Marty shot in suit with one hand in pocket

Marty’s World Wide Sales Training Event – Post 9 – My personal Indian food guide and consultant

March 20th, 2012

A quick update this morning.  I found a TV channel playing a sport I understand!  An ESPN type channel from India is showing a Pacers and Clippers game, the NBA!  I tried my best for an hour last night to figure out Cricket, while I was riding the exercise bike in the gym.  England was playing New Zealand.  Completely round field, with play in all directions.  Tried my hardest to figure out the rules and strategy, but still came up mostly empty.  There is a lot of passion which I like.  And the bowler, who is the pitcher in baseball terms seems to be the most important player and maybe the most skilled player.  And when you watch India and Pakistan and Bengladesh, the crowds are as crazed as soccer fans in the UK or SEC football in the south, so that is fun to watch.  But the cricket matches go on for days, so I still have a lot to learn on that sport.

Yesterday morning during the morning break, I ordered black coffee from the hotel employee who was assigned to our meeting room.  His english nickname is Frank.  From that moment forward, whenever Frank thought I needed black coffee on other breaks or at lunch, a cup of steaming black coffee appeared at my side, handed to me by a smiling Frank.  Very impressive that after one interaction he remembered and was persistent.

So, at dinner, which was a buffet (almost all the meals in South Africa and India at the hotels have been buffets), Frank was ready to help when it came time for dessert.  My goal at all meals is to eat something I cannot get in the USA.  So, when Frank asked if I wanted ice cream, I said “No, I want something from India”.  He pointed out a dessert that looked like a sugary pretzel, yellow in color, that had a bowl of cream sauce next to it.  I grabbed a few of the “sugary pretzels” and some mixed fruit with mint and put a little of the cream on the side.

I guess Frank felt like we had bonded during the day, so he grabbed my spoon, scooped up more of the cream sauce and said, “No No, pour it all over!” and poured several spoonfulls of the cream sauce over the sugary pretzel!  He smiled and assured me I would like it.

Well, of course I did, who does not like sweet cream poured over sugary pretzels!  It was awesome, not heavy, just what I needed.  As he cleared the plates he asked me how I liked it.  “It was awesome, you were totally right!” I told him.  He had a big smile.  So, now I have my personal Indian food advisor and consultant!

Keep your eyes and ears open for any international incidents tonight in Chennai.  My brother Mitchell, who works for Timken, is in town working at the local Timkin plant in Chennai.  We will have dinner tonight at my hotel, along with some of his co-workers.  If you don’t know my brother, check out his blog of his work travel adventures in China, now India and soon to be Romania.

Marty’s World Wide Sales Training Event – Post 8 – Local Sayings

March 20th, 2012

As you could imagine, some of the things I/we say in the States are unique to us or our region.  The same is true, I have found, for the rest of the world.  So far, here are some of the more interesting ones I have heard in South Africa and India.

Staggered.  Our driver from the airport to the hotel in Johannesburg used the word staggered.  As in, “when I saw how much Peyton Manning made in one year, I was staggered!”  Now, he didn’t comment on Peyton, but he used the word staggered to mean unbelievable or amazed or my jaw dropped or I couldn’t believe it.  So, while I had never heard the word staggered in that context, when he said it, I knew exactly what he meant.  And, I like it.  We say staggering, but I like the alternative use of staggered, I guess which is the past tense of staggering?  Not sure, but I am going to try and start using that word.

Crumbs.  Again, our driver said the word, Crumbs!  As in rats or argh or I can’t believe it or crap!  For me the mental image of say bread crumbs combined with the feeling of “aw shucks” or even one of the 7 deadly words that George Carlin said you cannot say on TV (one of which begins with an S and I don’t mean stupid), was a nice mental image for me.  You would say crumbs! if you wanted a piece of bread and found only crumbs where the loaf used to be.  So, again, I am going to try and incorporate that word too.

At the safari lodge, Bakubung, the front desk guy said “Yeah-bo”  I am phoenetically spelling it as it sounded more like ya-bo.  He said that at the end of almost every sentence.  I think it comes from “yeah man” or “yeah brother” or “yeah bro” and became yeah bo.  Just one letter shorter, drop the r from yeah bro and you sound like a real South African.  Say it with my new “white rasta” cap on and you are for sure a local!

