Jan 192013
 

ARE YOU SAVVY?

This sales book certainly promises a lot and one wonders whether the author, Florida-based E.F. Suarez, can deliver within its hundred pages. The author has 20 years of sales and management experience under his belt.
Unsurprisingly, and right away in the book’s Introduction, Suarez brings in a fallacy, namely criticizing “draconian regulations.” The hyperbole aside, regulations are good for sales for two reasons. Firstly, regulations necessitate compliance and reporting, which often amount to sales and secondly a lack of regulations inevitably lead to excesses in the system, which diminish or collapse economies and, subsequently, business. The plights of the Enrons and Adelphias of the world in 2000-2001 or the recent sub-prime mortgage bubble debacle are obvious examples. Yet, the myth lives on.

The Savvy Salesperson spotlights both selling skills (hunter) and territory planning (farmer) because, the author contends, these are elements one can control. Then, without a hint of mockery, Suarez notes that his content addresses real sales and not marketing conjecture.

The book features plain language, although the recurring word ‘creditability’ is less than popular in the vernacular. There are also fragmented sentences, the use of ‘sales person’ versus ‘salesperson’ (the book’s title notwithstanding) and ‘sites unseen’ versus ‘sights unseen.’

What about the meat of the matter? Is the book basic? Possibly, but the basics are important and to Suarez’s creditability he actually has sold and, more importantly, remembers how it is as he wrote the book. He presents applicable points – as elementary as they may occasionally be or as unheralded as they often are – and discusses concepts that are practical and relevant. In an ocean of sales books, there is some good advice within.
Anyone would guess they are coming and so the sports analogies soon arrive. It is frankly not a yoke on this side of the pond, but Americans, North Americans, just cannot stay away from a baseball analogy here or a football metaphor there. It is a cliché however and a concern when authors and instructors don’t even realize what a wide swath of audience one leaves behind: men who don’t follow millionaires, women who don’t either, the world where most people have never even heard of the Saints or Vikings (or have only of the actual ones).
One interesting section of this book is its discussion of prioritizing accounts based on potential. This is a major downfall of salespersons (activity versus achievement) and not a minor concern of sales managers either. The author’s, and the book’s specialty, is ‘route sales’ obviously and travelling from customer to customer. Here the concept of travelling based on a customer’s potential is of extra concern. Pages 63 and 64 offer good advice for analyzing and evaluating prospects and buying potential in as an educated manner as possible even if customer has not given the salesperson answers in this regard and the buyer and seller haven’t spoken. The author makes a case for potential analysis and forecasting based on history and the previous actions or reactions of the buyer and customer. On the flip side, the opposite is this reader’s sentiment regarding page 87’s statement that a salesperson must always be prepared with an answer for customers’ answers, question or objection. The art of psychology makes such a feat impossible. The concept of active listening and genuine rapport makes it inadvisable. This is especially pertinent in the era of information and empowered buyers. On the other hand, the author has reserved a web page called www.therightanswerinc.com.

The Savvy Salesperson is more a book of general sales and account management advice and less a script or process like Sandler or SPIN would be. Then again, there are many examples and topics examined, which is best practice sharing at its core.

savvy_salesperson

*This book was sent to me compliments of the author or publisher

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Aug 142012
 

THE CLASSIC OF MILITARY STRATEGY BEARS MODERN RELEVANCE

Legend has it that The Art Of War was written some 2,500 years during Ancient China’s Zhou Dynasty by general, strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu. The book is a collection of military stratagem and thought here translated by Lionel Giles at the dawn of the twentieth Century, which is considered one of the more authoritative translations of the tome.
The Art Of War is a book of ancient battle and warfare, but when considered allegorically is read for its teachings and implication in management, corporate strategy and personal conflict. The Art Of War advises generals to know their own force, know the enemy and calculate odds of winning based on multiple factors. War should only be waged when the conditions are right and conducive to victory. The book itself is 2,500 years old and the translation is over a century old hence the arcane language and the references to measurements, persons and tools that are even more so, but it would be an understatement to say that The Art Of War has aged well. The book has been cited by modern generals, read widely in Japan, United States and modern China and even referenced in the original Wall Street film. The book is also referenced in the Connery/Snipes Tokyo connection film, Rising Sun. Quotations from the book appear on banners in Kurosawa’s Kagemusha. It likely influenced Musashi Miyamoto’s The Book Of Five Rings.

It is manifest to any practical and minimally observant individual that while humanity has made tremendous technological strides in the last 2,500 years, the same cannot be said of the advancement in philosophy, thought and logic. Indeed, it could be argued that humanity has walked backwards in philosophy and rational thinking. An ancient man would be shocked and beguiled with modern technology. Barely a living man could match ancient thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Cyrus, Cicero or Yoga in philosophy, logic and debate.

This edition of The Art Of War is just past fifty pages long and is concise in that only the text itself is presented without introduction, preface or foot notes.

An acquaintance shared the below adaptation from the History Channel

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Aug 112012
 

JAPAN IS NOT THE JAPAN WE KNOW

 

Over 100 years ago an author called Lafcadio Hearn wrote and published a book called Japan: An Interpretation. The 1904 book is quoted at the beginning of Japan A Reinterpretation and a good reason for Patrick Smith’s book name given the basic premise that Japan and Japanese have been misrepresented, misunderstood and different and dissimilar to what most have been told and taught.

