I just finished one of the best books I’ve read in years: Who Is Michael Ovitz?
Ovitz was the “super agent” who created the CAA talent agency. He represented the biggest names in entertainment from the 1970s – 1990s, including Robert Redford, Tom Cruise, Paul Newman, Stephen Spielberg, Robert De Niro and many others.
He was also the driving force behind movies like Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List and Ghostbusters. He built a behemoth company and made hundreds of millions of dollars along the way, and made numerous enemies for life b/c of his notorious ruthlessness.
The book was excellent b/c Ovitz shared the inside scoop on his amazing climb to success, on his many failures, and on numerous famous Hollywood personalities and events.
One of my biggest takeaways from the book, however, was not his fascinating life; it was his amazing sales skills. The guy was just a super salesman.
1. Picked up the phone: He made or received as many as 300 calls per day!
2. Shared inside/valuable info: To win clients over he constantly shared trade secrets and valuable info that other firms were afraid to share.
3. Gifts: He had an entire gifting operation at his firm, with gifts going out constantly to everyone – clients and non-clients alike. Books, scripts and gifts were showing up constantly
4. Researched potential clients: Before meeting with a new client, he researched and memorized everything about them.
5. Found common ground with everybody: He always found something he had in common with every client. His “in” with Paul Newman for example was a mutual love of racing cars.
6. Asked for business: He was utterly fearless in asking for business.
Ovitz admitted that he was ruthless, vindictive and often petty (his stories are great). But there is no denying that his success was the result of extremely hard work.
If any salesperson alive does even 50% of what Ovitz did, they will earn seven figures selling anything.
Here are a few other interesting tidbits about Ovitz.
Late into his career, he turned himself into a self-taught mergers and acquisitions specialist (something Investment Bankers spend twenty to thirty years doing).
He also turned himself into an advertising expert, stealing the Coke account from the biggest advertising agency in the country.
And finally, he never retired and is now working full time in Silicon Valley as a Venture Capitalist even though he has a net worth of $500 million and is well into his 70s.
I highly recommend Mr. Ovitz’ excellent book.
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