The economy won't improve until you do.
That was the message about 250 salespeople heard Wednesday at Statler City from Los Angeles-based motivational speaker, author and salesman Grant Cardone.
"When Lehman collapsed, I turned to my wife and said, 'This is the biggest opportunity of my lifetime,' " Cardone said.
Some of the world's most successful companies launched or expanded during a recession, he said, citing McDonald's, Microsoft and Apple.
"When things get tough, people react the same way. When you get hit, you want to fold up and defend yourself," Cardone said. "The most difficult thing to do is to expand into that contraction."
But that's what people living in Western New York have to do to succeed, he said. They should seize on the difficult economy they live in as an equally great opportunity.
While everyone else is being cautious and playing defense, he said, aggressive professionals can go out and steal their market share. When the competition is weakened and unprepared, that's the time to go on the attack.
When everyone does that, that's when a local economy improves, elevating the rest of the country with it, he said.
"Every person who doesn't contribute their whole ability is holding their city back," he said.
Cardone made Buffalo one of 20 pro bono stops on his speaking tour at the urging of Sean Kipp, a general sales manager at Towne Hyundai who has been following Cardone's training methods for 10 years and organized the event.
"I wrote to him and said Buffalo could really use his message. I said I've been living here my whole life and believe in its ability to be great," Kipp said. "I thought we could all use the extra juice he could give us to go out and make things happen."
Tickets to hear Cardone speak usually fetch $495. He charges $25,000 to deliver a keynote address, according to Jarrod Glandt, sales and marketing manager at Cardone Enterprises.
Sales professionals from varied fields -- real estate, media, finance -- were in the audience, many of them having been urged or even assigned to attend by the companies they work for.
"If you have a motivated sales force, they will perform better," said Prasad Balkundi, assistant professor of organization and human resources in the University at Buffalo's School of Management. "The way they interact with people is important. You want their demeanor to be energetic and happy."
Attending motivational talks by speakers like Cardone is one way to pump up that sales force. And if anyone needs a shot in the arm, it's people who deal with rejection day in and day out.
Sometimes, it's not so much what a motivational speaker says, but how he or she says it and whether it gets people energized to go out and make another sales call.
"There are some speakers who give you to-do lists," Balkundi said. "They say, 'Here are six things you can do to be more successful.' Others use a more philosophical pitch to inspire; they give a larger vision. At the end, individuals come out really happy, but it's left on the individual to decide how to extract the take-away."
John Boscarino, a salesman at Canandaigua Chrysler Dodge Jeep, was sent to the event by his sales manager.
Boscarino latched onto Cardone's advice to "grab attention" and said he was fired up to get back onto the showroom floor and sell.
"I'm going to grab attention," he said. "I'm going to stick out, be more friendly. Even if I know someone is just there for service, I'm going to talk to them, be engaging."
Perhaps Joshua Schneider, founder of prime3coaching, gleaned the most practically applicable bits from Cardone's talk. He coaches financial professionals and entrepreneurs and gives motivational speeches. He came from Rochester to hear Cardone speak.
"It got me jazzed up to speak at the University of Rochester tonight," Schneider said. "I heard some things I can easily incorporate into my talk, ways to say what I believe so much more clearly."