In Am I Being Too Subtle Zell tells his long awaited story of his entrepreneurial adventures. As a son of Polish immigrants who escaped Europe before WWII through Japan to evade the Nazis wrath. He grew up in Chicago on the west side and eventually moved to Highland Park. At a young age Zell had a feel for business and hustled to sell magazines to his friends in the suburbs at at $2.50 markup. He initially got his start in real estate in Ann Arbor, MI during his undergraduate years when he convinced a real estate group to let him and a friend manage the property. Being students themselves they were able to tap into the mindset of their fellow students by making the living spaces more modern. He ended up buying properties in Ann Arbor where there was little competition in the "tier 2,3" cities. He replicated this success across other campuses and cities like Reno, NV while picking up some life long business partners like Bob Lurie.
Zell adopted a high risk high reward mentality that led to his nickname as the grave dancer. Through evaluation of the real estate market he was able to forsee the real estate crash of the 1970s and was able to purchase properties for pennies on the dollar.
Another tactic that he used was leveraging his understanding of the law from his time at U of M law school to see the hidden value in several companies. Due the Economic Recovery Tax Act, which as a complicated piece of legislation, Zell was able to recognize the value of net operating loss carry forwards (NOLs).
Zell expanded his empire outside of the real estate world and started purchasing public companies with large NOLs to shield profits and increase profitability through the reduction of tax payments. Due to the complexity around NOLs most of his competitors did not dare touch them so he was able to take advantage of their inactivity.
How this relates to sales: Zell actually took a role where he was cold calling and said that his experience getting rejected time and time again led to him being unafraid of asking for "unreasonable" requests. Zell recalled his time in Ann Arbor when he needed one last property on the block but the owner refused to sell to a plethora of prior real estate firms. Zell was firm in his belief in himself that he would be able to break that chain. Instead of stopping at the superficial no, he dug deep and understood that one of the main reasons why the owner refused to sell was because a family member needed to be walking distance to the downtown bars and needed a wing of the house to himself with out stairs. Zell was able to find the true objection and problem solve to close the deal. Similar to every sales process, there is a true reason why the buyer will make the purchase and it is paramount that the seller uncovers this and aligns the solution to their problem.
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