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Bragging rights: the right to boast after winning a game or beating an opponent.

I really did earn bragging rights. The game, which I won, is getting my new book published. The opponent was a sometimes overwhelming desire to, well, procrastinate.

I don’t think I have ever undertaken a project more rewarding, harder, more humbling, more bloating and deflating to the ego than getting this book published.

After all too many years, Hot Prospects will be published by Scribner (an imprint of Simon and Schuster) on August 12, 2008.

“Hot prospects” are, of course, the lifeblood of any sales professional. That’s the subject of the book, but not of this article. Rather, this article is about some of the extraordinary people met along the way.

Any book worth its salt needs endorsements. These are the testimonials, the advance sales people, the touters, shouters and, from the author’s point of view, the good guys.

Given that you’ll receive your copy of Research around the start of July, rather than my usual “how to” piece, I thought some lighter summertime fare might be in order. I wanted to share some stories with you about the people I asked to endorse my book.

Chris Gardner: If you don’t know Chris’ story — and I certainly did not at the time — you just have to read The Pursuit of Happyness and see the movie, starring Will Smith, who played Chris.

Years ago, when he came through the class I taught for Dean Witter in their San Francisco training center, Chris was literally homeless. My job was teaching rookies how to cold-call by offering new issues of stock and tax-free municipal bond funds. There’s a scene in the movie where Chris is cold calling. It’s right out of the course Chris took.

As Chris tells the story in his book, the pizza Dean Witter ordered for our calling session was part of the “meal plan” for him and his son.

Much later, when I learned of the full Chris Gardner story, I remembered very well talking to a very sharp African American who just soaked up what I taught. I can’t say at the time that I thought “He will go the distance.” But of all the people who went through those classes, there was something about him that burned itself into memory.

Chris, like the other five people noted in this article, was kind enough to write a blurb endorsing my book.

David Bach: David Bach wrote the books Smart Women Finish Rich, Smart Couples Finish Rich, The Automatic Millionaire, Go Green/Live Rich, and Start Late/Finish Rich. He is another I remember. We had several phone conversations in which he picked my brain hard.

Our relationship started in 1991, when I got a call from a young man whose dad was legendary in Dean Witter. David was going to take over all but the very few top clients that his father kept. He drew upon Dad’s clients, started his seminar helping women “finish rich,” and managed the process with the Bill Good Marketing System.

I had dinner with David earlier this year. He told me that before he bought the System, he kept a file of the prospecting letters I sent him, and that the method we used to market to him was an important reason he signed up for the System. He went on to be a New York Times bestselling author with such books as The Automatic Millionaire.

Al Ries: Al Ries is co-author with Jack Trout of Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

Probably about 1982, I read the Positioning book. It explained so much. I’ve read everything Al Ries has written since. In 1986, while preparing my first book for publication, I decided I wanted an endorsement from him. For me, this was going to the mountaintop. I really could not imagine pulling it off. But shyness has never been a problem I’ve had to deal with. So I cold-called him. I got right through. I told him, “I have some really nice things to say in my book about your book, and I would appreciate it if you would write me an endorsement.” Boom. Right to the point.

He replied, “Send me a copy of your book.” To my complete and utter surprise, a few days later, I had a great endorsement.

I decided to try my luck again. This time, I just sent him the book along with a letter. A day or two later, I received a wonderful blurb.

More AchieversMy other three endorsers all went through the Bill Good Marketing System.

Ira Walker, now with UBS Financial Advisors, attended my class in 1988. He was just finishing up his third year in business. I have an indelible memory of this kid coming up to me on break and telling me, “I’m going to be the biggest producer on your system.” My immediate reaction (which I kept to myself) was, “Yeah, yeah.”

The proof of that pudding was in the eating. Ira went back home, borrowed $25,000, hired four cold-callers and hit the ground running. In 1989, production nearly tripled to $830,000, then $1.1 million, $1.6 million, $2.2 million etc., etc.

Over the years Ira and I have become good friends. I did several one-on-one consults with him, helped him fine-tune his team, and there’s no question he kept the promise he made in October 1988.

Keith A. Vanderveen, now midwest regional president of Wachovia Securities, came through my class in 1991. He was doing about $170,000 very early in his career at Merrill Lynch. Like Ira, he borrowed some money, although he went to his father-in-law, always a risky transaction. He too, put the entire team in place very quickly.

Tax and financial management consultant Jack Reutemann was a member of the Class of 1992. Not long after he came on the System, I started hearing stories about his seminar, “What Your Stock Broker Doesn’t Want You to Know.”

I did not see the seminar until 2003 when I asked Jack to speak at a conference we ran at the Washington Marriott. Jack thought he finished his talk right on time, but that’s not what the throng of people crowding around thought. He finally adjourned to a nearby lounge; the meeting continued well into the evening.

Lessons LearnedI never met Al Ries, but I have been fortunate to have learned so much from him. And while I believe I did play some small or large part in the success of Chris, David, Ira, Keith and Jack, I learned from them as well.

From Chris, I learned that if he could make it to the top from where he started, my troubles, such as they are, are insignificant.

From David, get a good idea and ride it all the way.

From Ira, it’s not all the things he’s so good at — speaking, selling or even his encyclopedic knowledge of money management. It’s that he thinks bigger than almost anyone I know.

Another big thinker is Keith. He used to pay high school students to hand address 10,000 seminar invitations. He would pack in 200 people for what I came to call a “Monster Seminar.” Was he a better speaker or advisor than so many others? Or did he, like Ira, just think bigger? I think it was the latter.

My association with Jack has reinforced what I have known to be true about integrity. Jack sticks to his ideas with an intensity not often seen.

So, if I helped Chris, Ira, David, Jack and Keith, terrific. But as is so often the case, I was able to learn so much from these extraordinary teachers. It was most certainly a two-way street.

Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing Systems in Draper, Utah; see


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