The Japan most know is not the Japan that actually exists. The book works hard at dispelling the illusion. There is much to learn in Japan A Reinterpretation including an understanding of the said cultivated image placed to inspire Americans, allies and East Asians, created and fostered by accomplices like the so-called Chrysanthemum Club comprised of American scholars like Reischauer, who later would be appointed the US ambassador to Japan, and was strongly suspected of meddling in Japanese national elections or Ezra Vogel another author and scholar of the same ilk. The same suspect historians stand accused of cloaking the true picture of Japan and ostracizing the unaffected historians of Japan, like Canada’s E.H. Norman, who would end up committing suicide under suspicious circumstances after coming under pressure by the Americans.

Smith presents the Japanese as actors. The book is so concerned with the self versus the façade; private and public duality the author identifies in the Japanese psyche.

Much of the premise and assertion of the book range from difficult to surprising to unbelievable, but the author manages to selectively be convincing partly due to his job as a correspondent in Japan, living in Japan and years of research. Then there is praise for the book by the esteemed Chalmers Johnson whose credibility on Japan ranks high.

The dilemma of Japan and its people is premised as a conflict between ego and social duty, something the author claims the Meiji restoration of the 19th Century and the American-induced post-World War II democracy left unresolved or even stimulated. However, the Japanese have done it before: changed and transformed themselves so evolution is possible even if sometimes the core of the people – of the country – seems close to an explosion of change, which remains suspended like the wave on the book’s cover.

Reinterpretation highlights the contrasts between Japan and “us” (i.e. Westerners) from as early as the 1540s when the first Christian missionaries landed on Japanese soil and began to record the locals’ remarkable difference in psyche, height, habits and psychology as the Jesuit saw it.

Early on and on page eight there is a grammatical mistake. It is written “from left to write” instead of the obviously intended ‘from left to right’ in a discussion of Japanese writing and alphabet. It is worth pointing out because occasionally the writer’s intended denotation is unclear and obfuscated by his choice of words and grammar. Examples continue to the book’s end, but here is an example from page nine: “from our point of view it was a simple failure of perspective.” It might seem simple enough, but the reference is imprecise and the writer might as well be composing abstract poetry. For the record he is discussing Japanese conventions. Here is another one where the reference is explained or fulfilled. “Orientalism grew from empire.”

The book delves into serious and oft undiscussed topics. “The Japanese were not permitted, if that is the word, their own history.” Smith holds a special disdain for American treatment of the Japanese – be it the clichéd remoulding or the misrepresentation, which he seeks to expose. He also derides the racist and condescending attitude that reeks from Americans’ delusional superiority complex. The book quotes a newspaper article which appeared in the US describing the Kobe earthquake victims, as a result of which it is useful to remember 6,5000 Japanese died, as “ideal ones” as in ideal earthquake victims and, in essence, reducing the Japanese to insignificant sushi-eating ants. And the quoted article stems not from 1905, but from 1995!

 

Following World War II and the occupation of Japan by the allies the GHQ (or General Headquarters) for SCAP (nominally the allies’, but in essence Americans’,’ command structure in Japan and the Pacific) introduced deliberate and significant changes to Japan. With the goal of transforming Japan into a Western-styled country, that would never again threaten its neighbours and the West, SCAP set about rewriting law and conventions into one where individual freedoms were dominant. The Westernization also injected everything Western into Japan like Country Music, jazz, billiards and you name it. Yet soon something happened. Individuality and liberalism were set back in favour of Communist containment given the War Of Koreas, Mao’s takeover of Peking and China and other threats to Americans’ world order. SCAP resorted to restoring old Nationalists and embracing the old fascists to the point of sponsoring them into power. Most earlier reforms were arrested in order to make Japan a dam in front of the Communist expansion. This reversal is core, the author says, as to why Japanese trust and distrust, like and disdain USA to this day. War criminals were brought back as Prime Ministers and Japan put under US security protection (1951) especially after Article 9 of the Constitution of 1947 banned outward Japanese armed forces. The author remarks that the Constitution was authored by the Americans in English and then translated to Japanese no matter how much the two sides pretend it was co-authored. One recommendation at the album’s end is for the Japanese to initiate and write their own constitution in their own language and the new document be more positive. The current one is infused with too many ‘thou shalt nots’ as opposed to ‘shalls.’

As the book points out one of the main reasons the Japanese accepted such a document, alongside the obvious World War II defeat and the ensuing occupation, is Prime Minister Yoshida, himself a pre-war diplomat, who thought what japan had lost militarily it could win economically. Indeed, for the most part this has been the story of post-war Japan. Yet, the author reckons it had been at the cost of Japan’s psyche, maturity and social well-being.