Today in India, one of the sales reps was describing one of the key stakeholders at the prospect as a “jack in the pack”.  I sort’ve understood, and then they said it was like “jack in the pack of cards” as in the “wild card”, the guy you had to keep your eye on.  He could hurt your deal or help your deal, so you really had to develop a good sales strategy for the “jack in the pack”.  I love this one!

So, those are my four new sayings.  For the most part everyone in South Africa and India has understood my USA/Southern sayings.  The only thing that has been consistent is that nothing related to the NBA has any relevance with them except Michael Jordan, Shaq and Kobe.  Of course the first two are out of the NBA and Kobe is having a bad season!

I will close on this funny story from the Safari, Saturday afternoon.  Our guide asked us what animals we would like to see, so I said a snake.  Of course I know they would be impossible to find.  But he said we might get lucky and see a black mamba.  So I said, “oh, you mean Kobe Bryant is here?!”  My USA counterparts thought I was being a dork.  The guide said…..”Who is Kobe Bryant?!”  So, David Stern, you have some branding still to work on.

The best part was there was a local family who laughed very hard when I said Kobe Bryant, they knew his nickname was the Black Mamba.  It was not until dinner that some of USA counterparts told me they thought I had made a racial faux paux in South Africa by saying Black Mamba, as they did not know that was Kobe’s nickname!

Kobe Bryant The Black Mamba

Marty’s World Wide Sales Training Event – Post 7

March 19th, 2012

Just a quick note this morning, it is Tuesday morning March 20 for me, I am 9.5 hours ahead of most of my east coast USA readers, in Chennai, India.  Yes, you read right, nine point five hours ahead, India sets their clocks on the half hour as opposed to the hour like most other countries.  So, it is about 6:30 am for me on Tuesday morning.

We flew from Johannesburg to Dubai Saturday afternoon, leaving at 2 pm, arriving around midnight and then connecting on to Chennai around 3 am, arriving in Chennai yesterday around 9 am.  Dubai’s airport was more like a mall, full of high end shops and full of completely grown tall palm trees and other kinds of trees, all growing and blooming inside.

Chennai is in southern India, on the eastern side, down near the tip, on the water.  In fact, it’s beach is the second longest beach in the world, or so they say.

The drive to the hotel was interesting.  The roads do not have yellow or white lines for lanes or even the side of the road. Just a road, full of cars, motorcycles, buses, trucks, bicyclists, walkers and cows.  All figuring out what their lane is and constantly tapping their horn to tell the others where they are.  As we drove down, I looked out my window and watched the guy on the motorcycle next to me, and he was only about 2 feet or so to our right, and he was NOT taking his hand off the brake, ready to brake at any moment, his eyes were definitely scanning the road constantly, looking for lane shifters, people……and cows.

Yes, cows.  They are everywhere, wandering, standing, eating, looking around, even laying down.  Not your every day site for us westerners!

Chennai has lots of car manufacturers and lots of IT oriented companies.  PayPal is here, Ebay is here, Accenture is here, so there are lots of Americans in this part of town because of those employers.

The hotel, is very very nice, not just by India’s standards, but by western/USA standards too. Great room, lobby, restaurants.  Pool on top with gym is very nice.

One last comment on South Africa.  We did an afternoon Safari drive on Saturday afternoon, and saw several groups of elephants, some came as close as ten feet to our truck.  Enjoy!

End of the day on Safari

My new friend coming over to chat

close encounter with an elephant

Mother elephant

Marty’s World Wide Sales Training Event – Post 6 – The Safari

March 17th, 2012

Today, St. Patrick’s Day, we did our first and my first, African Safari.  We met our driver at 5:15 am and left at 5:30 am from the Bakubung Lodge in the Pilanesburg region of South Africa.  The area that we drove around is approximately a large circle about 20 miles in diameter.  There is an electric fence around the entire region to keep the animals in.  But inside, it is a true eco-system with all the animals you would expect in Africa.  They eat their normal food, hunt on their own, which means they hunt each other.  Except that they are contained and protected from poachers in a 20 mile radius, they live on their own as they would in the “wild”.

