David Stern

Episode 26: Build Relationships with People that Bring Customers in Your Door, with David Stern

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In this episode, you will learn about the importance of building and cultivating relationships to bring customers to your door.

Driven by a conviction that the business of selling creates freedom, David brings an exceptional 40-year career as a salesperson, speaker, coach, and author of “Are you for real?!” (Aviva, 2015), an inspiring sales-career survival guide. He empowers all types of individuals to new heights thanks to his time-tested methodologies, an ability to motivate others beyond their expectations, and his genuine joy in seeing others succeed.

David’s entrepreneurial spirit was ignited early in life from parents who owned an Oriental rug company. At 15, he launched a business brokering the sale of used appliances, earning the princely sum of $200 per month in the 1970s. Upon graduating high school, he secured an entry-level job at a bank and quickly rose to managerial roles, becoming vice president six years later. David’s warmth, sincerity, and passion for person-to-person business would become an asset throughout his sales career, spanning many industries.

The roots of his coaching career go back 30 years when he overcame his wall in sales through an intensive personal growth process that led to exponential increases in his revenues. Today, David shares his secrets with others, using a coaching methodology based on the value of work and self. He imparts in his clients the belief that a willingness to change and become a better person will drive sales and business success.

According to David, success comes down to awareness, self-acceptance, self-development, communication, change, belief in yourself and the service you provide, and, most importantly, being honest and caring.

He resides in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York with his wife.

More on David’s background

Thank you for joining me, David. That’s a very comprehensive and impressive background, but I know it’s only just a little bit about who you are and what you’ve done in your 40-year career. Could you share a little bit more about your story with our listeners?

Growing up in Brooklyn, my father was a Holocaust survivor. He came over to America with a boat. He had nothing. He had five cents or 10 cents in his pocket and some used clothing on him. That’s all he had. Someone introduced him to my mother and they got married and they struggled. My father had three jobs at one time and later on they got into the business. My grandmother from England had put him into a business through an uncle in Belgium. Long story which I don’t want to get into now and they got into the oriental rug business.

It was machine-made oriental rugs. My mother was the hustler. She was the person out there selling. I’ll give you an example. She would be in Philadelphia, Cleveland, and back between breakfast and dinner. She’d be in both of these cities and back. How she did it, I could never know. She’d be in Hartford, Connecticut and Boston and back between breakfast and dinner. I saw her at breakfast, I saw her at dinner, how she did it, I have no idea. I liked that about my mother.

My father was more of an administrator, taking care of unloading the containers, making sure that everything is in place. It was a different type of character but I like my mother’s character and I was excited about it. Being a student, I didn’t really like studying so much. I didn’t like the books, I didn’t like the idea of doing homework. At the age of 15, I got into a business. I started selling appliances. By the way, this was in the ’60s. In the late ’60s, if I made $175, $200 a month, I was the richest kid in Brooklyn, and therefore I loved it. I had a great time doing it and until my father found out, obviously. He didn’t know.

My mother knew but my father didn’t know. When he found out, he unplugged me from the business, but he couldn’t unplug me from the fact that I love working with people. I’m there helping with what people’s needs are. That he couldn’t unplug me from. At the age of 18, when most kids go to college, I couldn’t afford it. In the community that I lived in. we didn’t go to college, so I went to work.

I didn’t go to work for my parents because I didn’t really get along with my father that much. He was a very orthodox, strict person so I decided to go do something no one ever did. I went to work in a bank as a teller. At that time you would never find an orthodox Jewish boy working as a teller in a bank. They might own the bank, but they would not be a teller in the bank. I knew for a fact that if I want to get somewhere in this world, I’m would have to build it for myself.

It took me five or six years. I became vice president and elected officer of the bank. It was tremendous. What was the difference between banking and the other business that I was in? People were looking for service. Everybody was giving the same thing, the same interest. The banks were all given this federally regulated. They’re giving the same interest.

It was just understanding at an early age that the business of selling or the people business is about building and maintaining relationships with people. If you build, maintain relationships with people, no matter what you do, you’re going to be successful. I learned that a very, very early age. 42 or 44 years later, I’m still doing the same thing. I’m trying to build and maintain relationships with others, having others in mind.

That’s really great. I love how you describe watching your mother, how your mother was the people person and how that’s where you think your personality or the character that you were drawn to was really watching your mother in those early years and then how you connect the dots with being a people person to the job that you had as a teller and how that has brought you on this journey for the last 30 to 40 years.

What I also would like you to share with our listeners is… as you know, this is a travel and tourism podcast. What other industries are into the people business more than the travel and tourism industry? I’d like you to share with our listeners a little bit about your journey that did actually bring you into the industry for a period of time because I think you’ve got some very interesting stories from that as well.