In essence, Japan became a garrison and US protectorate. This is not news. Much else in the book shouldn’t be either were it not for the suppression of so much in the West and the media. For instance, as the New York Times revealed in the early ‘90s to apparent little fanfare, the CIA had been funnelling tens of millions of dollars to the ruling conservative Liberal Democrats (LDP), which is hardly the hallmark of a democratic country. This is the same party that controlled Japan’s post-war economy almost without interruption and went out of its way to accommodate and comply with American demands. The Japanese government was naturally conservative and pro-America, but it also calculated that its compliance gained it economic advantage and the concessions for which it aspired. Thus, the Japanese went some 30 years never challenging the US or ever voting or acting against its conqueror even if the decisions were against Japan’s own direct interests. At the same time, Japan was portrayed as a paradigm for Asian democracy and advancement by the American government and American media as US had assigned Japan the Asian role model assignment. Japan was to serve American interests in Asia and be the vanguard of American aspirations in the continent and no image less than a willing supporter of America and stable and eager Cold War ally would do.

 

Smith makes a point. Even if wrong the Japanese have a right to their mistakes and until such time as they are allowed this the country and its people will not mature sociologically and catch up with their industrial position. AMPO was the ‘security’ treaty under which the United States formalized its protector and umbrella status with Japan. In retrospect, history shows that bona fide war criminal Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi not only forcibly and undemocratically renewed AMPO in 1960 against the wishes of the Japanese population, but did so while being in the pay of the CIA. Thus, the LDP Prime Minister renewed and perpetuated Japan’s status as a country beholden and “under tutelage” of America and crushed democracy in favour of a forced mantra of “tolerance and patience” which was convenient for LDP’s aspiration that America’s wishes, and its own power, be preserved.

 

Facts such as this are highlighted because the violence and opposition to Americans and casting of Japanese as a willing group of submissive allies casts doubt on the manufactured image of Japan as conformist group-thinkers. Were the image of docile Japanese as lemmings true the author argues that tradition would have not allowed events like the forcible eviction of MPs from the diet by the police (not to mention Yakuza thugs threatening MPs and intimidating the population) to occur. The author does not cover it, but industrialization was accompanied by much tumult and labour unrest as well. The Japanese protests and turbulence soon lead to US President Eisenhower’s visit to be cancelled, AMPO nevertheless was renewed.

 

In other words, the Japanese are not conformist and compliant economic animals, but the politicians and the media have managed to nurture the image to some extent using mantra like ‘the samurai way’ and so forth. The Japanese have been fed context.  Moreover, in the West too the image of Japan was undergoing a re-examination beginning the late ‘80s including the infamous anti-Japan sentiments that swept America – otherwise known as Japan-bashing – that quickly took over the airwaves and general public following developments such as the purchase of CBS by Sony, the sale of The Rockefeller Center to Japan’s Rockefeller Group, the drubbing of the US Big 3 by Toyota, Datsun/Nissan and Honda and more. These invoked feelings of prejudice in the US somewhat diminishing the innocent imagery of the Japanese. In short, Japanese went from being heathens in need of proselytizing in the 19th Century to scary “yellow peril” savages (WWII) to being ”beasts” and as uttered by US President Eisenhower to being “workaholics” and “Economic animals.” The people were lampooned and became anything except complex and multi-faceted human beings.

 

One circumstance that led to the Japanese being deemed group-oriented, among other contexts, is how they were not even allowed surnames until the Meiji era. Here though is where the author returns to his main assertion that the Japanese are illusory as individuality exists; it exists, but it is hidden. They prefer not to reveal their individuality like everything else they hide. The author insists that in Japan true feelings are closely kept hidden, yet individuality is there lurking beneath the surface, carefully masked.

Unfortunately, the Reinterpretation’s main, and other points, remain partially unresolved. Some explanation and an exploration of the sources of the traits the Japanese are saddled with will come, but not forcefully and explicitly enough. Certainly in Japan the ‘public’ is valued more highly than among most countries, even if that fact is on the decline in modern Japan, but the author argues that the notion is overstated and imposed. Nonetheless, let’s recall the Japanese ‘group’ is as old as Japan itself: an isolated island where dwellers undertook rice cultivation together and mountain after mountain rendered most isolated. On page ninety-two Arinori Mori, Japan’s first education minister, is described as a man who wanted a state-directed education system, which was not Shinto and for his troubles was stabbed by a conservative right-winger. The minister was deceptive in his actions, however. He closed private schools where he could and condemned the rest by stipulating that university attendance is conditional upon students having finished state high schools only. Why would he do this? The central government in Tokyo believes knowledge, research and results should not necessarily be objective, but remain at the service of the state. The state wants conformity and a fabled ‘samurai way.’ Schools are subject to annual inspections and central control aimed at keeping lessons centralized and nationally in line with the curriculum barring regional variations through the direct governance coming from Tokyo. The idea was to conceive of one Japan with one thought model. This way the government maintained what it thought was desirable in the population: harsh working conditions, overtime and karoshi (death from overwork) as cruel employers and government have tried to instil hard work and dedication to vocation by relating the ideas to Japan’s history, heritage and honour. It is a fable of course, but one that again serves an economic purpose.