The hardest thing to find and see are leopards, so seeing one is total luck.  Lions are easier to find, so our driver told us we would drive for 45 minutes to where he believed the lions would be and we would not stop on the way to see lions.  Well, about 5 minutes and maybe a half mile, the driver yells out, “Leopard!” and one of the leopards that he knows, “the old one” he called him, ambled across the road, jumped into the grass, turned around and posed and then slithered off. Lucky for me I have “cat like” reflexes and I got the camera out and got off a shot.  The flash overexposed it a bit, but I think you can still see the leopard.  I do have him burned in my brains hard drive, for the rest of my life, so even if the picture is not the best, I will remember him!

The very rare South African Leopard, 5:55 am

From there it was three hours of driving and stopping and slowing and watching and pointing and taking pictures. Wildebeests, warthogs, giraffes, zebras, kudu, impala (adult and babies), african peafowl, ostrich, eagle, heron, hippo (we saw them from a far distance, no photo’s, too far) and one lion, a male.  We saw the male ambling off in the distance, following his mate (whom Patty said was ahead making breakfast, rather, catching breakfast).  A group of wildebeests were keeping a close eye on the lion as he ambled off.  So, no photo of the lion, we had a rear view and he was moving pretty fast.  Here are some of the photo’s of the wild animals we saw, just incredible!

Are You Talking To Me?!

Funny little African peafowl birds

Fish Eagle, White Head up in tree

A young Impala, not made in Detroit!

Mr. Ostrich

The always smiling Warthog

Wildebeest pack

In addition to the great animals, the scenery was stunning.  We started in pitch dark and then drove as the sun rose.  We crested a hill and looked down into a valley and a heavy mist was hanging over the area.  Very cool and serene and just stunning.  I hope these pictures do the real thing justice.

Floating Water Lillies

We took a short bio break at a small lake/watering hole.  Here are the photo’s, just like you would expect an African watering hole would look like, almost like a postcard!

African Watering Hole

African Morning Mist

At one point we looked ahead and a giraffe was eating breakfast on our left on the side of the road and so as we drove up, here is some video of the giraffe.

giraffe on road 03_17_12 v2

We did not see any elephants, but we have another safari drive this afternoon evening, so we are hoping for better views of lions and some elephants.  We wouldn’t complain about another leopard either!

Marty’s Around The World Sales Training Event – Post 5 – The “White Rasta”

March 17th, 2012

As I write this, it is Saturday morning, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. They don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s day over here, but we will be joined later tonight by another FLSmidth employee who is very Irish and intends to celebrate well, so wait for tomorrow’s blog to hear those tales.

In another post I will regale you with your safari drive this morning, but let me first fill you in on the finish of the Johannesburg training, which ended at noon yesterday.

The last half day of training is focused on the sales rep’s “deal reviews”.  They have spent two days thinking and planning and building their sales strategy on one opportunity.  Then Friday morning, one of the reps presents their deal to the large group and we provide feedback on how to improve their strategy to win.  Then we break up into small groups and each rep reviews their deal in groups of 4-6 people, getting feedback from their peers.  Then we finish up by noon, hand out the prize to the winning team (they play a game comprised of quizzes on the content and the local city and a card game, earning points, most team points wins).  The “Fantastic Four” team won and here they are, very happy with their winnings and the ability to rub it in against their peers.

"Fantastic Four" Johannesburg class winners

We took a group photo of everyone, so here are all of my new Johannesburg FLSmidth friends!

FLSmidth Johannesburg Class

After a quick lunch, we have a two hour drive up to the Bakubung resort in the Pilanesburg region of South Africa for our safari.  On the way, the driver stopped at a flea market where we shopped for trinkets.  All I wanted was a beanie cap with South African flag colors and a keychain with the South African flag for a friend at the YMCA where I teach indoor cycling (spin class) who said that was all he wanted.

When you jump off the van, you are accosted by armies of “sales reps”, all of whom are smiling, shaking your hand, slapping you on the back and imploring you to browse their stall.  Many of them use the line “let me show you something different” even though it appeared they all had the same thing!  You had to be very assertive not to fall under their spell and stay at their stall.  It was clear they had all been to the “South African Flea Market Sales Training for Foreign Tourists” class!

But I was determined to get just my two items and so I resisted their smiles and sales pitches and wandered the store multiple times until I finally found the beanie I wanted.  It is supposedly “hand made” and is more like the Rastafarian beanie cap.  Once I bought it and put it on, all the locals started calling me the “White Rasta”!  It was hilarious!  One guy came up to me and held his fingers as if he was smoking a joint and said “So, you take a little, eh?!” with a big smile on his face.  I could not stop laughing.

