Sales Motivator Puts Humor Into Success



Hal Becker, of Solon, flies a powered parachute all summer and says he enjoys meeting “goofy people” with a sense of humor. Underneath his fun-loving exterior, though, he’s a best-selling author, sales training guru, successful businessman, contributor to the community – and a cancer survivor.

It’s all in his Palm Pilot: the memories and pictures from his quick rise to Xerox Corp.’s No. 1 salesperson at age 22 among a national sales force of 11,000; his battle with life-threatening cancer at age 28; and his founding and eventual sales of Direct Opinions, one of the first customer service telemarketing firms in the country.

He now presents nearly 180 lectures annually on sales and customer service is vice president and in line to be president of the Solon Chamber of Commerce and continues to be a prolific writer.

“I take what I do seriously, but I don’t take myself seriously,” he said.

Recently back from a week of giving sales training presentation in Columbus, Detroit, Toledo, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Miami, Mr. Becker discussed his life’s successes and challenges, along with his latest book, “Get What You Want! A Fun, Upbeat and Fresh Approach to Negotiating!”

Mr. Becker’s national bestsellers include “Can I Have Five Minutes of your Time?” a book about salesmanship now in its 15 th printing, and “Lip Service,” on customer service. His latest work, co-authored by his lifelong friend, John Lief, provides a lighthearted, easy-to-read approach to the art of negotiations.

“An individual’s success at negotiating is more important than ever,” Mr. Becker said. “We’re so busy being busy that we move through our lives on auto pilot… missing many negotiating opportunities that are presented to us.”

“Get What You Want” helps readers learn how to negotiate like the pros and create a win-win for themselves and the people thy face in countless interactions each day, he said.

Published by Oakhill Press, the book presents the basics of negotiation, practical use in everyday situations and stories by business leaders and others on negotiations that succeeded and failed.

It includes stories ranging form Mr. Becker’s own dealings with subcontractor who poured his driveway to strategies by former state Sen. Grace Drake, R-Solon, for bill passage and Cleveland’s success in becoming the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“Hal’s and Jon’s approach to negotiation is unique, entertaining and very funny,” said Bob Eubanks, host of the “The Newlywed Game.” “This is a book everybody should read.”

“Hal’s and Jon’s approach to negotiation is unique, entertaining and very funny,” said Bob Eubanks, host of the “The Newlywed Game.” “This is a book everybody should read.”

The book represents another successful enterprise for Mr. Becker, who began his career after receiving his bachelor of arts at John Carroll University. He wanted to sell medical supplies but received a job offer from Xerox, he said.

“I though I’d stick it out for a year,” said Mr. Becker, who’s originally from University Heights. However, once he started working for the company, he found the “training incredible” and inspiring. “I read every book, listened to every tape and attended every seminar I could go to on sales.” His passion catapulted him to the top salesman’s spot.

A car purchased a few years later gave him the idea of entrepreneurship. After buying the vehicle, the dealer called him to find out if he was satisfied. “I though this was a cool idea for a business,” he said. He created Direct Opinions in 1982 and developed it into a company with nine offices in major cities throughout the United States and Canada.

His path was not completely smooth, however. Just after launching Direct Opinions, Mr. Becker discovered that he had cancer. He had no disability insurance and continued working as he battled the disease.

“My parents drove me around so that I could make sales calls on my better days,” he said. He keeps handy a photo of himself at 83 pounds with burn marks on his arms from chemotherapy as a reminder to appreciate his life today.

“I don’t have a bad day, said Mr. Becker, looking at the photo. “Every time I give my seminar, I give it like it’s the last one I’ll do. I find that, if I view my life that way, I get a lot more enjoyment out of it.”

Mr. Becker, who has lived with his wife, Holly, and daughter Nicole, 13, in Solon for eight years, sold Direct Opinions in 1990 at the age of 36. “I always wanted to be an author and lecturer,” he said. “It was my dream at age 21.”

Aside from still working 60 hours a week, Mr. Becker ahs devoted part of his life to community service. He founded the Cancer Hotline of Cleveland, a nonprofit organization that provides support and assists cancer patients and their families, and he donates proceeds of his books to the cause.

After serving 18 years on the board of the Council of Smaller Enterprises, Mr. Becker became involved in the Solon Chamber of Commerce. “I like being involved in my own community,” he said. “It’s an honor to be on the chamber board. He said the Solon chamber, which has over 500 members, is “one of the largest local chambers in the state.”

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