I’m glad that you asked this question because I love tourism. I really love the business of tourism. I’ve been around, I think 12 countries, numerous, numerous times on behalf of a company which is a shopping destination in New York, B&H Photo which is where most people know me from. I created a tourism department and created a traffic of tourism. I loved it. Although, in the beginning when I was asked, “What do I know about tourism? I know nothing about tourism.” The CEO said to me, “What do you mean you don’t know anything? You must know something. You’re always coming, you’re going. You’re always busy coming and going so you must know something about tourism.”

I decided I needed the job. “Let me see what I can do here.” They had a small little department with a couple of people working there and I decided that if I want to be successful, I need to find out what the tourist looks for. How does the tourist feel when they come into a big city like New York? For the next two weeks, I went out with a couple of guys who worked with me and said “Let’s be tourists. Let’s look up on the buildings. Let’s eat in the restaurants.” For me, it was kosher restaurants, but I said, “Let’s see what is it that they do. How do they feel? What are they looking for and what kind of experiences are they looking for?”

Source: Pexels

[bctt tweet=”“Put yourself in the tourist’s shoes to see what they’re looking for.” – @coachdstern #WhyCollaborate #Podcast”]

Within weeks, I was amazed at what I found. First of all, it allowed me as a person, as a human being to bring myself down to the level of a person who comes from Spain or from Russia or from China. It doesn’t make a difference where they’re coming from, they’re here as a tourist. They’re here to see, to hear, to feel, to touch New York and it’s such a big beautiful place. I was amazed at what it did for me as a human being, as a person and then I said to myself, “How am I going to do this business?”

I slowly but surely tried different things by building relationships. I knew one thing, I have to build relationships with everyone. If I want a tourist from Tel Aviv to come into my store, I need to find a tour operator who’s selling the ticket or the travel agent who’s selling the ticket. If someone is coming from Argentina, I need to get that person in my store. That’s one thing.

Number two is like, “I’m in New York but I’m only on 34th Street and 9th Avenue.” It’s a big place but it’s a small place based on what New York is all about. I needed to start building relationships with other stores in New York, other sightseeing attractions and shopping destinations in New York. That’s what I started to build. My focus was in a lot of different areas. I was very successful, and I loved it. I did it for 11 years. I was so into it, you would not believe it and I hustled and I really, really, really enjoyed those 11 years that I was representing that shopping destination.

That’s really cool. What I like about what you just explained to us is first of all, that you went out and tried to figure out what does a tourist see, what do they do, what do they experience so you’re trying to understand it through their eyes in order to figure out what you could offer at the business you were representing and then this whole idea of building relationships and looking for those relationships with the travel agency, with the tour operators who are selling the ticket to get the visitors into New York City but then thinking of the other side too and that is building the relationships with the attractions and the other destinations within the area so that you have this larger product that you’re selling and I just think that that’s really cool so I know this is going to be a really good and engaging conversation with you and I’m looking forward to getting started.

I’m excited about it. I want to boil it down to a few areas. Everything like the Empire State Building, sightseeing attractions or buses, whatever the case might be, they’re all tourism destinations, even the hotels in New York City because the people who are coming to New York are staying in hotels. They didn’t have Airbnb at the time. They were staying in hotels. They’re still staying mostly in hotels.

Building relationships with the hotel and the concierges is key. These are all people who somewhat have control who answer questions that a tourist might have, besides a tour operator, besides a travel agency, besides the airline. Who am I going to be in touch with that is going to be in contact with a particular tourist? If you’re hosting people from Sweden or from Finland or from Buenos Aires, it didn’t make a difference to me who you’re hosting. I need to build a relationship with that organization. That was the whole mission.

I love how you broke it right down to, not just the hotels but to the concierge or even a taxi cab driver, I think a lot of times some folks don’t realize that they’re in the tourism industry when they really are, they’re answering those questions and giving advice on where to go and I think that’s really great perspective.

Let me tell you this, Nicole. This is for everybody to know this. At the end when I finished in my 11 years in the company, the idea in the long term picture for me was personally that 50% of the people who come shopping at this destination will come from referrals. That means if I give quality service, very good selection and then price — I call it QSSP, quality of service, selection and price. Price was the last thing.

If I give a quality service and a good selection and have a fair price, there’s a very good chance over a period of time if I build this reputation that when a tourist goes back to wherever they came from, they go back home, chances are they’re going to talk about me, they’re going to talk about New York, they’re going to talk about Las Vegas or wherever they are but they’re also going to talk about what they experienced. If I can get that experience and at the end of 11 years, we did research on this, 50% of the people who walked in our door were referred by others. That’s a big number.

That’s amazing.

It’s not just how much money I spend going to a show or advertising. If I give such a good experience to the tourists, they talk about me. When they talk about me, that doesn’t cost me anything.

That’s really great. That is a big number. I want to make sure our listeners caught that. You called it QSSP?

QSSP. Quality of service, selection, and price.

That’s great. With the emphasis on the quality of service.