The White Rasta

I “found” the key chain by convincing two different vendors to take apart a key chain that had a trinket on it I did not want and giving me the key ring and combining it with the South African flag emblem that was on a necklace and discarding the necklace piece.  They put them together and after a lot of haggling, I got my key chain!

After that we kept on driving to Bakubung.  Very cool lodge in beautiful country.

As you enter Bakubung, there are kinds of signs about not getting out of your car, wild animals are everywhere.  There was also this sign, which I thought was funny!

Warning, No Pets! Only Wild Animals Allowed!

We looked out on the countryside and saw warthogs, monkeys and Patty saw a Rhino, although I missed the Rhino.  Drank a couple of South African “Castle” beers, had a great dinner of grilled lamb on a charcoal grill, and went to bed early.  We had a 5:15 am safari start this morning!  Read my next post for the safari results!

Marty’s Around The World Sales Training Event – Post 4

March 16th, 2012

Well, we are winding down here in Johannesburg.  Today’s class is over at noon.  We will end up with the “deal” review sessions as the big finish.  I think the group presenting today is planning a big production including some audio.  That is not a usual thing, so should be fun and will get it on film.  They also want to create some short film for their peers in Australia (we will be there in two weeks) showing a South African Springbok hammering an Aussie Kangaroo, using stuffed animals.  They want me to show this to the Aussie class, should be a great way to start that class!

One thing I forgot to mention was that at dinner Tuesday night, the restaurant had a lot of famous people’s photo’s smoking cigars.  And lo and behold who did I see but none other than Kramer from Seinfeld!  Hilarious!

Kramer photo in South Africa, "Yeah Baby"

Yesterday’s class went very well, a great group of sales people, very well prepared and very attentive. After the class we will head up for a weekend Safari before flying to Chennai India for next week.

At dinner last night, the restaurant served some huge specimens of South African prawn and lobster.  I had the recommended beef rump, very tasty.  But check out the sizes of the “prawn” and lobster.   Huge sizes!  Great restaurant.

Huge South African Prawn

South African Lobster with Server

South African Rump Steak

Oh, by the way, I am leading our NCAA basketball pool, I either had all right from yesterday or just one loss, depending on UNLV and Colorado game, not yet over.

Next post from the African Safari!

Peace Out!


Marty’s Around The World Sales Training Event – Post 3

March 15th, 2012

Yesterday, March 14, was the first day of class for South Africa.  The room was fine except for one small problem, no power from the floor electrical plug in where we had to plug in computers, projectors and laptops for the attendees.  After several attempts to resolving, an “electrical” guy was called, who turned the power off completely, twice.  This did not give us a lot of confidence early on, but after the second time, power was running fine, and we all could connect.

The group of sales reps were all very attentive and actively involved and so it was a fun day.  The big laugh of the day was when I showed a video we always show, interestingly of African animals, and I referred to one animal as an “antelope”. After the video was done they told me for sure it was not an antelope, but either an Impala or Springbok.  They were all highly amused!

Tuesday night we ate at a great Italian restaurant and I had “wild South African Salmon”, something I had never had.  Last night we ate at the hotel and it was “game meat night”, so I had grilled Kudu, Impala and Springbok, all animals that I think are cousins, but they are not antelopes!  These are the smaller very fast, “springy” animals that look like deer or antelope but bound all over the plain until a lion grabs them or a human shoots them for dinner!

Today is one of the guys birthday.  So, they have a tradition  that they sing him Happy Birthday in Afrikaans and then he has to take a shot, as the first thing in the morning!  So, this will be a first for me in my classes, alcohol consumed at 8:30 am.  I found a video of two girls singing the song, so I will play it for everyone as they sing along.

All in all, a great day, great bunch of reps, nice venue, everything going great.

Oh yeah, one other funny thing, they are crazy about wrestling over here.  There must be 4 channels of professional wrestling in my hotel room, very funny!


South African Duck

South African Duck


African Kudu, Impala, Springbok grilled

South African Salmon

South African Salmon

Marty’s Around The World Sales Training Event, Post 2

March 13th, 2012

Took a quick jump into the pool before getting ready for dinner.  We are having dinner with a few of the FLSmidth executives as well as the former Country Manager for South Africa.  Right as I jumped into the “infinity” pool, some young high school age kids arrived.  Turns out they are from Durban, not too far from here, playing in a golf tournament.  So, the round for today is over and they are ready to jump around the pool.

