Remembering Nancy Reagan: Lesson in Fear, Negotiations and Perseverance



March 6, 2016 –


The passing of former First Lady Nancy Reagan is both sad and poignant for me. She was 94.

From my formative years as a broadcast journalist, I have very fond memories of my two encounters with her as she campaigned for her husband, Ronald Reagan, in 1977 for the presidency.

Thanks to her, I’m reminded about a lesson to avoid fear, negotiate well in strategy and to persevere.

Former Calif. Gov. Reagan had just narrowly lost his convention bid for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination. It was a tense, dramatic battle with President Gerald Ford following the Watergate-scandal years.

Nancy Reagan.jpg

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan, White House photograph


My impressions of her – three years before Mrs. Reagan became one of the most-influential first ladies in American history – were formed when I encountered her as a young news director for an all-news radio station and later for a television news operation in Palm Springs.

On both occasions, she visited the town to fund raise for Mr. Reagan’s upcoming bid for the 1980 presidential election. Palm Springs had a lot wealthy potential donors.

Late-night news conference

The last encounter was when I participated in a late-night news conference by her presidenial-candidate husband at Palm Springs Airport with my KPLM-TV cameraman.

What struck me was that Mr. Reagan seemed tired as he took questions from us in the media. I’ll never forget her loving, admiring gaze at him as he spoke. He seemed to feed on her love and energy.

Clearly, she was his devoted partner.

In our first encounter, Mrs. Reagan came to town and scheduled a news conference for 1:30 in the afternoon at private residence. As news director of K/GUY Newsradio, I was most anxious to attend.

I had been hired from a Dick Clark-owned radio station a year earlier to build the small news operation on a shoestring budget. My job was to build ratings to generate revenue.

As a poorly financed news operation, the station owner had filed for bankruptcy. So we still had portable tape-recorder issues, which meant there was no way I wanted to be embarrassed facing Mrs. Reagan in-person.

“My life really began when I married my husband.”

-Nancy Reagan

The financial issues were compounded by the competitiveness in the market. Competing sales and news people constantly badmouthed us.

It would be further humiliating if we didn’t cover a major story involving Mrs. Reagan. It would hurt our image in the community.

It would also give bragging rights to competing news operations. We were in a tense ratings battle. I worked 12-hours days to build our listener ratings as we faced constant, jealous derisive comments from our competitors.

Ninety percent of the men began listening to us but we were weak among women listeners, for which we took corrective action. We garnered an astronomic 14-share of the audience, which I wanted to protect.

I envisioned the results of her news conference. If we failed to attend, I envisioned our competitors chortling about us all the way back to their studios. I would not let that happen.

The sales pitch – negotiations

So I called the residence where she was staying and asked to speak with her. My plan was to propose doing a telephone interview, recording our conversation, and to commence airing stories at the conclusion of the news conference.

But Mrs. Reagan’s press secretary was appalled by my audacity: “How dare you insult the next First Lady of the United States by not attending her press conference!”

Over and over again for several minutes, I graveled as I tried to reason with her.  She wouldn’t even listen to my complete proposal.

Suddenly, I heard a man’s voice on the phone: “This is Mr. Reagan’s press secretary. Who is this?”

“I’m Terry Corbell, news director of K/GUY Newsradio, the only all-news radio station in this market. I’m terribly embarrassed but we’re unable to attend Mrs. Reagan’s press conference. “

I knew it was important to show professionalism in covering their campaign.

“We really want to report on her visit. How about if I interview her on the phone. I promise to hold the stories until 2 p.m. after the news conference. Then, the stories will be rotated every 30 minutes,” I proposed.

Then I offered a value proposition – additional benefits for him to consider.

“As a freelance correspondent in this area for KNX Newsradio in Los Angeles and for NBC/NIS, I promise she will get outstanding nationwide coverage,” I said as sweat poured off my brow.

“Just a minute,” he answered.

Then the anticipated miracle.

“Hello, this is Nancy Reagan,” she said in her familiar, dignified tone of voice.

