How Reverend Billy Graham Taught Me The Secret to Sales and Marketing

One of the great experiences in my career was being asked by entertainer singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins to host his “Unity Shoppe Telethon” in Santa Barbara, California. We were on the air for 12 hours and raised $725,000 with studio guests that included actors Jeff Bridges, Kevin Costner and Rob Lowe, recording artist David Crosby, Billboard Songwriter Hall of Famer Jeff Barry, super model Cheryl Tiegs, STP racing mogul/philanthropist Andy Granatelli, and many more!

The evening after this tremendous event, we hosted a thank-you dinner at San Ysidro Ranch, where I was seated next to the legendary and iconic Hollywood actress Jane Russell. Although she was now an elderly woman I was smitten by her natural sex appeal, her oozing charm and unspoken sophisticated elegance – a true “Grand Dame” in every sense of the word! When I walked to my room that night I immediately Googled Jane Russell and checked out her films on the internet. Before I went to sleep I had watched her classic “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ also starring Marilyn Monroe.

Most interesting to me was Ms. Russell’s answer to my question, “Who was one of the most influential people in her life?” Without hesitation she responded, “Reverend Billy Graham.” I asked her to explain.

With a smirk she whispered, “I am nothing like the sassy, brassy, sultry, buxom bombshell portrayed in my public image. I am a devout Christian and have held weekly Bible classes at my home for decades.” Surprised and mesmerized, I moved closer to get the full scoop. Ms. Russell continued.

“In the 1940s, little known Billy Graham traveled throughout the United States and Europe as an evangelist with an organization called ‘Youth for Christ International. In 1949, Graham, who was then 30-years-old, came to Los Angeles and scheduled three-weeks of ”Christ for Greater Los Angeles” revival meetings, held in a tent in a parking lot.

“What I was told by my friend and publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst,” Ms. Russell continued, “is that one of his wilder worldly sons attended the first of Graham’s nightly sermons and was so moved that he returned home to the Castle and reported his experience to his dad. His son continued to attend the meetings each night and returned from every sermon more excited about the changes he had made in his life. Curious about why his son was healthier and happier than he had been in years, William decided to check it out, and arrived at the revival tent in his wheelchair, incognito, wearing a disguise, accompanied by his longtime mistress and actress Marion Davies.

Obviously William was deeply moved by Billy Graham’s message and mesmerizing delivery style, because the very next day Hearst sent a two-word directive to each of his editors in the Hearst chain of papers, major national magazines, and wire services that simply said, ‘Puff Graham.’ Ms. Russell continued, “The sudden front-page coverage showered on Graham by Hearst newspapers in mid-October (after three weeks of little notice), was quickly matched by other newspapers and news magazines, creating a literal media circus that descended on his rallies. William Hearst’s intervention prompted the revival to run eight weeks – five weeks longer than planned – and within a few weeks Billy Graham transitioned from itinerant evangelist to an internationally prominent religious figure. Although William Randolph Hearst never met Billy Graham, it was Hearst’s directive, ‘Puff Graham’ – which meant ‘Push and Promote, Feature and Focus’ on Graham – that immediately created his career.”

Ms. Russell, with a twinkle in her eye, then confessed that she, with a long list of Hollywood celebrities including cowboy singer-songwriter Stuart Hamblen, World War II hero/POW Louis Zamperini, and fellow actors June Lockhart, Dennis Morgan, Virginia Mayo, Porter Hall, Connie Haines, Michael O’Shea, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, never would have heard of Billy Graham (at least not in L.A. at that time in their lives), and perhaps would not have converted to Christianity, if it had not been for William Randolph Hearst ‘Puffing and Pushing Graham.’

So what are we to learn about sales and marketing from this story? There are three sales and marketing strategies that will kick-start every career and/or accelerate every product and service launch:

1. We must identify and create a meaningful relationship with an “Inside Champion,” who’s in a position to connect us with the right people at the right time in the right place. We must develop trusting relationships with the “Gate Keepers” and Administrative Assistants in the organizations where we want to conduct business. In order to enter a ‘gated community’ without being invited by a resident, we must gain the trust and friendship of the ‘Security Guard’ who decides who comes and goes.

As a songwriter in the music business, every artist knows that if he/she can get on the right tour and be the opening act for a super star, he/she can “steal” the audience that is already assembled, dazzle the crowd, and launch his/her career overnight. For this reason, behind every closed door in Nashville is a group of songwriters and recording artists asking, “Who is Puffing and Pushing Graham? If only this could happen to me?!”

2. Once we meet the ‘headlining Influencers’ we must develop a trusting relationship with them so they willingly ‘sponsor’ us into their inner circle of fellow ‘movers and shakers.” There is nothing that will accelerate one’s career better or faster than being referred by another influencer to join ‘the’ group as a partner who can help everybody take themselves to the next level.

3. We must be articulate, eloquent, passionate and polished communicators deeply convicted to our beliefs and obligated to our purpose and calling.

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