For a while they played Cricket with a pool ball and an umbrella for the Cricket Bat (yes, that is the official name, I looked it up).

I asked them to take a photo of me, just to rub it in, see below.

Also, I think they got their Farenheit and Celsius confused.  Look at the temperature/weather sign on the side of the wall by the pool.  It says the water was 90 Celsius.  Seemed a bit cooler than that!

Marty’s Around The World Sales Training Event, Post 1

March 13th, 2012

I write this to you from near Johannesburg, South Africa, in a suburb called Fourways.  In my work with The Complex Sale,, one of the Principals with the firm, sold a significant training contract to a global mining equipment company, FLSmidth,  We piloted their class last November in Salt Lake City, UT. That class went great, so we are now rolling it out globally in 2012. This is phase 1:  Johannesburg this week, Chennai, India next week and Bali, Indonesia the following week.  Later in the year we will hit Frankfurt, Germany, South America and Copenhagen.

I left Atlanta Sunday night March 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm.  Lucky for us we were booked into business class, so we got to fly in the new Delta “lay flat” first class seats.  I called them little “cubbies” as you were in your own little cubby-hole.  The seats laid 180 degrees flat, noise cancelling head sets, TV shows and movies and music and lots of great food.  Ate dinner, went to bed, woke up and only had two more hours out of 14 to Johannesburg.

My Home for 14 Hours to Johannesburg from Atlanta

We breezed through immigrations and customs, got a little bit of money, Rands, found our driver, and off to the hotel. Very interesting commentary from the driver, but will save that for another post.  About an hour later, got to our hotel, The Indaba Hotel (  Had dinner and went to bed.

They had this cute little elephant in the bathroom, I call him Phillip the Bathroom Elephant!

The Hotel Indaba's Welcoming Elephant in the Bathroom!

I am travelling with Patty Austin, who is my main client contact, we will be joined at the hip for the entire three weeks.

Here is the PDF file I created that shows my whole trip with maps and information about each class and where I will be going.

Marty’s Around the World trip itinerary, PDF, click here to view the first half of the trip.first half flsmidth march world wide trip details_plans_maps 03_05_12

Click here for the second half of the trip

Second half flsmidth march world wide trip details_plans_maps 03_05_12

My plan is to post every day, we shall see! First class starts tomorrow morning at 8:30 am South Africa time which is 6 hours ahead of east coast USA.

That is all for now, more tomorrow.  Enjoy!

P.S. Watch my Division I Toastmasters International Speech Contest Winning speech from this past Saturday, March 10.  I will go on to the District (State) level on May 5 at the Georgia Tech Conference Center.


You Look Spectacular!

June 10th, 2010

This past Monday I was flying from Atlanta to Cleveland on business.  As I got to the TSA agent at airport security, I noticed that the TSA agent seemed especially engaging in conversations with each traveller.  He called them by name after he read their drivers license and made some kind of quick comment.

When he looked at my drivers license, his eyes got big, he looked up at me and said, “Wow, how many pounds have you lost Mr. Mercer?!”  Some of you may know that a few years ago I had a big life transformation and lost 60 pounds.  My kids now say that my old Hip-Hop Rapper’s name should have been “Puffy Daddy”!

This has happened a few times at the airport and so I chuckled and smiled and told him it was 60 pounds, and thanked him for his kind comment.

And then he said one more thing, the point of my blog.  He looked back up at me and said, “Well, you look spectacular!”

At that, I burst out laughing, a huge smile on my face and I told him “I will take that any day I can get it!”

So, a few thoughts after this encounter.  First, it seems TSA must be investing in some customer service training!

Secondly, this guy was comfortable with his manhood to tell another guy, “You look spectacular!”

But thirdly, what an incredibly powerful thing to do and say.  I floated through the xray machine, floated to my gate, and even when I had a 2.5 hour delay on my flight to Cleveland, it didn’t bother me.  I was infused the rest of the day with good karma, good vibes, a huge ego boost, all thanks to three words from the TSA agent.

Don’t ever think that a kind smile, gesture or compliment is too small.  Just three little words made my day on Monday.  We all need to remember this every day, find someone and boost them up once a day.  Three small positive words CAN make all the difference to someone.

Now get out there, and act like that TSA agent!