 

In the meantime, on the western side of the hemisphere, despite all of Japan’s industrial modernism, as well as cultural sway as varied as sushi, manga and anime the world remains ignorant of the real Japan. Americans being ignorant to begin with it has been easy for most to be indoctrinated with false images of the country at the rim of the Pacific. If the above quotations were insufficient Smith has more up his sleeve. A high-ranking US cabinet Secretary claims the Japanese universal education as owing its existence to the American occupation and influence when in fact the Japanese enjoyed universal education even before the Meiji restoration. The author explains the centralized nature of education in Japan as a tool of conformity, in the name of serving Japan, but offers statistics and reports on the amount of restlessness including bullying and violence in the country.

Japan A Reinterpretation attacks the subject from different angles. A chapter called Happiness In A Hidden Corner turns to the place of women in Japan. This topic is perhaps less controversial and a much less disputed or controversial topic for most acknowledge the lesser place of women in Japanese society. A toothless 1986 law (equal opportunity) aside most acknowledge Japanese women have traditionally been suppressed and thus come to claim a yearning for the sex to be advanced and aligned to the other gender and society as a whole. I, and perhaps others, have noticed how Japanese women have nowhere near the achievement level of men whether in the areas of art, science, Scholarship or rank. It is as if Japanese men are the fabled advanced ‘Japanese’ and Japanese women are… geisha. In Kabuki theatre, to take an example, Japanese women were Kuroko, literally ‘black people,’ dressed in black and largely unseen. What is more, even women were played by men. In society, women were designated ‘inside’ the house; men were ‘outside.’ Some feminists have been content with such a state of things and adopted the saying Dansei Joi, Josei yui ‘men superior, women dominant.’ The thinking has been that men can have the ‘outside’ as long as women have the ‘inside.’

To highlight the devolution in the status of women the author wades through ancient Japanese history noticing how women were not always subordinates. As a matter of fact, women had gained a societal voice in the Heian period (794-1192) of Japan before the age of shogun and samurai, Chinese influence and Confucian Orthodoxy gained ascendancy and relegated women to Oku (the innermost part of the house for chores) for marriage and love were meaningless and largely inconsequential.

Perhaps that’s why – and this is not from Smith – Japanese women are coloured white in traditional ceremonies as tradition had them in the shadows. Females in Japan were called oku-san or ‘inside person.’

In the Heian period in 1672 famed Japanese ethicist and scientist Ekken Kaibara noted that women have five defects: disobedience, anger, slander, jealousy and ignorance.

As I read the accounts regarding the state of Japanese women I couldn’t help but be reminded of a scene in the Japanese film Ran where two minor lords offer their daughters to lord Ichimonji for his one son as a offering. Naturally, the women are not present and have no say in the matter.

Readers might be of the belief that Japanese women have made great strides and pushed forward, and of course it would be true, but the author takes the reader back to the post-World War II reversal induced by the SCAP to counterpoint. In 1946, before the reversal, 39 women were elected into the lower house Diet, which is approximately a ten-percent share. This number was not matched until 2012 when the proportion topped at 10.8%. In contrast here is some numbers from the rest-of-the-world including both industrially advanced and non-advanced countries. As of this writing, women Members Of Parliament numbers stand at 25% in Iraq, 56% in Rwanda, 40% in Iceland and 25% in Canada.

Regarding xenophobia and the oft discussed sense of racism prevalent in Japan towards foreigners Smith claims some of the fear is not so much dislike of foreigners, but the antipathy towards the Westernization imposed centrally from Tokyo. Much of Japan’s modernization was imposed on the rest of Japan by Tokyo. Foreigners are associated with the change. This makes sense be it USA, Canada, Zambia or Japan the uneducated are fearful and scared of change.

 

To quote page 200, “Japan’s psychological violence towards its own people…” Smith never uses the word “hypocrite” but strongly infers it. He remarks that when the Second World War ended masses of Japanese were ready to commit suicide and die for the Emperor. Within a matter of hours and when the Emperor spoke relief and a festival atmosphere prevailed instead. In his autobiography the renowned Akira Kurosawa describes the difference as he walked through the streets of Tokyo the day the war officially ended. He calls his fellow countrymen, or their reaction, “shallow” as in empty vessels ready to be filled with whatever.

These assertions are a segue for the next topic in the book. Almost casually comes the next contention appearing almost as a throw-away passage on page 226. The Americans deliberately – and this has been rarely debated – rewrote history in order to reinvent the Emperor Hirohito’s involvement in World War II. Preserving the Emperor as an innocent bystander to the Pacific War and not complicit to the invasions, massacres and rapes suited the American needs and so it was done. The author depicts this as an “ambitious deception,” which launched the “culture of irresponsibility” of Japan and goes on to provide a sample of a tanaka the Emperor himself wrote exhorting patience and Japanese superiority. The idea hearkens back to the economic deal Yoshida proposed and put into motion for the Japanese to come back economically. Oddly, Smith has to agree, the deception has by and large been a success.

The Emperor Hirohito, goes the contention, was aware and involved in Pearl Harbor, rapes of Nanjing and even had more than a passing interest in chemical weapons and biology.

 

Japan A Reinterpretation at length discusses and analyses a topic from several different angles that is rarely parsed let alone acknowledged. Japan’s modernization is hollow, imposed and a con used by levers of japaneseism as a ruse. Yet, despite the negativity and pessimism some optimism should be permitted as younger Japanese abandon tradition – recall that the author is clearly in the individualism camp, a premise other readers or I might not agree with. Younger Japanese not only are abandoning recent past traditions and “World War II” thinking, but also semi-sacrosanct concepts as kokutai (‘national identity’), yamato (the Japanese spirit of the ‘rice cultivating people’) and the fable of Emperor Jummu.