100%. Whether you’re a bus company, whether you’re a hotel or a destination, whoever you are, whatever you are — quality of service is ultimate. Make sure that the person who’s coming to visit is happy and excited because chances are they’re going to talk about you.

That’s really awesome. I think that’s really interesting point that the quality of service then selection and then price is the last thing that’s on that list of things. I love how you put the emphasis on the quality of service first. That’s fantastic.

Give tourists a great experience

On this podcast, I know you and I have talked prior to today but we do focus on creativity and collaboration. I’d like to start with a little bit on creativity. I know from our pre-interview conversations that you are very creative and have a lot of great ideas so I’m really looking forward to learning from you.

The first thing that we really like to hear about is the tourism and hospitality industry is very competitive. What strategies do you recommend that will help destinations or tourism businesses stand out from the crowd?

We touched upon it a minute ago — high-quality service is so important. If you are a destination, if you’re upstate New York or you’re downstate, it doesn’t make a difference where you are and if you’re providing a service for the people who are going to come to Rochester or they’re going to come to Solomon County, they want to see whatever it is that you’re offering and if they have a good experience, they’re going to talk about you.

One of the things that I found with tour operators is they didn’t really want commission of the sale in the store on a camera. What they wanted, they were looking for value added because they believed that if we give value added, they give value added to the client, to the tourist then the tourist is going to come back or is going to refer all their people to that particular destination. If you’re a hotel or if you are another destination or sight-seeing organization, if you are going to give a good experience to that person, they’re going to talk about you. There’s a good chance that they’re going to tell three people. If you’re going to give them a bad experience, there’s a very good chance they’re going to tell 10. Which would you prefer?

Source: Pexels

[bctt tweet=”“Whether you give a tourist a good or bad experience, they’re going to talk.” – @coachdstern #podcast”]

Right. I mean that’s that good old adage. I mean that’s been around for a long time. You’re better off winning the customer because the referrals will come but they don’t come at the same rate as the negative comments come.


I think that’s a really good point. Can you share with us some examples of maybe what you did at B&H or what you’ve seen other places do that have delivered this high-quality service?

First of all, at B&H, I made sure that every single person that stands behind a counter as a sales person will speak the language that the tourist is there. If a tourist is coming from Brazil and there, for instance in January and in July, the tourist come from Brazil that we have Brazilian speaking or Portuguese speaking sales people there, speak that language or automatically, they’re in a comfort zone. We had Italians. The tourist who came from Italy went to an Italian Sales person and we had questions, “What language do you prefer to be spoken? English, Spanish, Portuguese, whatever the language?”

Generally speaking, we had. I don’t remember if we had any Russian speaking but we didn’t have too much Russian tourism at the time anyway. Chinese, we didn’t have. They don’t come to buy cameras in New York or electronics because they’re six months ahead of the game in Asia than we are in the United States.

Make sure that a person who comes to the counter feels comfortable.

If you have multilingual people working for you, whether you’re a hotel, whatever the destination, whatever you’re doing in the business — if you have multilingual people working, there’s a good chance that the person is going to enjoy the beginning of that relationship because he’s speaking the same language. We speak a lot of Spanish in New York, we speak a lot of Spanish whether people come from Mexico or South America, but then again remember a lot of people come from Europe. With Europe, it’s German, French, different languages, and if you have people who speak those languages then I would suggest … It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, hire people who are multilingual or speak two, three, four languages.

What I like about that example is speaking the language of the visitor of the customer, what it boils down to what you said is making them feel comfortable so thinking about things like language and make them feel comfortable in your attraction, retail outlet, hotel, whatever it might be. Are there other examples that come to mind?

The service is extremely important. At B&H, we didn’t just hire someone off the street you can be a sales person. They have to be trained on the product that they were selling so they were selling cameras based on the needs of the customer, not the needs or the wants of the sales person. First of all, we never ever pay commission to a sales person so therefore whether you buy an iconic Canon or Minolta, it didn’t make a difference.

It’s based on the need of the customer, what are you going to use it for or how are you going to use it? How much knowledge do you have? How sophisticated are you with cameras? He could sell a camera for $750 but a $280 camera might do the same thing for you. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of stores in New York City. I call it the little shop of horrors where people come in, they’ll sell you the most expensive stuff because you want to buy and you’re going to believe.

Of course, Tourists believe and they trust the person that they’re going into the store they trust the person and I say, “No, exactly the opposite. What are you going to do with it?” I’ll give you an example. I have a very close friend of mine, works for a very large company. He wanted to buy a camera. I said, “You go to B&H.” He went to B&H, he spoke to the sales person, the person says, “How much do you know about cameras? What are you going to use it for?”

He had his eye on a $700 model. He walked out buying a $200 model. He says where in the world can you find a sales person who can sell you something for $700 but only sells $200 because that’s what the customer needed. There was no need to take the extra $500 from that customer. Do you know how many customers that this person had referred to B&H already?

Yeah. I’ll bet. You know what, you keep going back to it, it comes down to people and to relationships.


