Carl Fredrik Sammeli is the founder of Prime, the world’s most awarded PR agency by Cannes Lions in the period 2010-2016. Prime was also just last week awarded 2016 Global Creative PR Agency of the Year. So we’re very excited to feature Carl Fredrik in our Mentor of the Month interview series. Read on to find out his thoughts on setting goals, dealing with rejection and constantly finding new sources of inspiration.
Coming from the agency world, you’ve probably been in a lot of pitches over the years. How do you deal with rejection?
Firstly, it’s important to take an analytical view on losses, and to figure out the reasons for the defeat from a rational as well as emotional perspective. Being honest with yourself and critical of your performance is the only way to improve.
For example, in the early days of Prime, we won 3 out of 80 pitches in the public sector segment. Instead of getting despondent, we analyzed each pitch carefully to see what went wrong, and we studied our competitors to try to figure out what was working for them. These days, our public sector team is one of our strongest business offerings.
Secondly, it’s important to remember that sales is a ‘frequency’ business. The more pitches you do, the better your odds become. You won’t click with every client, but if you keep going, eventually you’ll connect with the right one.
Keep in mind too that there are many reasons a client might go in another direction - sometimes it’s even the best decision for both of you in the long run. It’s crucial to have a positive attitude towards sales. My advice is to approach the sales process with an open mind and to try to see the whole process as journey that can help you develop and learn, rather than just focus on results. Sales isn’t just about the sale itself - done right, it can be a form of research, business development, and marketing.
How do you maintain motivation and find new sources of inspiration?
Meeting new people is a constant source of inspiration, as well as ideas, fresh perspectives and energy. I try to meet as many new people as I can, from CEOs to people on their first day of work. This is one of the main reasons I love working as a mentor and ambassador.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that people tend to be the most motivated when they are able to combine creative and analytical skills - and when they get to have fun at work. I take my business seriously of course, but it’s important that I work with people I genuinely like, on projects I care about - and that I know I’m working on something that ultimately creates real value.
Targets are also an important motivator, and a great way to keep you on track.
Brand Ambassadors are responsible for setting their own goals. What do you think is the best way to set reasonable goals?
It really depends on how you tick. For some people, the best way to set reasonable goals is to set up a ‘buddy system’. You still set your own goals and work towards them individually, but you share them with a colleague and keep each other accountable. This way, you can help each other keep on track, plus you can support each other as you progress towards achieving your goals.
Other strategies could include looking at the progress of a colleague you admire and setting your goals to try to match theirs. It comes down to figuring out your individual approach and what is most likely to motivate you.
For me, I start by assessing my performance over a certain period of time. I take half a day to analyze what I set out to achieve, and in particular the ratio of time invested in certain projects versus the outcome. With this clear view, I’m able to set my goals for the upcoming period in order to optimize my time as much as possible.
In my experience, people don’t spend enough time thinking about their own development. They get caught up in their day to day work, and forget to reflect in order to get a strategic view of what they are doing and why. Stopping to reflect is essential to developing, improving performance, and - perhaps most importantly - figuring out what your strengths are and what you actually want. I would also advise anyone to set up long-term goals - I try to do so every year. It keeps me focused on the bigger perspective which can sometimes get lost in the chaos of everyday life.
Brand Ambassadors are certified in the brands they represent. Having worked with marketing and PR for many years, what would you say is the most effective way to really understand a brand or company and its values?
I find it fascinating to explore whether brands or companies really live the values and culture they profess - or whether it’s just nice words. The only way to figure out what their true values are, and whether how they promote themselves really matches the experience of working with them, is to ‘feel, smell and taste’ the brand.
Using the product or service is essential. Read up on how the brand or company presents themselves, try to visit their office to meet in person, and get in touch with their customer service. Experiencing the brand in a variety of ways will give you a rounded perspective of how it really functions.
There are many innovative tech products and services around now that struggle with scalability. Besides tough competition, what do you think is their biggest obstacle to success?
One of the main issues I see is a lack of focus on how to commercialize the technology. Developers often get carried away with how innovative their product is, and forget about the perspective of the customer who doesn’t care about unique features or superiority: they just want a good value product that works. That’s exactly what tech brands must keep in mind in order to communicate and scale their product.
Also, it’s not enough to just have an innovative product or service. To be truly innovative, an organisation must be innovative in everything that it does, from recruitment to daily best practices. It’s essential to evaluate all business processes regularly, and consider whether it’s possible to find a more efficient or effective approach. By applying this to recruitment, for example, it will also result in finding people who will naturally fit the corporate culture and so deliver more value.
I believe that this is the reason my agency became the most awarded agency in the world 2010-2016. We dared to rethink how we put together teams and recruited the right people.
This interview series is called “Mentor of the Month”. Who is your mentor?
The legendary Janerik Larsson. He is a former deputy CEO of Kinnevik and in the Confederation of Swedish Enterprises, and the man behind the campaign that enabled Sweden’s EU membership.
You live with your family in Cape Town, South Africa. Many people say that’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. Is that true and why did you choose South Africa?
It’s true that it is incredibly beautiful. It’s also one of the most exciting cities I ever experienced. Innovation and creative energy flourishes, and Cape Town offers a lovely blend of people from all over the world - it is in fact one of the most multicultural cities in the world.
As a family we love that there is such a mix of everything. It combines lovely people, stunning nature in the form of magnificent views, rich wildlife and beaches, with fine dining and wines and world-class urban design. While living in Kungsholmen in Stockholm, my wife and I decided it was time to try something completely different, so we made the decision to relocate with our four kids to Cape Town. That’s a great thing about consulting: you can work from wherever you are.
Our kids are getting a fantastic education here, and we enjoy the Capetonian lifestyle which we’re very grateful for. It really has become a second home for us.
Do you have a favorite inspirational quote?
I have a quote, but my wife hates it. She thinks it is too American. But I love it… It is “Work hard, have fun, make history” by Jeff Bezos, Amazon.