One could easily come away from the book stirred to pessimism. Taken that way Japan’s economic slide of the last twenty years could easily fit into the perspective. Then again, economic development never was an argument for the author instead going the opposite way and bashing the industrial expansion set against the personal progression of the people. Moreover, Smith is not reserving blame for the Japanese leaders and system. He clearly blames the US and its opportunistic retrenchment after WWII.

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Jul 042012
 

IT IS TIME TO MODERNIZE THE OLD APPROACH TO SELLING THE AUTHORS IMPLORE, BUT…

 

The Contrarian Effect Why It Pays (Big) To Take Typical Sales Advice And Do The Opposite is a short book in which the authors, Michael Port and Elizabeth Marshall, implore the readers, sales professionals and companies hiring salespeople to abandon the old-school sales processes involving prospecting, objection removal and pressure tactics for more people-friendly and customer-sympathetic practices. A special scorn is saved for `closing’ techniques. The authors’ logic and thoughts regarding modern selling and proper and advantageous 21st Century sales are valid. Indeed, I have spoken to many people over the last several years about how the paradigm for selling has interminably changed in the information age given the advent of modern communication or the Internet. The authors are not about to get too many conceptual objections from this reader. But…
There are several problems en route to goal. First, it doesn’t take long for the reader to discern that the authors are more marketing-oriented than sales. The larger an organization, the more specialized the functions like newsletters, webinars, special offers and such are and become the domain of the organization and its marketing function not the sales team. Secondly, the book largely – not completely read on – ignores how salespeople and sales departments are controlled by the president, CEO, board of directors and shareholders all of whom are looking for quarterly or monthly results and long-term relationship building be damned or at least be relegated to secondary status. Real-socialism was a phrase that was discussed in political circles during the late Soviet era. Let us call the current reality of sales departments Real-saleism. And if Michael Port and Elizabeth Marshall have a beef with the short-term instant-result system that is de facto and in place I sure hope they are part of the Occupy Movement. Attraction Marketing takes longer than sales quota periods and is typically not in sync and thirdly and finally, there are customers that (yes, still!) are sadly swayed by old-school and manipulative tactics, which disadvantages the `enlightened’ salesperson. So, let us be real. The ideas in The Contrarian Effect are positive, trending correctly and beneficial in the idealized world we hopefully are inching closer towards, but they are not quite there and no amount of calling `conventional’ sales folk `Neanderthal’ or whatever will immediately change the status quo.
In the meanwhile, as we grow closer to The Contrarian Effect what are the ideas espoused here?

1. Build Relationships And Make Connections: treat customers as humans first. A very good idea and noble one at that, but when was the last time a company treated anyone as a human being? By definition, employees come and go at the leisure of corporate profits and investor relations. Customers are certainly “acquired” and “churn” is measured in the quarterly results. While the authors insist that the principles are in fact advantageous to the sales effort – and they are partly correct – their notion here clashes with the reality of our corporate personhood status quo.

2. Respect Your Customers And Honor Their Wishes: customers are in control. Understand and respect this truth-ism.

3. Target Specific Group Of Individuals And The People With Whom You Do Your Best Work: this is a rational argument that clashes with the school of thought that insists sales is a numbers game and playing the odds, if the prospect pool is big enough, is the way forward.

4. Make Relevant And Timely Offers: this makes sense, even if the book is stereotypically short on specific examples, even if the delivery is a marketing function. Being relevant; however, requires listening, which salespeople for which, as the frontline of any company, are ideally suited. 5. Increase Your Likability Factor: Sounds like point number one and there are not any details on how this could be achieved. Perhaps the authors believe everyone knows how to do this, but they do not offer any specifics either.

6. Practice Radical Transparency: it helps build a “stellar” reputation.

7. Establish Yourself As a Trusted Advisor: This is achieved through implied and shared expertise.

8. Collaborate With Strategic Partners To Leverage Your Efforts: this one always sounds good in theory, but rarely pans out in reality. Prospects are too busy to be attending joint meetings and to be introduced. Likely partners are also similarly busy and need freeing from short-term deadlines.

