Perky, upbeat seminar inspires 7,000, AND achieves a downtown traffic jam

December 08, 1993|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Staff Writer

Here's a sampling of the wisdom gleaned from Success '93, which brought its entrepreneurial-evangelical road show to the Baltimore Arena yesterday:

* Chocolate Easter bunnies with hollow ears are the scourge of the '90s. (Willard Scott, "Today" show weatherman and featured speaker.)

* Most high school honor students are virgins. (Zig Ziglar, the headliner for Success '93, whose many, many audiotapes include "Raising Positive Children in a Negative World.")

* "And" is better than "but" if you want to win someone over. (Peter Lowe, whose company, Peter Lowe International Inc., puts on Success '93.)

For example, it would hamper one's cause to say: This was a perky, upbeat seminar, but it cost $49 or more. Instead, try: This was a perky, upbeat seminar, AND it cost $49 or more.

But these are the lighter moments in a fairly serious seminar on how to sell, sell, sell. The almost 7,000 people who showed up -- causing a brief traffic jam downtown yesterday morning -- seemed glad for a chance to laugh and eager to learn.

Some attendees dropped out after lunchtime, but most stuck it out for the entire eight hours and 15 minutes, listening to the three speakers mentioned above, as well as radio commentator Paul Harvey and the Rev. Robert Schuller.

Baltimore is one stop on the 46-city tour for Success '93, which visits two sites a week, then returns to Tampa, Fla., home to Mr. Lowe's company, to regroup over the weekends.

The show has drawn bigger crowds than it did here, and featured speakers with greater marquee value -- retirees Colin Powell (U.S. Army) and Mike Ditka (professional football), for example -- but Baltimore got high marks for enthusiasm.

"Baltimore audiences are wonderful! Their attitudes are great!" said Nancy Giles, the event coordinator. "Remember, think positive!" And she was off in a blur of red plaid dress, patrolling the arena with her walkie talkie and broad smile.

Positive thoughts were almost palpable yesterday. The audience listened intently to the earnest parts, laughed at the weakest jokes and, during breaks, flocked to the sales area to buy the audiotapes and books pitched during the talks.

The diverse-looking crowd -- young and old, dressed in styles that ran the fashion gamut -- seemed to share only one passion: their need for the telephone. Throughout the day, lines at pay phones were longer than lines at the concession stands and the bathroom.

And everyone was having a positively great time.

"I was glad for the chance to see Ziglar," said Bill Christian, a co-owner of an Ellicott City home-improvements business, carting off the "How to Close the Deal" audiotapes. "I've already got all his books."

Paul Collars, who owns a service station in Silver Spring, said he was heartened to hear Mr. Ziglar and Mr. Scott link "family values" to success in the workplace. He ended up buying the "family" package: the child-rearing tapes, along with another Ziglar classic, "Courtship After Marriage."

Were those tapes for his family or his service station employees? "A little of both," Mr. Collars said.

For $995.95, one could buy what Mr. Ziglar calls "The Whole Shootin' Match -- absolutely everything of Zig's." Make that almost absolutely everything. It didn't include "Zig's Performance Planner" software, a $100 program discounted to $50 for those at Success '93.

Eric Morris, a district manager for Choice TV, found the day interesting, but not necessarily enlightening.

"I'm not a big fan of motivational speakers," he said. "There's only so much you can tell me from the podium that I can't do for myself. Success is a self-inflicted disease."

Yet Mr. Morris and others who found little new in the seminar, still liked Mr. Ziglar's style. His ideas might not be revolutionary, Mr. Morris said, but his rhetoric was fresh and leavened with humor.

At least one would-be attendee already had the Success '93 attitude, but he hadn't mastered the techniques. A nattily dressed businessman tried to talk his way in for free after the lunch break, arguing that the empty seats were going to waste.

He didn't persuade the ticket-takers, however. Maybe that's because he wasn't inside to learn Mr. Lowe's "precision model," which offers a salesman five rebuttals for every objection C potential buyer raises. It was scenario #4 -- when a buyer says "shouldn't/must/can't" -- and he blew it.

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