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THE MACKAY MBA OF SELLING IN THE REAL WORLD Last year Harvey Mackay visited Chicago for a media tour for his previous book last year and I got to travel from media outlet to media outlet with him for a day as he did so. The experience would be hard to describe beyond that it will never be forgotten as long as I live and was amazing media training. His focus on others is always present as he seeks to learn every detail of the life of his next interview. Harvey is truly a one of a kind individual and I consider myself fortunate for having spent a day with him.

His lasted book is THE MACKAY MBA OF SELLING IN THE REAL WORLD (Portfolio, 2011). The wonderful publicity folks retained by Mr. Mackay were kind enough to grant me an email interview after I read the book. His answers below build on a great read and create the basis for a larger conversation that the world desperately needs to have. Harvey is part of an increasingly rare breed of business leader who understands that people, human capital and organizational transformation are vital to success. For our society to survive as we know it, we must rapidly work to reverse this trend and create a new generation of leaders with these all too rare skills. You feel the sense of urgency in his answers below. I can’t wait to spend another day with Harvey Mackay, the mutual learning would be overwhelming.

You stated “Fostering employee loyalty is the first step to creating customer loyalty” in Chapter 4. Over the past two decades, many companies have treated employees as disposable assets. How would you convince management to reverse this unfortunate trend?

Harvey Mackay: Our company mission statement is to be in business forever.  That means no compromising … not compromising your core principles and taking any shortcuts.  It is virtually impossible to stay in business over a long period of time if you treat your employees as disposable assets.  In 50-plus years in the business world, I know of no one who stayed in business with a revolving door of employees.  It’s sad to say, but in these difficult economic times there are still too many businesses that still don’t get it.

Chapter 15 states, “Your past is not your potential” and “Far too many people exist in a world of “what is” rather than applying their energies to “what can be”.” Today skills are dynamic and changing; this has implications for returning to the basics of recruiting naturally curious lifelong learners based with the vision to lead change. How can companies best stop the practice of picking leaders of the past?

Harvey Mackay: I have hired over 500 people in my career, and the single most important word in the dictionary that I look for and demand is trust.  Once I have established that, then I immediately look for capacity and willingness to learn.  I can’t begin to tell you how many people out there in the marketplace and disciples of the Peter Principle.  There has been a seismic shift in the business world.  The great classical business principles still hold true but they need to be fused with cutting edge internet technology.  That’s the kind of leaders that companies should be looking for.

Fred Smith got a “C” on his term paper for his idea for Federal Express. Mike Bloomberg was told his idea for what became the Bloomberg terminal would never work by his former employer. Why is it often so difficult for most executives to grasp paradigm changing business ideas?

Harvey Mackay: It’s way easier to stay in the comfort zone, especially when things are going good than to go out on a limb and take some risks.  My philosophy is exactly the opposite:  Sometimes it’s risky not to take a risk.  And remember, if you walk backwards, you will never stub your toe.  One of the most difficult things in life for any individual or business is to accept and adopt change.

So, as you like to say, “People don’t know what they don’t know?”

Harvey Mackay: The way I like to fine tune this statement that I made up in college is – I know that you don’t know, but you don’t know that you don’t know!  By that I mean there are three reasons why individuals and businesses fail:

1.    Arrogance

2.    Arrogance

3.    Arrogance

There has been a consistent, gradual decline in ethical business practices in the United States for about 50 years, and it reached new extremes in the “daisy chain” of the sub-prime mortgage industry in the period of 2002-2008.  This was caused by executives getting chapped lips from kissing the mirror too much, which is a perfect example of how arrogance set in.

You discuss the importance of listening, what is the best way for a salesperson to use the obtained information to create a successful sales?

Harvey Mackay: First of all you can’t learn anything if you are doing all the talking.  Sales people should always be developing their earQ, not their IQ.  The only way to create a successful sale is to understand that knowledge (from listening) does not become power until it is used.  And ideas without action are worthless.

You talked about enthusiasm, what is the best way to maintain it in the face of adversity?

Harvey Mackay: First of all, I have never yet met a successful person who hasn’t had to overcome either a little or a lot of adversity in his or her life.  If life there is a lot of lumps and bumps … a lot of throttling up and a lot of throttling down.  Failure is not falling down, but staying down.  Therefore, you have to ignite your own enthusiasm.  The ten most powerful two-letter words in the English language are:  If it is to be, it is up to me.  Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and you will accomplish your object.  I agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

In chapter 67 you cut the world-famous Mackay 66 to the Mackay 25, Please share more about why you changed it…

Harvey Mackay: The Mackay 25 does not replace the Mackay 66.  Rather it is a streamlined version, which gets you to an instant snapshot of the prospect or buyer’s attitude and expectations.  It gets to the heart of what is commonly known today as relationship selling.

In a recent blog post you stated that you are always surprised when you ask who their customers are and they say everyone. Rob La Gesse (@kr8tr) asks who is your customer?  Have you decided who is not?  If so, you have already self-limited your ability to affect change?

Harvey Mackay: You can’t be all things to all people.  In most businesses the company will have what I refer to as nitch-picking.  In short, virtually everyone has their own niche within an industry.

I had the distinct pleasure of spending the day with you during your Chicago media tour in 2010. I was amazed by the way you prepared for each interview. You were seeking to learn about each interviewer and worked to bring that into the on air conversation. What can aspiring radio and TV guests learn from your techniques?

Harvey Mackay: I call this humanize your selling strategy.  I attempt to do a Mackay 66 Question Customer Profile on everyone I meet throughout my life.  That means customers, employees, suppliers, competitors, audiences, radio and TV talk-show hosts and journalists.  This is what I teach our sales force and the people I mentor, and that is that every single person I encounter I have a deep-down burning desire to learn what turns that person on and what he or she is most interested in.  In any relationship, you must find a common denominator.


Thank you Harvey! Every CEO, board of directors member and business leader should read this interview and distribute it (and his book) to their teams and then talk about these meaty issues! I welcome the world changing conversation.

Learn more about Harvey at

1 thought on “Harvey Mackay Book Interview : THE MACKAY MBA OF SELLING IN THE REAL WORLD

  1. Chapter 15 is MONEY. Way too many people are caught in the “comfort zone” of the past!

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