9. Think Bigger About Who You Are And What You Offer Your Clients: Think outside the box and exercise creativity, counsel the authors. Alas, no specifics.
One criticism of this book, like so many others, is the stereotypical habit of disseminating advice without having specific and concrete examples to back it up. Page 142 offers a modicum of particulars, but only in general terms and partly in marketing terms. Costco is cited as an enlightened organization that is profitable and growing, while paying its employees above average wages to better serve its customers who are willing to pay membership to shop there. In contrast, there is Wal-Mart, which is anything but enlightened. Perhaps the market is segmented between bad and less bad? Incidentally, there is a fascinatingly surreal story surrounding the Titanic in this book that was new to me. It is an interesting read. Concepts are fine, but books without actual examples are just like real-estate/money making/motivational symposia. They are teasers designed to lure the customer in just to leave them with a yearning only satisfied with more expensive subsequent course or private lesson. Coincidentally, both authors are speakers and coaches. On page 51 the book advises that salespeople can save time and money by 1- isolating and defining customer subgroups, 2- Investigating how to reach the key decision-makers of these subgroups and building rapport with them and 3- determining the best way to communicate relevantly with them. Great advice – I am ignorant and wanted to cure the affliction with this book – but how?
Regarding the `real-saleism’ page 123 attempts a comeback of sorts by acknowledging how sales departments work before admonishing salespeople for participating in the dated system at the expense of one’s integrity and health and ending with a wishful statement that “Many sales professionals are not required to use the typical tactics. Hopefully that is the case for you.” The book explains that self-interest is fine so long as it does not degrade into selfishness. This latter trait is counterproductive to serving customers and, ultimately, winning. Page 89 makes a case against the current insistence for immediate results – it damages the long-term and sales overall – but alas the system is the system until there is mass change. Sales tactics are largely out of sync with the market and need to adapt. Value to customers including offering truth, reliability and transparency are competitive advantages. The authors are correct. Things will only completely change when customers demand it, stock and money markets adapt to it and social pressure makes anything else unacceptable. The Contrarian Effect has aided the discussion. But…

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Jun 232012
 

HOLD ON DON’T GO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love It Don’t Leave It is a follow-up to authors, coaches and human resource experts Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan Evans’ book Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em. I received the book from Bev after interviewing her ­­­­­­­—- for the earlier book. While the latter’s topic is how managers can take care of their star employees and retain them, Love It Don’t Leave It is a shorter book dealing with making one’s job work. Like the previous book there are Chapters from A to Z with each addressing a topic. These are 26 easy-to-read and understand concepts from the employees’ perspective. A is for ‘Ask’ and Z is for ‘Zenith,’ but the authors insist that if one is going to read just two chapters those would be the aforementioned ‘Ask’ (a major topic of the book) and ‘B’ for Buck. That is another appeal of the book. It can be read in any order and can later be referenced for any chapter whose topic interests one.

Chapter titles include Career, Dignity, Hire, Kicks, Mentor, Numbers and Understand. In ‘Ask’ the major topic of the book is discussed. Do not assume your work, manager or boss knows what you want. Tell them. Include WIIFT (What’s In It For Them). Smash through the barriers. As ‘Z’ for Zenith states “Satisfaction Requires Action.”

Along the way one gets chapter after chapter of spotted T-shirt messages that the authors believe holds true-isms. As a reader it did occur to me that not only the book’s major tone is one of optimism for staying at one’s current job, in lieu of leaving for another, but also that it is geared towards the cubicled office worker. The authors might disagree with this last statement. The authors are indeed positive and are assuming that one’ managers and bosses are rational. They are not assuming that the managers have either the answers or the ability. There are chapters for those impediments as well.

Remember, making you happy is good for your employer.

*This book was sent to me compliments of the author or publisher

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Mar 142012
 

SALES DICTIONARY OR LIFE’S BIBLE?

 

Thomas S. Caldwell is a Canadian businessman and president of Caldwell Investment Management and now Caldwell Securities. The company is known for investing in securities, mutual funds and international stock exchanges. Like its author’s company the Canadian book is relatively unknown in the worldwide grand scheme of things, but apparently successful given how my copy is the seventh printing from 2007. The first edition stems from 1998.

The Sales Dictionary – Everything Comes Down To Sales purports to be a dictionary of and about sales, but I take umbrage at that for several reasons. Firstly, the short and mini-formatted 100-page book is not actually a dictionary. It reads alphabetically from ‘Accomplishments’ to ‘Zzz,’ but the list is only a partial one of sales-related terms and, moreover, not presented with short meanings of the terms as such, but as the author’s definitions. Secondly, the book might already be dated. His encouragement to carry a mobile phone is a dead giveaway. Thirdly, the author clearly pushes his Christian religious agenda as much as he does sales and selling.
Normally, that is not an issue – live and let live some would say – but when perusing sales tomes one hopes for time-proven, empirical and practical guidance. This is why systems like Sandler, with its emphasis on neuroscience, or SPIN, with its reliance on data derived from hundreds of actual sales calls, are appealing or interesting. When the author takes time to include, espouse and promote terms like God (“as you develop a faith in him” and more controversially “…also keep in mind that any god but the real God will kill you”), Grace, Pray, The Bible (“a source of strength and guidance”) and Spiritual the reader is faced with a question regarding whether the book is best read as a sales methodology or as a way for Caldwell, obviously a devoutly Christian man, to promote his Christian faith. Ironically, as much as Caldwell and the book wave the flag of God and religion he – I am assuming ignorantly – quotes German philosopher Nietzsche, albeit inaccurately, by including the “those things that don’t kill us, make us stronger” saying under the ‘Experience’ entry. Nietzsche is famously the author of The Antichrist.
The book is more of a lifestyle guide and less sales tome, but at least, unlike many others, Caldwell is not using this book as a vehicle to launch a sales coaching and lecturing campaign.

Nonetheless, the book has several good pieces of advice and common sense thoughts regarding sales, selling and salespeople’s endeavours vis-a-vis clients. Insomuch as this is a sales book then The Sales Dictionary is more The 25 Sales Strategies That Will Boost Your Sales Today! and less SPIN Selling.

