It’s a rare event when my wife and I are out on a date. I think the last time we were out was the night we went to see Ed Harris in Buried Child a couple of months back. Getting to a concert is scarce since we generally have very different tastes in music. We have one band in common, REM. For Christmas I bought us Billy Joel tickets. He has played at Madison Square Garden almost monthly for over a year. He said our performance was the 30th show in the run. I have not been to one of his shows for a couple of reasons. He plays at large venues and I’d prefer a small theater or a more intimate event. I doubt that will happen with Billy Joel, he’s a stadium performer. But more importantly I don’t go out of my way to listen to Billy Joel. I respect him and like many I can sing his hits, but he’s not edgy enough for me. I like his song, You May Be Right and a few others, but most are middle of the road. I have a clear memory of listening to The Stranger when it was newly released. My mother brought us kids out to California to visit my relatives and we stayed at our Aunt Betty and Uncle Gene’s house. I played the record over and over as I tried to fall asleep on their sofa. I have followed his career from the periphery. Keeping with the large venues, in a few weeks Billy will play up at Fenway. Amanda is hoping to get there and will listen to the show and may get a chance to see him. If you’re around my age and have lived most of your life on Long Island you may have a Billy Joel story. I knew someone who knew someone whose sister was the inspiration for Virginia in his song, Only the Good Die Young. I have never met him, but I have a couple of second hand stories. While on a high school field trip, my sister and her friends were in Central Park and saw Billy playing with his daughter, Alexa Ray on the swings. Gives you an idea how long ago it was. As the kids from the high school spotted Billy and were making their way towards them, he headed in their direction and politely asked if they would respect his privacy with his daughter. Sure thing. The kids moved and the dad went back to playing with his daughter. Years later a friend of mine had a restaurant in Sag Harbor and Billy was a frequent guest. Imagine if they had a piano and the man decided to strike up a few tunes. Anyway, this past Friday Ali and I drove into the city and we sung to a Billy Joel greatest hits CD. I parked the mini-van on the street and we walked a few blocks to the garden. We paid a lot of money for food and beer (for me) and we found our seats in the garden. The show was supposed to start at 8:00, but twenty minutes later the man and his band took the stage and played in front of another sell out. His banter with the crowd was a relaxed as if we were watching our uncle, Billy play in front of us. His voice was strong and I can rattle off the songs he played like Only The Good, Piano Man, New York State of Mind, Moving Out, Uptown Girl. He dedicated, “You’re only human,” the victims in Orlando and said it was the first time they played the song in twenty five years and he hoped they wouldn’t fuck it up. He played roughly two hours. Added material from The Beach Boys and Led Zeppelin. We sat behind the stage and still paid a good amount. I looked out at the audience who were generally older and very white. Some had their hokey dances. I will say everyone had a great time since the entertainer was in the house and in our neighborhood. As we were walking out of there we both said we’d like to come back. Why not?
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
5/21/16 Woburn, MA
I woke up before 6 without an alarm clock. It’s an hour later and the shades are still drawn, snores are emanating from one bed and my wife is in the same position when she fell asleep next to me. I’ve learned on this trip that my father missed his calling since he would have been a perfect project manager. He is the epitome of anal retentive. He is the one who is set on the intricate details that could drive someone like me…bonkers. This was the first trip which our parents joined us. The occasion, their first grandchild was graduating college. Before I describe the event I have to share some of the dialogue between my father and myself. If you don’t know anything about me, I will tell you – I can survive on the spare of moment and take off on a business trip or a weekend without much planning. For work, I can be called out to make a meeting which will mean an overnight. It’s not a big deal. I pack and go. I have to say I am surprised my parents made the trip and very happy they did. My parents planned to take Amtrak to Boston. They wanted to be assured that Amanda would meet them. She did. Two weeks before the trip, my father wanted to know where our hotel was. It’s in Woburn. Another call, do you know if they will hold the reservation after six PM, since we may get in after six. Yes, they will hold the room. It’s reserved. Another call, do they have two beds since your mother snores. I will make sure they have two beds. Another call, what is Amanda’s cell? He called me last Sunday, do you have a paper and pen? Yes. I want you to take down our cell number. Dad, you can call my cell and your number will be in my phone. He didn’t understand. Well, take it down anyway. I did. I finally said to my father, if this trip was too much for you, we would understand if you could not make it. No, I am fine. We want to be there. So, I was surprised when I learned my parents were heading up to Boston. For the record, I tried to call my father on his $5 subscription cell phone – he did not pick up when I called to make sure they were alright while they were making our way up here on Thursday. Dad told Amanda he added “minutes” for the weekend. Everything is set for today. Breakfast at 9:30, so most of us can sleep in. Back to the hotel and leave by 12:00 since their train leaves from Boston at 1:40. No problem, we got it.