“Mrs. Reagan, we’d like to hear what you want to say today to the people of Palm Springs. Then, we’d like to ask you some questions,” I responded.

She patiently answered all my questions. We had enough comments on multiple issues to last us every day for a week. That was quite a coup.

So at 2 p.m., we excitedly hit the airways: “…In an exclusive interview, Nancy Reagan tells K/GUY Newsradio…” Then, I began to prepare my pitches for KNX and NBC.

At 2:15, the phone rang from a very angry caller: “This is _______!!” (The news director at our chief competitor.)

“How in the hell did you get an interview with Nancy Reagan?? You weren’t even there!!” he bitterly demanded an answer.

“Exclusive reports – that’s the K/GUY Newsradio approaching to winning,” I responded. Couldn’t help myself. We had endured a lot of abuse from him and other competitors.

Then, I hung up and did the chortling. We had enough exclusive stories for a week, and we milked it.

Decades later, the event still brings a smile to my face – Mrs. Reagan’s loving patience to benefit her husband  and how it turned a lemon into pure gold.

No surprise to me that she was so admired, and I’m eternally grateful for the experience.

The moral: Don’t succumb to fear, do your best in negotiations, and never give up.



From the Coach’s Corner, editor’s picks for additional reading:

5 Attributes of Leadership Are Needed Now — With all the dysfunction in the economy and the debate over healthcare, Seattle Consultant Terry Corbell calls for leadership. He says the late President Ford, whom he covered as a journalist, leaves a remarkable legacy of leadership with healthy attributes for businesspeople and public officials to emulate.

The 22 Dos and Don’ts for Successful Negotiations — No matter what you need to negotiate, there are easy strategies to get anything you want. But you must first remember it’s important to reach a fair compromise – with win-win negotiating skills. You’ll want both parties to feel positive after the negotiation is complete. In other words, emotional needs for both of you have to be met.

Terror – 2 Democrat Presidents Provide Lessons for Obama — Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, both Democrats, won wide respect for their handling of monster threats to America. Plus, both presidents did not hesitate to identify the enemies, call them out on their lies, and to take decisive action. Why President Obama’s political correctness threatens America’s free-enterprise system.

How to Grow Your EI for Leadership Success — Emotional intelligence (EI) is important for communication and leadership. A person who has EI is able to evaluate, understand, and control emotions.

7 Thought Leadership Tactics for Strong Performance — For a company to achieve strong performance, its culture and employees must be aligned with business strategy to provide value. But more and more, it seems employees can’t even articulate business strategy. Therefore, management must identify and communicate effective programs that are aligned with employee behavior in order to blaze new paths and fuel business growth.

“My life really began when I married my husband.

-Nancy Reagan

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

How to Grow Sales (through Pricing and HR Training)



Sophistication in pricing by salespeople is an excellent driver to grow earnings rather than just looking for ways to cut costs.

Instead of growing their profits with sophistication in pricing, many businesspeople miss growth opportunities when they mistakenly cut muscle – usually in human capital and branding.

It’s long been a Biz Coach caution. Even in a weak economy, a secret to success is to expand marketing. Not only will you maintain market share, you will grow it when the economy improves because your competitors cut their branding investments.

Mergers & AcquisitionsThis also means training in pricing excellence – management and salespeople – about operational costs and understanding human nature on the customers’ willingness to pay – all in the art of pricing for profit.

The training should include experiential, real-world role-playing exercises.

Otherwise, you risk pricing your products and services too low. This means you lose opportunities in revenue. Or you risk pricing too high, which means you lose customers.

Companies that employ mere order takers instead of savvy, professionally trained staff miss opportunities for growth. Or worse, the companies go out of business.

(Scroll down to the “Coach’s Corner” for tips on pricing and training.)

Now, a McKinsey & Company report, also points out how to turn pricing power into profit. It was authored by Jay Jubas in Stamford, Connecticut; Dieter Kiewell in London; and Georg Winkler in Berlin.

They eloquently argue in favor of taking five steps to leverage a better pricing approach for profits.