Other noteworthy items regarding the book that are worth mentioning include the author’s denigration of degrees, and his opinion that they are unimportant and secondary in “the real world,” and that people should beware of “experts.” This last one is particularly odd given how salespeople, in my opinion, need to be the experts that hold customers’ hand and align them with respective products or services.

The Sales Dictionary is a quick read and offers a synopsis of several serviceable ideas, but it is neither what one would necessarily expect going in nor giving one the impression of dependability or seriousness.

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Feb 182012
 

CANNOT IMAGINE A SUPERIOR CONTEXTUAL EXPLANATION OF THE RISE OF INDUSTRIAL JAPAN

The phrase ‘Japan Incorporated’ gained prominence in the 1960s and persists to this day. While many see Japan as an industrial behemoth with a diversified set of complex and heavy industries not many know how this came about. MITI And The Japanese Miracle: The Growth Of Industrial Policy, 1925-1975 is an insightful book on the topic with an in-depth focus on MITI, Japan’s famed and mystical Ministry Of International Trade And Industry. MITI practically conducted and coordinated Japan’s industrial policy from 1949 until 2001 when it was folded into the then newly-created the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).
Up until that time MITI was Japan’s blunt instrument of economic policy and industrial structure. It was both revered and feared by the industries and cartels it espoused and nurtured. Staffed by handpicked and elite bureaucrats, this prodigious promoter of Japan’s industry, productivity and exports was the official forum responsible for knitting the country’s moves in the economic arena from its perch in Tokyo. It is not explicitly mentioned in this book, but on occasion, MITI was also complicit in suppressing internal Japanese citizens’ dissent or protest against industry such as with the infamous Minamata Disease. MITI was also feared and disliked by foreign interests for its skillful shielding of Japanese economy from competition and penetration with the aid of both its own guidelines and associated laws.

MITI is “without doubt the greatest concentration of brain power in Japan” according to the book. That is a profound statement by Chalmers Johnson, the author and, now-deceased, Japan expert. I had read Johnson before – in his guise as a critic of the American empire – but picked up MITI And The Japanese Miracle in search of information and context on Japan’s development and industrial super-growth. The book delivered. The amount of information, history, context and analysis here is impressive. It is doubtful that any Japanese tome has as much information condensed about the famed ministry and its staff. With its appendices it sequences the ministers, vie-ministers, bureaucrats and actors in the ministry with astonishing detail. This book includes a contemporary history of Japan’s bureaucracy from the beginning of 20th century until 1980.

Beginning in 1949 MITI set out to enact a plan-oriented market economy system. The `Miracle’ covers the years 1925-1975 from a 1980 vantage point. In the process the author dispels a few myths about the rise of Japan. Exports were not the drivers of Japanese economy as many take as gospel. Exports as a percentage of GNP have typically been 50% of the economies of countries like Canada, UK or France. As such, the author argues that growth and success were children of the developmental school (i.e. state-related) economic growth.
As mentioned, the author ascribes to Japan the `plan-rational’ (versus US or UK’s `market-rational’ for example) term, a state which leads its industrial base. MITI’s economic bureaucracy was dominated by non-economists. Interestingly, in recent months, in response to their economic crises, Italy and Greece have cast aside politicians in favour of economists at the helm. This point is additionally interesting because in the `60s Japanese were, somewhat disparagingly, called “economic animals.” This is oddly untrue since these creatures of commerce were apparently subordinate to the bureaucracy.
Johnson notes about Japan that “Nationalism is an active element in economic affairs.” The state (i.e. MITI in this case) had been engaged in both the transfer of knowledge among enterprises and facilitating the sharing of best practice from one enterprise to another – of course when it determined that it was in the interest of the nation and the state. Imagine that in the wild capitalist West! The book amplifies, through facts supplemented with direct quotations that MITI believed that market power alone was insufficient for national progress and it went as far as seeking on occasion to shift industries and activities wholesale to newer ones. A prime example is how the government and bureaucracy successfully attempted to starve the traditional textile industry of Japan in favour of heavy industry. In post-war Japan of 1947 priority production and heavy industry won over its smaller brother. The policy accelerated once Japan was granted its independence under the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951. Much of it was even at the immediate expense of the civilian population. Additionally, the guidelines and policies entailing over-loaning to targeted heavy industries spawned a lessening reliance on capital markets. As a result, longer-term views (not quarterly revenue or annual metrics) were the prime objectives of the Japanese system. This is markedly different from the West where capital availability and stock market equity mean nearly everything.