Yesterday, the sun was out and it was a warm day in Boston. It was a good day for graduation ceremonies, and especially from Simmons College. The day started out early. Amanda had to be at the site by 9:30 which meant we left the hotel by 7:45. My parents were the first in the lobby. Dad explained he was never late for a ship. We packed into the minivan. Dad sat next to me and my mother with her nerves and genuflections sat in the back. At one time I looked back and saw both hands raised to the sky as she prayed. We hit rush hour traffic and found the grace of the HOV till we were in a short distance for the exit. We made it on time. Parking was $40. Who cares, they got us and it’s too late. Made it on time. Mo Cheeks forgot her tassel. They sold tassels and sweat shirts ($40) Bella looked cold, but Ma used it since Bella said she didn’t need it. The ceremony was incredible. Michelle Alexander gave the commencement address which had an impactful message on the justice system in America that has become a vehicle for racial control.
After lunch, my in-laws drove my parents to BaBoo where we rented a room for lunch. The food was delicious. A few of Amanda’s friends joined us. Afterwards, we walked down to the water and sat on the ledge. There was a sail boat race or practice since all the boats were from Harvard. Jets were taking off from Logan and the day turned out fine…just as I expected.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
I work in sales. If you work in sales you prospect. I love the whole concept of prospecting. If you are not prospecting you are not a salesperson. You’re a manager for house accounts and there is no distinction or real need to keep a manager for house accounts employed. You can be easily replaced. You need to find ways that you can bring value to your company or to your business. I wake up most mornings ready to connect with prospects. I enjoy finding that person and then making contact and of course meeting with them and I hope that in time – we are closing a deal.
I don’t understand why other sales representatives don’t enjoy the hunt or the game. You need to be valuable. If you work for a company there is the competition and they have their sales team who are out there getting to your prospects as well as your house accounts. You need to balance the time, prospecting and keeping in contact with the house accounts. The phrase: time management is too vague, I need to see results and if I don’t feel I am making progress – I need to make changes. Not only with my time, but with my approach. Are my habits making me successful? Do I need to dedicate more time to prospecting instead of giving up. You will see results if you work hard.
My sales director refers to prospecting as “grinding,” and I believe that word is not conducive to our goals. “Keep grinding,” reminds me of visits to the dentist and feeling her grind down my tooth with some high pitched whiny drill. It’s painful and the sound makes most of us cringe. Prospecting is something different, I make progress with potential customers who will become a client. Staying focused and keeping a positive attitude makes me forget the term, "grinding."
So, let me be honest. I’m different in my approach. I love making cold calls. My sales director calls me, “sick” but he also said he would like to clone me since I am successful. How do I do it? I first begin to make a list of contacts that I want to reach that day. This is a lesson I learned when I was in the Navy, in boot camp we used an acronym POD which stands for: Plan of the Day. We had a list of what we would do the next day. I use this for my cold calls. Who do I want to reach? The President for our company believes that a good number to prospect is 20…twenty cold contacts each day. For some, that is what you will be able to accomplish in an hour. For others that will be your week, and there are weeks when I’m either on the road most of the week and travelling to meetings. Those weeks are challenging for prospecting, but I will make an effort by looking at my schedule and utilize what free time I have to make cold calls. Maybe it’s not a call, instead it’s an email, but the important thing is; I am making an effort and making prospecting.