That’s great.

The other thing is as you get to know tourists, we send a lot of people over to, for instance, Macy’s. Macy’s has a visitor center. In the collaboration between Macy’s and B&H, Macy’s didn’t sell cameras. I don’t know why but they don’t sell and we don’t sell jeans, so we’re a good fit. We would send customers to each other.

You want to buy a shirt, you want to buy a tie, you want to buy a dress, you want to buy shoes, you want to buy a suit, you want to buy an outfit, you go to Macy’s. Here’s a coupon. We would give coupons of other destination shopping whether it was Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Century 21, whatever the case might be, you build relationships with other destinations so you can … As they call it, reciprocate. I send you, you send me, that’s what we did.

That’s great. I mean that’s just another great example. It’s twofold. You’re demonstrating the collaboration between the retail shopping or the attractions and then you’re also providing a higher level service to your customer because you’re able to refer them, you’re able to provide them with coupons and make their whole experience even better. I think that’s just fantastic example. I love it.

How to get tour operators to add your voucher to their itinerary

I want to shift gears just a little bit because we always learn maybe from some of the more challenging times either in our lives or when we face, I know something that’s challenging or an adversity. Is there an example of a challenge that you faced and can you share with us the impact that you experienced as a result?

The first thing that comes to my mind, I went to World Travel Market, I went to FITUR. World Travel Market is in London, FITUR is in Spain. I went to these different shows which are totally tourism related, it’s travel related and I used to participate. I had a booth, I was with NYC & Company so I had people come to me. He says, “What are you doing here? You’re a camera store. You sell electronics.” I asked the question. “Do you sell tickets to New York City?” He says, “Sure, we do.” “What are the chances that your clients might be wanting to create memories and take a picture of New York?”

He said, “There’s a very good chance. He said there’s 99% chance that a tourist comes to New York, any destination, they want to take pictures.” So I said “What happens if they don’t have a camera or they have an old camera, they have a broken camera, what happens, they need a new camera. I am here to introduce my company to you so therefore you can tell the client.” It took me a few years before people caught on that I’m in the tourism business. Am I really in tourism, business? No, I’m into camera business but there are millions of people who come to New York and if I want those people to come into my store, I have to go to them.

I go to Spain, I go to England, I go to Helsinki, Finland. I go to the different shows in Argentina or Brazil. I participate and I come to them and let them know who I am because out of sight, out mind. At the same time, there are 50 million stores, there are hundreds and hundreds of little shops in New York that sell cameras and guess what, yes, they do and they do a good business but they rip off a lot of people also.

The reputation I had was for quality service and that we’re honest. It took me a couple of years until I started to do business. Do you know that when I went to Germany and I had a booth in Germany, everybody knows that I wear my yarmulke. They saw this Jewish guy here with a big that says B&H Photo and it was written in German. People, they looked and they walked by. They didn’t even talk to me to stop to say hello. It took two, three years before I started getting a hello, who are you and what are you doing here.

Guess what? After a while, they started to send their clients to me. I had a whole program with vouchers, with codes and everything else, but it took a while. My biggest challenge was how do I get a tour operator in a foreign country to put in my voucher in their packets with the itinerary? They give them tickets, they give them the hotels, they give them to any of the sightseeing. How do I get a B&H voucher in there? It took a while but you know what, we knew in advance that it’s going to take some time. It’s not going to happen overnight. You need to have a little patience.

Patience is unbelievably so important. Show yourself over, and over, and over again until someone says, “What are you doing here?” There aren’t too many shopping destinations that go out to the shows. Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, some of the big ones, they go out and they were doing the same thing I was doing. I trained them and help them and showed them how to do this. Go out. I remember with Macy’s. Macy’s didn’t go out. I said, “Macy’s, you got to come to World Travel Market. You got to come have a little booth there, show your face, let people know because you’re giving value added. You’re giving a coupon, you’re giving a 10% discount to people who have their coupon, who doesn’t want to shop.”

It was the same thing with the buses — The American Buses Association. They used to have these meetings. You know Charlie and David, unfortunately, is no longer with us, they used to run these meetings so if a bus came to Macy’s, they would park in front of Macy’s and people go shopping because 96% of the free time that a tourist spends in New York City is shopping, so they go to Macy’s.

I would go to Macy’s and I’d have collaborated with Macy’s have a good relationship with Macy’s. Anyone who comes into your center is looking for coupons, “Here, if they need a camera, give them a B&H coupon.” I would help them out as well. I’d help them out to London, I’ve helped them out in Spain, I’ve helped them out in Germany, at ITB, wherever it was, why not? I didn’t need the money. It was helping another person who’s helping me.

That’s great. That question that you posed, how do I get a tour operator to add my voucher to their itinerary? I’ve got to tell you, I think there’s a lot of listeners listening to this podcast saying, “We’re still trying to figure that out.”

