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McClatchy-Tribune  07/14/2014 12:05 PM ET
Mastering both sides of the sales pitch [The Philadelphia Inquirer :: ]

July 14--You don't sell the steak, you sell the sizzle -- that's an advertising maxim. So imagine the weird world that former advertising account executive Todd Bloom, 60, finds himself in as chief executive of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America Inc.

"You want someone to love the trucks," Bloom said, "but the reality is that they are a necessary evil."

Each year, Bloom's company, based in Logan Township, Gloucester County, sells about $200 million worth of medium-size workhorse trucks that don't require a commercial license to drive. It's the kind of truck a dry cleaner, baker, plumber, or caterer would own.

A division of Daimler AG, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck, through its network of dealers, sells the cab and the chassis. The box on the back is tricked out by the dealer, based on customer specifications. The average price is about $60,000.

Question: What's the difference between selling trucks and other products?

Answer: A truck is less emotional than a lot of packaged goods. We have to remember that our customers hate trucks. Why do I say that? Our customers are in the bakery business, they're in the package-delivery business. They are in the pretzel business. They are in the Tastykake business. That's what they love.

Q: So what's your sales pitch?

A: What you want to do is make sure that every day they get into that truck and they turn the key. They deliver the goods. The next day they do it again, and if I can do that for less per year [because the engine is lighter and more fuel efficient] -- now you see the concept of how we market the truck.

Q: It's summer and lots of high schoolers are now working their first jobs. But you bombed yours. What happened?

A: The first job I ever had was as a cub reporter for the Souderton Independent . . . to collect the scores of all the various games. I thought, "This is great." And then I got involved in other things. It was never the kind of thing where [the editor] said, "You're fired." I stopped delivering the info and he stopped paying me.

Q: Well, you're a CEO now.

A: I would not be the person I am today had I not been fired from the Souderton Independent. When I failed at the job, I came home and I was almost cavalier about it. My dad said to me, "This person depended on you to do something and you chose not to do it. You disappointed people." All of a sudden it struck me about the importance of not just working to do a job, but to exceed expectations.

Q: Your company's headquarters are in Tokyo, where your German bosses are based, assisted by a Japanese staff.

A: A very interesting dynamic. When my German bosses say, "I need this on the 26th," it doesn't mean on the 27th. It means that on the 26th, you are going to deliver that material in the format that they want.

Q: And the Japanese?

A: The Japanese believe in hierarchy. The levels are so respected because they respect their parents. You have to recognize the appropriate way to bring an issue to a boss.

Q: You also worked in Italy for many years.

A: In Italy, a lot of business was conducted over meals. When you did [product] launches -- the beauty of the launch, the sophistication of the music, and the choreography was part of the symbol of how you viewed your product.

Q: Italy taught you about food.

A: If you want the essence of fabulous cooking, I'll cook a branzino and I'll pack it in salt the way it's done in the lake district of Italy. I mix egg white in with the [kosher] salt. You get the oven really hot. You cook it for about 20 minutes. The salt doesn't go into the fish. It insulates it. Wonderful olive oil, a drop of lemon juice, and it is better than anything I have ever had in my life.

TODD BLOOM

Title: Chief executive officer, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America Inc.

Homes: Center City; Los Angeles.

Family: Two children, Ross, 32, Cara, 29.

Diplomas: Souderton Area High School, Syracuse University.

Saturday mornings: Shopping at Reading Terminal Market.

Resume: Started in marketing for Air Products, then moved to Lewis, Gilman & Kynett advertising agency. Agency client Iveco, the Italian truck company, hired him away. Moved up in trucking, working for Iveco and Isuzu.

Wheels: Mitsubishi Outlander.

MITSUBISHI FUSO TRUCK OF AMERICA

Where: Logan Township, Gloucester County.

2013 Revenues: About $200 million.

Employees: 75 in U.S. and Canada, 50 locally.

Ownership: Subsidiary of Daimler A.G., headquartered in Tokyo.

Business challenge: Launched new line of trucks three days before March 2011 tsunami cut production for six months.

MORE ONLINE

Todd Bloom on getting fired, getting hired.

www.inquirer.com/jobbing

Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.

jvonbergen@phillynews.com

215-854-2769

@JaneVonBergen

 

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