There are a number of prospecting resources a good salesperson will use. Depending on your industry. But it’s vital to create your own targets from this list. Have their phone number and email. Make the cold calls. I would not call the same prospects every day. Instead, you should call on them at least once a week. You don’t work for a collection agency and you don’t need to harass someone. Would you call anyone back if they left you a message…every day? Not at all. Recently, I received a call back from one of my prospects. It took months, but he called back. This was someone I called at least once a week. I picked up the phone and was pleasant to him. “Hey Bryan, it’s Mike.” He apologized for not calling sooner. It’s alright I said, I’ve been going to therapy since there was no response from you; I was getting a complex. I said this in a very easy manner, pleasant…so he knew I was joking. He laughed and said I could send him the bill and he would expense it. Later that day we had a formal conference call since he had a couple of projects and wanted to know if my company would be interested in the work. Of course we are interested. We also set a time a face to face meeting. I don’t think he would have called back if I kept calling him every day.
I believe that in most cases – eventually - most prospects will give us some time. It could a brief email or better, a call back. This be a contact who I’ve been trying to reach for weeks, but by maintaining my optimistic attitude, I can make the calls. Like I said, eventually they pick up and I pleasantly introduce myself. I don’t want to come across as Rude. You don’t want to come across as bitter if someone finally calls back. I could have spoke to Bryan like this: “Well, look who it is. Bryan? Now you call me. Are you serious? It took months for you to call me back after I left a hundred and twelve messages!” Good chance your prospect and Bryan will hang up and will never pick up the phone when you call them.
Let’s say they pick up the first time you call. Generally, I ask if they have a couple of minutes. Since I sound pleasant (most of the time, if the person on the other end sounds blunt, I get right to the point) they say yes. I can also tell if I caught them at a bad time. Two lessons for sales, be pleasant. For some salespeople, they smile when they make that call. You will sound happy, but you don’t want to sound insincere. Most of us can read through the bull shit in a split second. Second, you want to learn the important skill of listening. Lesson two is where most of us fail. We feel we need to pounce on this opportunity and spill everything in a split second only to hear...what did you just say? Listen to the tone of their voice on the other end, hear the way she picked up. Did she sound as if she was in a hurry? Was it a quick hello? Be pleasant and listen. If she tells me it’s not a good time, I will ask when would be a better time. They may say tomorrow at 10:00 works. I ask, can I send you an invitation? This is important especially when I don’t have her email address. There, you made contact with the prospect, you were pleasant and respectful of her time and she appreciates that and you have her email address. Just don't forget to send the invitation!
I don’t like coming across as the typical sales person. The type who will turn most people off. The kind who only cares about the sale and making the quota. That style may be important in some sales, but it’s not acceptable in a service orientated profession. Most of us don’t want to deal with someone who is selfish or pushy. Initially, I am not very good at small talk. "Hey, it's Mike and I was just thinking maybe now is a good time to call since I bought a delicious cup of coffee at the local deli...STOP. I also believe that small talk in the first couple of calls may imply that I am not considerate of the prospect’s time. We all know time is precious. Start the first impressions right. Consideration and being pleasant and positive are vital. No one wants to hear about your coffee or your struggles with your mother-in-law or why you were late this morning because the dog ran off this morning. Be professional. Always be professional. Now, good luck and make some calls.
Thank you for reading this.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Sunday, April 24, 2016
4/24/16 Miles Davis…Milesones
Last Thursday, I drove into Brooklyn to see the Part II of Shakespeare’s play Henry IV. I am not about to write a critique of the play since I did not know a breath of either Part I or II, but I was there with Emma Tess since my beautiful brown haired daughter loves Shakespeare. The performances were by the Royal Shakespeare Company at BAM. Sir John Falstaff was played by Antony Sher who was spectacular as the corpulent and cowardly character. I have seen one Shakespeare play previously when Al Pacino played Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Lincoln was influenced by Shakespeare. One of three books on his desk while in the White House was the works of William Shakespeare. In the darkened theatre on both nights I let the words ease into my ears and at times had to scrutinize the passage or sentence to make sense. There were moments when I was lost and scrambling like slipping on slick patch of ice, but soon enough I was stable after being brought back to where I had to be. Honestly, the first part of IV Henry was less serious and perhaps I was better able to listen without as many distractions. Before I go on, let me share a famous quote from Falstaff regarding