Let me tell you how I did it. First of all, every time I went to a show, around the world wherever it was, I made sure that I hired people who speak their language, let’s say in Spain, Madrid who spoke English and Spanish. I need English because I need to communicate with them and I need Spanish because they’re going to communicate with a Spanish speaking community to people who come. They’re the tour operators, travel agents or eventually a lot of times they have people, the public would come in. The Saturday and Sundays, the public would come into the show.

I needed to have someone or a few people depending on where we were, sometimes it was four, sometimes it was six to speak the language. One of the things that we did if you sold New York … For example, let’s say you’re a tour operator. You sold New York as a destination, we swap cards, I gave you a press kit. I told you for two minutes what I was doing. I know you’re busy. You’re moving on to another one. You got to go here, you got to go there and what I made sure when I get back, we followed up.

I got back to that tour operator. It doesn’t mean that they did business with me right there and then. No. Sometimes it could take a year or two or three before they did any business with me. I don’t know but one of the things is the follow-up. If I go out and I collect the 350 cards in London for instance, I made sure that I had staff who did follow up and when I came back to New York, I told my staff, “We had a meeting and I gave everybody a certain amount of these cards, follow up with these people,” and that’s how we built the name.

Not only does the store have to have credibility, the store has to give good service and be honest and credible with the customer, we have to be credible with the tour operator as well. If I’m just there once a year and I just come into say hello and shake your hand, what are you going to do, send me business? No, we need to do follow up. That’s the business of selling. The business of selling is follow up, follow up, follow up. You always have to follow up. If they do business great, if they don’t do business, you still say, “Hello. How are you?” Eventually, they could be doing business with you. You’ll never know.

Source: Pexels

[bctt tweet=”“The business of selling is follow up, follow up, follow up.” – @coachdstern #Podcast”]

I think that that’s just a really great piece of advice that you just gave and I think a lot of people might think that, “Of course, you follow up,” but I know that a lot of folks in this industry and others you get down the road. You’re going from show to show, maybe the cards start piling up on your desk and if you don’t have a plan for that follow-up, it doesn’t happen.

You’re doomed. I understand the feeling. That’s why you pace yourself and once the … I remember the CEO told me. he says, “Listen, David. For the first five years, we’re going to do everything that the industry requires. We’re going to do everything. Then we’ll sit back and figure out what’s working, what’s not working.” I didn’t wait five years, I created codes in order to see the response that came into the store so I knew I had my pulse on the temperature. I knew exactly what’s going on, which countries work more than others, and, what time of year they work better.

I had a matrix on every single one of them but I was able to afford it because I have people working for me. If you’re out there at a show, let’s say, World Travel Market, then you come back and you have to do a follow-up and you have to prepare yourself to go to, let’s say, ITB or you have to go to FITUR, your time management gets all messed up. When time management gets messed up, nothing happens.

Time management is extremely important. Right now, for instance in the morning, we follow up. The first thing we do is follow up with Europeans because they’re five, six, seven hours ahead of us. At 12:00 in the afternoon, New York time, you can’t talk to anyone in London or in Germany because they’re already closed, they’re out so I had to make sure that Europe, we’re going to take care of the first thing in the morning.

South America, we have an hour. We’re going to do that next. We have to strategically know when we’re going to follow up with what type of people, number one. Number two, time management. Manage your time accordingly. I still have to build relationships with NYC & Company. I would go to their events and I’d socialize and get to know all kinds of people so your time management is really, really your calendar. You have to know how to work a calendar and the biggest problem that we have nowadays with sales people is time management.

As a matter of fact, I wrote a blog yesterday, I published it yesterday. It’s about time management and commissions, how they work together. It’s on my blog but that’s stepping aside. Time management is extremely follow up and time management is extremely important.

We’ll try to get a link to that blog on your show notes for this podcast for anyone who’s interested because I think you’re hitting on a really hot topic right here especially in any industry but in the travel and tourism industry just as you just described it, not only do you have the shows you’re going to the follow up that you’re doing, the different time zones that you have to be aware of in your follow up but then there’s a whole local kind of stakeholder building relationships locally that you’re managing as well. I’m sure this can probably be an entire podcast all by itself just talking about time management.

That’s what my book is about, that’s what my seminars are about. That’s a whole story, different story.

David’s book “Are You for Real?!”

Let’s talk a little bit about your book because I’m having a really great time reading it ,and I love the title, “Are You for Real?!: Going from Excuses to Authentic Selling and Living Your Dreams.” Before we dive into these questions, actually, can you share with our listeners how you came to the title because I just think it’s such an awesome title, “Are you for Real?!”

Once I decided to leave the tourism industry, I didn’t know what I was going to do next and friends of mine said to me, “David, you’re a great consultant. Why don’t you become a consultant? Why don’t you become a coach?” I found that in the tourism industry, nobody was interested in consultants. The consultants take money. I picked up on this coaching thing. I said, “What is the difference between coaching and consulting?”

