Solon Man's Pitch Nets Toastmasters Honor
By NANCY REMLEY
THE TIMES REPORTER
You can’t lift a glass high enough to toast Solon resident Hal Becker, this year’s Toastmasters International Communication and Leadership Award recipient.
The award is presented once every eight years in Northeast Ohio to an individual who has demonstrated excellence in communication and leadership skills, and made exceptional contributions to the community.
Mr. Becker received the award June 16 at the Toastmasters International Region VI Conference for his accomplishments as an internationally known expert on sales and customer service, a best-selling author and keynote address speaker.
Born I Cleveland Heights in 1955, Mr. Becker attended Cleveland Heights High School and received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from John Carroll University.
He landed his first job out of college with Xerox Corporation at 22 years old where he was named the number on salesperson among a national sales team of 11,000.
In 1983, he left Xerox to found Direct Opinions, one of the first customer-service telemarketing firms in the country. “At that time, there was nothing like that out there,” Mr. Becker said. “I was literally inventing a company.”
His accelerated success hit a brick wall later that year at age 28 when he was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes and given five months to live. Nine months later, after aggressive chemotherapy and experimental treatments, he beat the cancer.
In 1984, he started the nonprofit cancer hotline of Cleveland to provide support and information for cancer patients and their families. “I was so sick. I was dying,” he said. “I wanted somebody I could talk to who knew what I was going through, but there was nobody there. I got lucky, and I wanted to give something back.”
In 1990, Mr. Becker sold Direct Opinions, which had expanded to nearly 2,000,000 follow-up service calls for companies throughout the United States and Canada, to concentrate primarily on delivering lectures and seminars. He has conducted nearly 150 presentations each year for almost 200 organizations and companies around the world, including AT&T, IBM, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the U.S Post Office, and Walt Disney attractions.
Mr. Becker, 46, is working on his third book. His first book, the national best-seller, “Can I Have 5 Minutes of Your Time?” is in its 12 th printing and is used by many corporations as their “sales bible.”
He said he plans to reduce his presentations from 150 to 108. In his free time, he can be found power-parachuting high about the rooftops in Solon, where “everybody knows it’s me.”
As for his success in sales, he attributes that to honesty, integrity, and focus, which he defines as the backbone of salesmanship.
“When somebody gets it, and their eyes light up, and they find out what it is to truly be a salesperson compared to what they thought it would be. What a thrill! Then you feel really good about it,” Mr. Becker said.
And that’s no sales pitch.