They cite a case study:

An international provider of technical gases had a problem. With a large, highly fragmented product portfolio of more than 500 SKUs, customers in a range of industries, and a broad segmentation of customers by size, prices varied widely even for the same product. And while managers believed there was room to increase prices overall, they had no rational basis from which to challenge current pricing practices.

The solution? An analytical tool to pinpoint new price drivers, redraw customer segments, and recommend updated prices. After piloting, the tool was rolled out in seven diverse markets. The company supported this new approach with intensive sales-force training and eventually reset up to 100,000 prices for 150 SKUs per country — resulting in an increase in return on sales of three to five percentage points, without significant changes in volume. The whole program took just three months.

The authors strongly assert that such an approach can provide a permanent solution for earnings growth. Agreed.

Here’s an edited excerpt of the authors’ five recommendations:

1. Provide meaningful transparency into pricing data

When raw-material prices rise, sales reps don’t know which prices should go up, by how much, and how quickly. Without that knowledge, profit opportunities evaporate. The front line needs meaningful transparency into price levels, discounts, and other leakages at different levels of granularity and over multiple time periods.

2. Understand what customers really value

For all the sophistication provided by advanced analytics to master a complex array of prices, the price of a product or service ultimately depends on how much a customer thinks it’s worth—that is, “value pricing.” The best companies augment pricing analytics with detailed customer insights to identify all the key buying factors that determine how much a product is worth to a given customer, understand how those factors compare with competitors’ offers, and quantify the value created for the customer.

3. Move from sales reps to ‘value negotiators’

Determining the best price means nothing if sales reps can’t convince customers to accept it. For this reason, it’s critical that sales reps have important pricing capabilities, such as sound judgment to manage time, negotiate thoughtfully, and adjust pricing guidelines in order to maximize value and minimize the risk of customers defecting.

4. Provide on-the-job training to build confidence

While most companies understand it’s important to build the pricing skills of their people, few move beyond basic training in classes or online. Successful companies, however, use adult-learning techniques, such as experiential learning, to embed the new skills in the front line.

5. Change the culture

In our experience, even the best pricing programs will fail in the long term without a deliberate commitment to overcome the entrenched habits and shifting priorities that doom most change programs. Ingraining pricing success over the long term requires putting in place an “influence model” that includes role modeling, fostering understanding and conviction, developing talent and skills, and implementing reinforcement mechanisms.

While all aspects of the influence model are important, pricing leaders should pay particular attention to developing talent and skills by coaching their people.

Well put. For more explanation, again a link to their report.

From the Coach’s Corner, Here are related tips for pricing, sales training negotiating:

For Stronger Profits, Avoid 11 Typical Pricing Mistakes – In general, how can you manage the sweet spot – between your price-optimization and costs? Many companies make 11 pricing mistakes.

To Cope with Rising Costs, Review Your Pricing Strategy –  Increased costs weigh heavily on the bottom line. If you’re being pressured by costs, it’s probably time to review your pricing strategy.  You’re not alone. No business is immune from rising costs in fuel; rent or real estate; labor; health insurance and ObamaCare; marketing; and equipment. Lest not you forget all the taxes.

The 7 Steps to Higher Sales – Secrets for sales success – seven steps to higher sales, five value perceptions that motivate customers to buy, and the three-step process for overcoming sales objections.

The 22 Dos and Don’ts for Successful Negotiations — No matter what you need to negotiate, there are easy strategies to get anything you want. But you must first remember it’s important to reach a fair compromise – with win-win negotiating skills.

Top 18 Attributes of the Best Salespeople – What’s needed to be effective in sales? Merely having a gregarious personality will no longer cut it in the 21st century. Here are the top 18 attributes of the best salespeople.

Your pricing reflects everything you do as a business.


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.






In Negotiations, Chit-chat Pays off More for Men than Women



Do you want an edge in negotiations? FYI, some small talk just before a negotiation provides a boost for men but not women, according to academic researchers.

Seriously? Yes, if you’re a male, a little chit-chat before the serious discussion helps you make a better impression for better results. But it’s just the opposite if you’re a female.