When I was working at B&H Photo, for instance, I brought in over a million people a year who came through the door. Whether they bought or not, I don’t know, but I also documented over $25 million a year in sales. That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of money for who? For the owners of B&H Photo. I made a conscious decision and I said, “Wait a second. Why don’t I go to individuals, to Nicole, to Jack, whatever, whoever it is. If I can help individual people in their lives, in their families be the best that they can be, I’ll feel much better about myself if I helped a hundred rather than help one or two.

I made a conscious decision. I went to school for six months. I went to the coaching business. Someone asked me, “David, what did you learn in the coaching business?” I said, “I learned how to take the R out of free.” Anyway, coaching is listening to people to what the issues are because I came to believe that if you have a problem, there’s a good chance that you have the answer also.

My job is to help you find the answer within your own self because there’s a good chance that you’re going to execute and you’re going to do the right thing in order to eliminate that problem versus a consultant who says you should do this, you should do that.

Having been coaching people and listening to people and asking them questions, one of the questions I heard their comments, I asked them, “Are you for real? Do you really believe what you’re telling me?” It was like it’s a question mark. Are you for real? It was ongoing every day, every other day. I ask that question, are you for real? Every other client, are you for real? Are you for real?

After a while, I decided to write a book. Some friends of mine suggested, “David, you have so much experience, vast experience in the business of selling, in building and maintaining relationships with others. You’ve worked for corporations, you’ve trained some people. Why don’t you put your story in a book?” I’m not a writer. I got myself a publisher who helped me put it all together but it was all in my own voice, very simple English. I never went to school for English. English was my fourth language.

I wrote this book and now it came to a title, I said, “I’m going to give a title. I need a title for my book.” I said, “What do you mean? Are you for real?” I give that as a title. What is the point? It’s going from excuses to authentic selling and living your dreams. It doesn’t have to be selling. Even if you’re not selling. I believe that everybody is in sales. If you’re an accountant, you are in sales. If you’re a husband or a wife, you’re in sales.

I had a client the other day. I was at a show. I was selling my book and a guy said to me, “I’m not in sales.” I said, “What do you do?” He says, “I’m a manager in a warehouse.” I said, “Are you married?” He said, “Yeah, sure.”” I said, “How long have you been married?” He says, “40 years.” “Same wife?” “40 years, the same wife. Thank god. I have a very good relationship.” I said, “Tell me something. How many time did you BS your wife in the last 40 years? How many times did you try to convince her that you were right about something that she should do it your way? How many times did that happen?”

You’re in sales. Everybody is in sales, but being authentic has nothing to do with sales. Being authentic in a relationship with another person is so powerful, it’s unbelievable and that’s what my book is about. It’s about a mixture of selling but it’s about self and personal development which by the way it wasn’t until my age of 31 years old that I was lucky enough to get in with someone a mentor in New York who had a class on personal relationships and building and maintaining relationships within your own self as well, personal growth, that that changed everything about me. Now, it’s all in the book.

That’s great. Your story is in the book which is why I’m enjoying reading it so much because it’s not just a road map or a how to, it’s actually very personal and I’m enjoying all the stories from your life and how they relate to the methodologies in what you’re teaching the book. I think that’s really awesome. David, what is maybe a number one take away from your book that you think professionals in the tourism industry should really pay attention to?

I’ve watched the tourism industry for a very, very long time and unfortunately, I don’t know if I’m right, but a lot of companies only care about the dollar. They care about the money. How much money are we going to take in? How many rooms are we going to sell? How many tickets on a bus are we going to sell? How many tickets on a cruise are we going to sell? That’s all they care about. I say that if you turn around and talk about the experiences that you’re going to offer to the people who are buying your tickets, it’ll make such a big difference.

Source: Pexels

[bctt tweet=”“Talk about the experiences that you’re going to offer your guests.” – @coachdstern #WhyCollaborate #Podcast”]

I used to go to the shows. I mean for 11 years I was at the shows. I was proactive. I’m a proactive person. I try to make things happen. If it works, fine. If it doesn’t work, move on. Try something else. Don’t wait for something to happen. Make it happen and that is the difference. If you are in the business of tourism today, you have to make it happen. That means if you’re going to ITB, if you’re going to a show, don’t sit behind the counter and wait for some tour operator to come by and ask me who you are, what is it that you do? Go after the tour operator. Make appointments.

Be proactive rather than reactive. At the end of the day, if the relationship that you have with the boss or the owner of your property or destination, you have to say, “What are they looking for?” One of the biggest issues that we have today is a lack of communications. We don’t communicate properly so I can say I want one thing, you’re thinking or hearing something else. I don’t know how to speak with you. You don’t know how to speak with me. We don’t speak the same language so you’re doing a job.

