MB: You were promoted in 2005, 2006 and 2007 at two different companies. What do you think you're doing right?
Bagan: My job is about leadership. I have tried to coach my salespeople never to use the word "advertising." If you go to a supplier and talk about an ad program, the best you're going to get is a good ad program. With consumer products companies, for example, we talk about how we're going to help the supplier move up in the decision-making queue. We help them become a strategic partner with a retailer. Any company can quickly calculate their ROI on improving their relationships with their customers' leaders.
MB: When salespeople walk out of such a meeting, what do they have other than an advertising program?
Bagan: The customer still may buy some ads, but the goal is to create a different relationship with a client, not as an ad seller but as a solution provider. A client who sees your value in that way will also buy special reports, supplements, webinars—and they'll want to participate in face-to-face events.
People always talk about listening to customers and meeting their needs, but not everyone does it because it's a much harder job.