Prospecting, Selling and Cher-ing: Takeaways from IBS

By / 6 months ago

While in Vegas for the International Builders Show, I saw a poster for an upcoming Cher concert. It cited Cher’s reign there. She dominated Vegas: 192 shows, more than $102 million at the box office. That’s $531,000 per night.

Despite these gaudy figures, admit it—you like Cher. Are you telling me your ears don’t perk up when “I Got You Babe” comes on? What about this line: “Do you believe in life after love?”

I know your favorite track is “If I Could Turn Back Time.” You know how I know? Because that’s all I heard people talking about at IBS. In sharing the prominent pain points in their business, you could almost hear Cher in the background, trilling about time travel.

My IBS conversations can be distilled down to these takeaways. Cue Cher, please.

If I Could Turn Back Time
You’d see more civility from Purchasing Managers: Phone calls answered, voice-mails listened to, calls returned. People respected effort. They valued relationships.

You’d see more loyalty from employees: Sales reps stayed with one employer for their career. Now outside sales reps have the leverage. They leave for $5,000 more and take their book of business with them.

You’d see more interest from the next generation: They realized the opportunity in this business. Now these kids show up for six weeks and wonder why they aren’t running the company.

As these conversations were taking place, I met up with Isaac Oswalt, the 30- something founder of 21 Handshake. His company helps firms develop marketing plans using online tools that are designed to help clients establish trust with prospects and customers.

“The personal face-to-face handshake will always be important in business,” Oswalt said. “What’s changed is that the buying process in the 21st century leading up to that handshake is increasingly done online.”

In speaking with Isaac, I realized my experience as a thirty-something Purchasing Manager led me to write Behind Your Back; this was directly related to 21st century firms selling and marketing to me as if they had the ability to turn back time.

As we continued to talk about our IBS conversations, I came back to Cher. Her greatest hits effectively mirrored challenges faced by companies in the LBM industry.

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
This U2 cover is a Cher staple in concert and it typifies the feedback from prospects and customers when searching for insight online. Do you research online before making buying decisions?

Oswalt noted, “The Internet age has created an ‘on demand’ culture—we want our information, and we want it now. Sure, lunch sounds great, but help me when I choose to engage, not when I’m scheduled on your sales route.”

The Beat Goes On
Every generation struggles to understand, communicate and motivate the one that follows it. The Greatest Generation struggled to understand Boomers. Boomers thought Gen Xers lazy and privileged. Millennials baffle everyone.

Only the details change—the inter-generational head-scratching is the same. If you struggle to recruit and retain millennials, look at your business from a new perspective. If smartphones and Google and iPods are all you’ve ever known, would you want to work at a place that still questions the value of a website?

No one wants to work in a place whose corporate playlist consists of one song by Cher—“If I could turn back time.” So, what’s the answer for these Cher-ing challenges?

Content creation. Capturing, organizing, and sharing the insights, ideas and answers in your business—online and off. If it sounds daunting, it’s simply marketing circa 2016.

Oswalt said it best. “Look at this place,” motioning to the jammed exhibitor floor at IBS. “The industry’s largest asset— the people in this room—has turned into the largest wasted opportunity. Some of these people have 20 or 30 years of experience and the only time we get to learn from them is in a face-to-face conversation.”

Worse yet, every day now these individuals are retiring, taking with them immense repositories of insight that should remain with their business for future generations.

I left IBS feeling that the challenges facing the LBM industry are ultimately about adaptation—something that’s in our DNA. It’s what we’re good at. Is there is a Cher song relevant here?

I don’t know—I don’t like Cher.

Bradley Hartmann

Bradley Hartmann is El Presidente at Red Angle, Inc. and the author of Behind Your Back. To learn more, contact him at, or visit