What is a job, J-O-B? Just over broke. You get paid enough so you don’t quit and you work hard enough so you don’t get fired. You have to have a goal attached to it. How do you have a goal? If I have for instance a hotel. If I have a property, I don’t know, it’s Albany, New York City, it doesn’t make a difference. What do I want to do? I want to run a 99% capacity, 100% capacity. That’s the goal. The owner or the manager, the VP whoever that you’re working with, we all have to have a focus on those goals.

How are we going to make those goals happen? It’s not going to happen on its own. You have to make it happen. being proactive, making it happen so every single day when you leave the office, what did I do today to further and get ahead to get closer to my goal? What do I have to do tomorrow that’s going to get me to my goal? How do I waste time and maybe if I don’t go out for long lunches and drinks with friends because it’s not goal oriented, maybe I should change. I need to look at myself.

I have to become aware, I have to accept and then I have to take certain steps of action to change in order for me to get better whether it’s personally or in the business of tourism, how do I achieve my goal? How many people know about Maid of the Mist, for instance, Niagara Falls. A lot of people know Niagara Falls. If Niagara Falls or Maid of the Mist had last year, 800,000 passengers, I’m just throwing numbers out. I’m not sure. I’m just using a name as an example.

I want to get more. I want to get 825, 850. What did I do to get to 800? What do I have to do to get the extra 50? I want to go over goal. What do I have to do? I have to really immerse myself into the business. Basically, what we’re doing is selling. We’re always selling. Being able to have a goal to communicate to make sure that everybody is on the same page, people who work with you or work beside you or work for you or you work for that everybody is on the same page who have the same vision. We’re going to the same place. Sometimes it’ll take people longer, sometimes it will be a little slower, depending on where you are, depending on what you’re doing? You always have to be focused on your goals.

That’s a really great insight and I like how you just took us through that starting with be proactive. Don’t wait for something to happen, make it happen but then even went a little bit deeper and talked about tying yourself to goals, being aware of what the goals are and of what you’re doing to accomplish those goals and sharing a vision. I think those are really great pieces of advice and I know you go into detail on a lot of that in your book and I really appreciate you sharing those with us.

Being authentic

I also know in your book, you talk a lot about authenticity. It’s actually in your title. You call it authentic selling and authenticity is something that we’ve been talking about travel and tourism for quite some time but more and more travelers are looking for those authentic experiences. Can you talk about why you think authenticity is so important?

Absolutely. Let me ask you a question? You go to visit Las Vegas. Do you want to get information from sightseeing shopping, where to play, where to see what kind of shows from someone who has been there, who’s doing it, who’s involved in it, who’s real or someone who’ll just be asking you, “Which one? Choose?”


That’s your answer. It’s very simple, very simple. We look to be authentic. Does that mean, we don’t make mistakes? We make mistakes but if we make mistakes we clean it up. We’re only human beings. We’re not perfect. The only time I claim we’re perfect is when we’re six feet under. That’s when we’re perfect. Until then, we make mistakes. You know what, sometimes we’ll mistreat someone by accident. We apologize. We follow up. We don’t shy away. We don’t say, “Yeah, I’m going to do that tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.” No, no, no. Take care of your business.

Regarding authenticity, someone who’s in the business…maybe they make money offered. Maybe they earn a dollar offered or maybe not but people are not stupid. They can tell if someone is real, who’s authentic or someone who’s just fake. You see it all the time. If you’re going to the grocery store, you’re going to shop a product, you can tell if someone is trying to pull one over on you. Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t and on very plain English, we get screwed over. It happens, unfortunately, but as long as we address it.

We don’t say it happened and therefore I’m going to let it go. We try to do something about it. We try to bring it to their attention but we have to be honest, we have to be fair, we have to communicate. Most people want to be authentic. They want to be real. The tourist for sure is looking for a real experience. Don’t BS them and say, “You’re going to have the greatest of time,” and you take them to a destination or something and they have a miserable time.

I’m not saying if it’s raining or snowing or sleeting or whatever. There’s nothing you can do about that but don’t promise something that you cannot deliver. If you cannot deliver, don’t promise. Just so they should look good, just so you pocket books should fill up, just so you should be able to write in order, don’t do it. Don’t do it.

Don’t say, “I have a bus company.” One of the relationships- they go to Washington. How many people come from all over the world, they want to see Washington? Their mainstay is New York. You can get a bus for $20, $25. You can go to Washington DC and back. Washington means Washington. Not Bethesda, Maryland or Arlington, Virginia, Washington. Be authentic, be real. Sell them Washington. Don’t sell them Arlington and then they’re going to have to figure out a way how to get to Washington. You want to say, “Sorry. I only have Arlington, Virginia, and Bethesda. You can take a cab or you can whatever.” Be honest, be honest.

Source: Pexels

[bctt tweet=”“Be honest, fair, and communicate.” – @coachdstern #Podcast”]

Be honest, fair, and communicate. I think those are three really great principles that you’ve summed up right there as being key for authenticity.


