understand how to play them, keep reading, or more importantly, realize the following:

1. FAT CATS EARN SALARIES. I don't know about you, but if I don't kill, I don't eat. I want my deals to happen fast, so that I can enjoy them sooner. If I don't produce, I have to face my wife and kids and tell them there's no vacation this summer. Fat cats don't. In fact, because almost all of them earn annual salaries. it's actually in their personal interest to prevent to much from happening. After all, the longer it takes to happen, the longer they earn their salaries.

2. FAT CATS HATE RISK. You and I thrive on the rush of inventing newer, better solutions. We like being singled out for our cleverness. We believe in the notion of big risk, big reward. Fat cats don't. In fact, they view risk as the surest way to lose their annual salaries. So they do what they can to minimize risk -- if not eliminate it entirely. Let's face it, if you're going to get paid the same whether things change or not, why take a chance on screwing things up?

3. UNLIKE YOUR COLLEGE GIRLFRIEND, FAT CATS WILL WAIT FOREVER. Because they're so risk-averse, fat cats hide out wherever they can until the winds of change blow over. And that's the reason they keep putting off your meetings and not returning your calls. They can -- and do -- stall off the future for as long as they can, or at least until the Christmas bonus checks arrive.

4. FAT CATS MAKE MORE MONEY FROM THEIR BOSS THAN FROM YOU. Face it, when you're pitching your wares to someone, chances are that what you're pitching may produce for them, but not nearly at the rate of their current business. This, incidentally, is why the movie studios have such atrocious websites. If you were making zillions per movie deal, would you really want to waste much time worrying about how to shave off two seconds from your site's download time?

So how do you deal with them? Here's what I do:

First, accept people for what they are and how they function. You're not going to change them, but you can change how you handle them. If you focus on minimizing their risks and maximizing their "hero potential", you have a much better chance of succeeding.

Second, do their work for them. Remember when I said that thing about not being motivated? Well, this is where it really matters. If fat cats aren't motivated to change their own agenda, how motivated do you think they are to act on yours? Forget about it. Don't let them "get back to you" on anything. Like my old pal Phil says, "call them up as if they owe you money."

Third, don't go for the whole enchilada in one gulp. Get them a little bit pregnant first, with a trial program. A tiny first step that costs them nothing and proves your capabilites. The biggest error I've made is by trying to sell the whole shoe store instead of letting them walk around in a pair of sneakers first.

Fourth, concentrate LESS on the fat cats and MORE on your deal flow. That means stop putting all your eggs in one basket. Instead, get as many deals going as possible, knowing full well that most of them are going to end up in New Business Hell. Eventually, you'll find that the deals -- which often take many months to take root -- will eventually sprout in succession.

Yes, it takes time. And no, it never happens fast enough. But look at it this way: at least you get to answer your e-mail in your pajamas.

Rob Frankel

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