Men benefit 6 percent more than women.

eventfile000213537000“Should we Chit-chat?” is the title of a 2014 study for the Academy of Management (AOM.org).

The authors explain:

“…engaging in small talk enhanced perceptions of communality, liking, and satisfaction with the relationship in men but not women. Men benefited from using small talk by receiving more favorable final offers when they engaged in small talk than when they did not.”

Researchers included Alexandra A. Mislin of American University, Brooke A. Shaughnessy of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, and Tanja Hentschel and Claudia Peus of Technische Universität München.

Previously, it was widely thought such chit-chat was a necessary fundamental for negotiators of both genders.

It was thought to be helpful in creating “benevolence, trustworthiness, and cooperativeness and of minimizing the likelihood of an impasse,” suggested the authors.

“It isn’t as if women ought to shun small talk: nothing we found suggests that it does any harm, and maybe women just have to do it better than men,” observed Professor Mislin. For men, the principal message of this study is clear: you’ve got more to gain from a small investment in chit-chat than you may realize.”

Less Communal

“As compared to women, men are described as less communal, and, thus, for example, as less communicative, sociable, or concerned about others… Because for men communality is not assumed, they may profit a great deal from showing communal behaviors,” wrote the authors.

“…research shows that too much communal behavior from men — for example, when taking on the role of a stay-at-home parent — may lead to social penalties. Men appear to receive a bonus for smaller communal behaviors, while they are penalized for more extensive [ones]. In negotiation contexts, small talk would be perceived as a small communal behavior, not expected from men and therefore yielding tangible benefits,” added the researchers.

“If you are planning on doing business with someone again, don’t be too tough in the negotiations. If you’re going to skin a cat, don’t keep it as a house cat.”

– Marvin Levin

While women are expected to be good in such soft skills, refraining from small talk doesn’t hurt them.

“In sum, as long as women don’t negotiate too forcefully or rigidly, [they] will not have broken gender norms by omitting small talk…Therefore, evaluations of women’s communality may not differ whether they actually show communal behavior (i.e, small talk) or not,” explained the authors.

Bottom line

“The bottom line for male negotiators is that small talk not only makes a good impression but can result in a nice cash bonus,” commented Professor Shaugnessy. “For women, negotiations will always be socially risky, and it appears they need to find other ways than small talk to cultivate a positive regard in their counterparts.”

The Academy of Management was founded in 1936. It’s an excellent organization and is the world’s-largest devoted to management research and teaching. It has about 19,200 members in 118 countries. (Disclosure: Formerly, I was a member).

From the Coach’s Corner, here’s more on the art of persuasion:

The 22 Dos and Don’ts for Successful Negotiations — No matter what you need to negotiate, there are easy strategies to get anything you want. But you must first remember it’s important to reach a fair compromise – with win-win negotiating skills. You’ll want both parties to feel positive after the negotiation is complete.

7 Steps to Become Great at Thinking on Your Feet — Have you ever been at a loss for words? For example, when asked a question, have you been tongue tied in a sales presentation, while speaking at an event, in negotiations, during an interview or a staff meeting? Getting tongue-tied is not a fun experience.

Thinking about a Strategic Partnership? 4 Keys to Succeed — If you’re looking for market supremacy and higher sales, and most businesses are, strategic partnerships are beneficial. But make sure they work. Here’s how.

Hiring? 4 Pointers on Negotiating Wages with Job Applicants — Some employers have had difficulty in successfully extending job offers to applicants, especially Millennial professionals. It’s not uncommon to interview applicants who aren’t shy in negotiations with their inflated egos and salary expectations. Of course, that wasn’t the case in the Great Recession.

Partnerships — 7 Steps to Avoid Fights over Money — When a business has cash flow issues, a key issue that comes up every day is money. As a partnership, you have a shared responsibility to discuss issues on principles without arguing in an ad hominem manner. Your company is doomed if you ever attack your partner’s character or sarcastically belittle the person’s traits.

“If you are planning on doing business with someone again, don’t be too tough in the negotiations. If you’re going to skin a cat, don’t keep it as a house cat.”

– Marvin Levin




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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.