If you can’t help a customer, refer them to someone who can

David, I want to talk a little bit about collaboration and I know we are getting towards the end of our conversation here. You did talk a little bit about collaboration when we’re talking about creativity and about working with Macy’s and cross promoting businesses. When I think about selling and I tend to agree with you that everyone is always selling. We are always selling no matter if it’s in your personal relationships or in your professional relationships. I look at selling as the ultimate collaboration between say a vendor or a business and a customer, how do you see collaboration working into the sales process?

I’m in the coaching field. A lot of times, people come in with different questions, different issues that I don’t really have experience in and if I don’t have experience in it, I can’t help you. What I would do is say I know other coaches or other people that could. I’m not getting paid for it but I am being honest enough to say, “I’d love to help you but I can’t. I know someone who can.” When you’re in the business of tourism, if you can’t help a particular client or a bunch of people, group of people with whatever they need but you do know someone else who does, you push them over even though you’re not going to make a nickel on it.

You refer them to someone who can take care of them and chances are, it’s going to come back to you tenfold. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people who are in the give and take business. You give, I take. No. You give sometimes, you give someone a referral. You refer a group. You know how many times I refer groups to hotels? Refer them. Do I say, “Oh, I need a commission?” No. Refer people, help people. I’m here to help. If I have a group coming and I need to refer them to someone else, I refer because they can do a better job giving them what they need.

I have to build a relationship to get to know who in the industry — and I have it on file. I learn about them. I get to see them often. I get to talk to them. I get to learn about them because I’m not going to give them to a shyster to someone who’s no good. I’m going to give them to someone. I’m going to refer to someone who understands, knows the business who service is top notch in their mind.

You collaborate this way. When I send people to Bloomingdales or to Macy’s or to City Sights or to Gray Line or to Circle Line, I didn’t make any money on it. I put people together. I was the matchmaker which I was when I was 15 years old, selling used appliances. Someone bought and someone was selling and I was the matchmaker. Guess what, I’m doing the same thing now.

That’s a really great analogy. Isn’t that interesting how your life journey comes full circle? What I really do like about what you’re explaining is it really does go right back to where we started in this conversation which is about building those relationships and you said you are giving the referrals but not just to anybody. You’ve vetted these people out first and understanding, not only are you being a match maker but you’re doing the work for the person to make sure that they’re being referred to somebody who is honest and trustworthy and all of those things that they would expect from you.

Right. One of the things that you have to extremely cautious is don’t be selfish. Don’t be selfish. Be selfless but don’t be selfish. Learn who does what in your area. Let’s say you’re in a region, learn who does what. How can I help another person? If you have a good relationship with that person, that person is going to do the same thing for you. You never know how it’s going to turn around. If I give you a referral, there’s a good chance you’re going to refer back to me. I call up, Nicole. I said, “Nicole, here’s a referral for you. Speak to this person.”

There’s a good chance, Nicole is going to say speak to David. I get to know Nicole, Nicole gets to know me. What’s the difference if it’s Duchess County or Orange County, this county, that county and the tourism business or whatever, refer. People are going to refer back. Build relationships. That’s why when we go to shows and we go to all these different places we communicate. We schmooze. We’re not selfish. It’s like, how can I help you? What can I do for you? The me-me factor is horrible. If you take the M and turn it into W, just turn it upside down, it’s we. There’s a big difference between we and me. Big difference.

That’s great. I’ve never heard that before turn the M upside down. I like that. I think we’ll have to use that.

Feel free.

David, I really enjoyed our conversation and you provided us with so many insights. Are there any final thoughts that you’d like to share with our listeners before we sign off today?

Let me do this. As we talked about my book, “Are you for Real?!” Which by the way it’s on my website, coachstern.com. What I am offering to any single person who’s listening to this podcast, I’m going to send you an autographed copy, number one. Number two, every chapter has questions. It has chapter takeaways. If you can answer those questions, you’re on target to really, really do well. I find that a lot of people have difficulties. What I am offering is every single person who is buying this not only do I give them the autograph, I’ll give them a 45-minute complimentary session.

The Same way we’re talking now on Skype. I will talk to the person for 45 minutes and help that person with any questions that they might have. That’s my offer. It’s an investment. Very simple reading. The hardest part in the book are the questions after each chapter and I promise you that if you start looking at yourself, it’s going to be a big, big, big difference, big difference. I wish everybody luck. You go to my website, coachstern.com. You can see my blog there, you can see my book there. That’s what I have, the special offer. I look forward to anybody who’s looking for any help, I’m here to help.

That’s fantastic and that’s a really nice offer and the 45-minute complimentary session of it, thank you. That’s very generous of you. I’ve really enjoyed talking with you today, David and I know our listeners got a lot out of this and I’m sure we would love to have you back on. Maybe we’ll dive a little bit deeper into some of these topics that you’re so knowledgeable about but thank you very much for spending today with us.

Thank you and have a great day, and good luck to everybody.

Ways to contact David:


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