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More Must-See TV For Entrepreneurs

Infomercial Superstar Forbes Riley & Steve Sipress goofing around at a recent marketing event

Infomercial Superstar Forbes Riley & Steve Sipress goofing around at a recent marketing event

I received some interesting feedback – both on the post itself and in person – from last Wednesday’s post, in which I listed a couple of dozen television shows that are, for the most part, about entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Today, a new, broader list.

But first, a comment on the feedback I received…

Almost everyone was thankful, of course, and many even chimed in with their own entrepreneur-based favorites that didn’t make my list. But a few people took a “holier than thou” stance, damning the entire medium and boldly proclaiming something about how “I threw my TV off the balcony years ago” or “I’m proud to say I haven’t watched any television for the past 42 years.”

Some even cited motivational kings Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar or Brian Tracy, all encouragers of less television watching. But while those success coaches, and others, have always alerted people to the danger of watching too much television, becoming addicted to it or mindlessly wasting one’s time with it, to my knowledge none of them ever advocated unplugging from the medium entirely.

That would be like saying, “I never access the Internet because surfing the Web can be a real time-waster” or “I don’t even own a computer because there are a lot of useless websites out there.”

I remember being taught to get rid of my TV altogether by mentors of mine long ago, but that was when I had signed up for a multi-level network marketing company. Those leaders meant well, of course, but most certainly had an ulterior motive for convincing me that all TV’s were somehow evil and I should instead be out on the road every night, meeting with people face-to-face in their homes to get them to “drink the same Kool-Aid” and start buying their soap from my company.

Here’s the danger in that approach…

Smart marketers know that to best connect with our clients and prospects, we need to stay in tune with what’s going on in their mind. And since the overwhelming majority of Americans watch way too much television, it’s often a smarter approach to “tap into the flow” instead of stubbornly fight an un-winnable battle to somehow convince people to get rid of their TVs altogether (and be looked at as a raving lunatic in the process, as if we were trying to get seniors to vote for us while calling Social Security “a Ponzi scheme”).

If Americans are infatuated with “Dancing With the American Idol Biggest Losers Who’ve Got Talent,” then it will definitely help me connect with and get through to them if I know at least something about what’s going into their minds, even if I don’t stay glued to every pearl of wisdom that comes out of the mouth of Paula Abdul.

And thanks to the invention of the TiVo or other “personal recording devices,” we can now tape programming we want to watch and not let television control us or determine our personal schedules. A friend of mine who came over to my house a couple of weeks ago was baffled that I had taped the NFL’s opening night game and waited until it was nearly over to even turn on the TV. I then proceeded to watch the entire game in about an hour (zipping through all the commercials and huddles, but not missing a single play). “Why would you want to tape a live sporting event?” he asked me. Alas, not everyone values his time – or enjoys exercising control over it – as much as I do.

With that being said, here are some more suggestions for television watching – these not necessarily based on or about entrepreneurs:

1) Infomercials and home shopping networks – No, I’m not suggesting entrepreneurs start staying up all night or endlessly flipping through obscure channels, but taping the best ones to study can pay big dividends in one’s own sales and marketing efforts (you know which ones are good, because they are aired repeatedly). EVERYTHING in the big-money, high-stakes world of infomercials and selling shows is tracked, so if a particular item is being presented over and over, you know its process is working.

The writers, producers, directors and stars of these shows (see photo above of Infomercial Superstar Forbes Riley and me goofing around at a recent marketing event) are absolute masters of persuasion (be careful – you may want to watch only shows about products you have absolutely no interest in, lest this academic exercise become a costly one!).

2) News and political shows – Again, the aim is to stay abreast of what one’s prospects and clients are thinking while not getting sucked into any particular show’s agenda. I like to know what top stories people are following (and talking about with friends, family and co-workers), but that doesn’t mean I mindlessly watch entire newscasts filled with obscure or “human interest” stories that the show’s producers use to fill up their allotted time slots.

Because I have clients in all types of businesses with a wide range of target markets, I like to watch “The Daily Show,” “Rachel Maddow,” “Bill Maher” and such to stay aware of what far left-leaning lunatics are thinking, and the Fox “News” Channel to chuckle at how far-righters present their view of “the facts.” Again: The key is to watch for observation purposes and not to get swayed by or caught up in any particular show or viewpoint. And if you know your own target market, then you may be able to get away with keeping up with only that one viewpoint.

3) Detective and legal-related shows – Any of the seemingly dozens of various “CSI” or “Law & Order” shows and the like can be great for developing consultative sales skills because one can’t help but notice how skillfully the protagonists ask questions in order to uncover the truth and get others to provide information (and eventually confess to their heinous crimes — isn’t it amazing how criminals on TV are often so willing to explain their entire plan, including motive, instead of simply saying, “I want a lawyer”?).

“The Mentalist” (CBS) is a particular favorite of mine, to see how a modern-day Sherlock Holmes-type amazes people with his seemingly “magical” ability to know the truth when all he really does is concentrate and observe things that most people mistakenly ignore or gloss over. A lesson for all small-business owners, entrepreneurs and salespeople: those who make only a casual study of their target market, competitors, overall business trends and the history of their particular industry will always be amazed at the success of those of us who are serious and intense about our research and observations. The lazy ones often even try to convince themselves that we are just “lucky.”

I hope this make sense to you, and helps you in your never-ending quest to become a better entrepreneur, business owner or sales professional.

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