honor, “What is honour? a word. What is in that word honour? what is that honour? air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it? he that died o' Wednesday. Doth he feel it? no. Doth he hear it? no.” The first night was special for Emma and I, we took the train from Ronkonkoma and had about an about to kill before the start of the play. After a few minutes walking around Brooklyn, we found a burger joint and sat down. The place was crowded. We ate and walked back to the area where BAM is. Found the theatre and walked in and up a steep flight of stairs which honestly would be a challenge to a Navy Seal. Found our seats and settled in. I was amazed how many people were coughing and sneezing and burying their wet mucus nostrils into a napkin and discharging as loudly as possible said contents into their soiled fabric. Taking the train into BAM or the Atlantic terminal is easy. Transfer at Jamaica and in a few stops you’re at the Atlantic terminal. Easy. Getting home is a pain in the ass since the train leaves a little after 23:00. During intermission I asked an usher how long the second act will be. She tells me how long, and we look at the time and our watches and make the correct estimate that we will have enough time to make the train. The play ends and we slowly make our way down the steep steps. People are clutching the railing for dear life as Emma and I bounce down each step between the clutchers and make a break to the exit. We’re free. We jog down the street, get into the train terminal and head down to the platform and onto the train with enough time to spare. We could have walked…The next night I searched for tickets for Part II and paid more, better seats and this time I was driving. We had time and made it to BAM with time to spare, but not enough to get something to eat. I had a chocolate bar and Emma Tess had a cookie. We found our seats. Second set of orchestra. In other words…in the back. Three elderly ladies sat behind us and one said she’d need a hearing device. The usher brought it to her and yet this woman chose to make comments throughout the first act not realizing or noticing the agitated heads turning, the ssshhhh’s and other obvious hints to shut up. During intermission it was addressed very professionally and there was not a peep. Emma Tess and I drove home and make it back faster – by an hour and we didn’t have to run…it was a memorable night and an honest discussion since there have been many changes in Emma’s life. She regrets some. I hope she heard my message, follow your love which for Emma Tess is photography…be the best, work hard at it, believe in yourself.
Thank you for reading this.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Just got tickets on TicketWeb for F*ck Tumors! A Hardcore Benefit: Cro-Mags, CIV, Sheer Terror & More! at Highline Ballroom on 05/29/16
Just got tickets on TicketWeb for F*ck Tumors! A Hardcore Benefit: Cro-Mags, CIV, Sheer Terror & More! at Highline Ballroom on 05/29/16
Sunday, April 3, 2016
04/03/16 11:54 Home, listening to the strong winds blowing through Long Island
Uncle Rocky passed away on Friday night. It was not a surprise. He was diagnosed with emphysema more than twenty years ago. The last ten years he had an oxygen tank to assist his breathing. He’s been pushed in a wheel chair for the past few years. His quality of life may have been impacted and yet his strength and easy smile would warm any room. For the past few weeks he was in and out of the hospital. His body was slowly dying. On Thursday, he was transferred to hospice. Aunt Barbara, his wife had a dream on Friday; their granddaughter, who had passed years before at 15 told Barbara (in the dream) that Pop was going to join her that day. Just before 22:00, he passed, surrounded by family and much love. Rocco was courageous, accepting his impending death and as he said, “Not wanting to be a burden on his family.” He knew he was not going to get better. The family and Rocco had the opportunity to say their good-byes and most of the family were prepared to let him pass. Not that it is easy for anyone to say good-bye. My father-in-law was and still is distraught with the idea that his older brother is dead. The thought that we will not see Rocco presses into our hearts and minds. There is the funeral arrangements, the wake and the mass. His body will be cremated. Flowers to be ordered, donations to hospice. I understand the hospice staff were warm and comforting with the family and let them know what stages were taking place. After they administered the morphine he declined rapidly. Friday night, Ali and I were at the high school where Joe was in a one act play. Ali left during intermission since Joe was not on the stage in the second play. After the second play, I dropped him off at the diner where he met friends. I took Bella home and came upstairs to read. Ali sent a text to let us know of the passing. I picked up Joe at the diner, his phone had died so he was not aware. I broke it to him. Bella started sobbing in the back seat. Joe was crying. We picked Emma up at work and went inside Target. She was crying and I hugged her. We walked around the aisles aimlessly for a couple of minutes. A message came over the loud speaker that the store was closing in five minutes. We met Emma Tess outside and drove home. Inside the car, there were sniffles. Under the stars and night clouds…we thought of Rocco…Rocco Maniaci may you rest in peace with all those who departed before, and may you be welcomed by them within a new love.
Thank you for reading this.