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Bagan: Listening is the harder job

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Dan Bagan kept his title as senior VP at Penton Media but took charge of a larger portfolio in December. In addition to the Food/Retail Group, he picked up Penton's printing, construction and electrical titles, as well as the Fire Chief brand. Bagan joined Penton when it acquired the B2B Retail Group from Fairchild Publications in November 2006. He was VP-publishing director at Fairchild from 2001 to 2005.

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.

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