Interestingly, this was not a clear-cut decision in Japan. As conscious as the eventual decision was in the wake of World War II a robust discussion had ensued with some arguing for investment and organization for a small business economy. Between 1925 and 1975 Japan tried, what Takashima Setsuo the deputy director of MITI’s Enterprises Bureau described, the three methods of implementing industrial policy. These, as explained on page thirty, are `Kanryo Tosei’ bureaucratic control, `jishu chosei’ civilian self-coordination or `yudo gyosei’ which is administration through inducement. Between the early `50s and early `60s Japanese exports went from being dominated by textiles and fibres to machinery and metal products in only the span of 10 years. Such was the single-minded force of the endeavour. Chalmers’ information matches Professor Terutomo Ozawa’s premise that, despite mobilizing for full-scale war in the ’30s, Japan became an industrial nation in the ’50s and ’60s. Ozawa incidentally is a great read to complement Chalmers. I found some of Ozawa’s writings on the net and recommend it to add to one’s body of knowledge on the industrialization of Japan. Had that argument gone the other way the course of contemporary worldwide sociology might have been altered. As much as the effort was concentrated and all-composing it was not until the `60s that MITI and Japan fully realized that what they were doing was birthing of the industrial policy of a developmental state. The trifecta of elected government (including a LDP party government especially beholden to several sectors), expert bureaucracy and industrialists (which are often staffed from the former) is what gave rise to the rapid growth of Japan.

The evolution of MITI was not uneventful. MITI formed a kind of public/private cooperation that would intermix state with industry. But unhappily 20 years of strife, strike and violence had follow WWII. Nationalism and the wars of `40s and `50s, strikes, demonstrations, bombings and a domineering military all had a hand in shaping what was to be. This is an important context as many observers imagine Japan’s rise to economic prominence as an even and smooth evolution. The miracle of `50s, `60s and `70s were by-products of the Japanese resolve to right wrongs and change the country’s lot. Possibly the Japanese would not have been as resolved to force the nation into prosperity were it not for what had happened including the explosion of two atomic bombs. Chalmers also tracks the bureaucracy involved to the Samurai class and that profession’s sense of public service, albeit with the ingrained sense of elitism. At the same time, the bureaucracy was heavily influenced and coordinated by strategic industries which also fund the politicians. This is another variable touching and moving the trifecta. The demarcation point for the rise of deliberate industrial policy is pinpointed as the financial crisis of 1927. As such, for the Japanese economy the depression was the genesis to solutions. Inspired by Germany, where several Japanese bureaucrats had served, and its government cartels Japan opted for cooperation, and not competition, as a model. This lead to an economic growth predicated on lowered costs, but not necessarily increased profit. Recall that short-term profit and market capitalization were secondary to Japanese enterprises. One of the material underpinning of this was the 1931 Important Industries Control Law – incidentally an enduring law along with its successors like National General Mobilization Law – which included the following tenets:

1- Replacing competition with self-control
2- management and enterprise profitability beyond immediate performance
3- Government, State and enterprise cooperation
4- Considering the good of the nation versus foreign

The law legalized self-control and was the basis for some 26 MCI-sanctioned industrial cartels for their designated sectors.
This is structure that MITI inherited and began to organize and mould for its coveted industrial structure, which included reining in, what it deemed, excessive competition, coordination of investment and a public-private cooperation. In this endeavour it was abetted by the Japanese lifetime employment systems, enterprise unionism and the seniority wage system (nenko) all of which yielded greater labour commitment. This ‘system’ (In a 2002 paper Ozawa calls it “interdependent institutions” which included the Japanese placing different industries under the jurisdiction of different ministries in order to further complicate the domestic economic system) only functioned if it all worked together. Yet it bears repeated emphasis that it was not all measured and meticulously planned. Aside from the above-mentioned Japanese sociological imperative there was also 50 years of experimentation and adjustment to work through. The MITI-induced system reminds one of the differences between artificial medicine and supplements and natural goodness. Nature works better and is more effective every time because of the combination of its elements. It is the combination of components (say minerals and vitamins in the right proportion) that work wonders and not just the presence of one particle, such as Vitamin C alone.

MITI did rebuild the old Zaibatsu (cartel) base under another name, but special space is given here to Administrative Guidance (page 266 and on) including not only a definition and consequence, but also the narration of how it was validated and tested by the courts – a rare occurrence in Japan for a law to be legally challenged. Administrative Guidance became especially important after the trade liberalization that was part forced on Japan and was part seen as a necessity to spur Japanese exports. Unsurprisingly, MITI was both used by the government and unilaterally combated to delay the trade liberalization demanded by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development an international economic organization of the industrial world). Japan at first kept some 30 industries protected whilst calling itself liberalized, which was somewhat eventually officially only completed in 1980. However, the old Japanese methods and management styles were not necessarily favourable now and Japan would fall into more difficult times for this reason, as well as the asset bubble of the late ’80s and The Plaza Accord. This last ‘Accord’ may be considered a betrayal of Japan by its own government.
All the achievements of Japan are even more impressive as amazingly the country has very little natural resources, which ironically is likely part of the reason why it set about to do what it did.

MCI (Ministry Of Commerce And Industry) became MM (Munitions Ministry) – to serve the military in the Pacific War – and became MCI again only to evolve into MITI in 1949. This new super economic ministry was assertive and successful, but due to its nature, would also later clash with the fair trade commission set up by SCAP (Supreme Commander of Allied Powers, the American authority ruling Japan following WWII), a tension the author describes as very beneficial to SCAP, as well as the Foreign and Finance ministries in Japan which saw MITI as an overreaching entity.

As deliberate and planned as it all seems Chalmers also devotes time and attention to the more doleful aspects of it all. It is not all business in industrial Japan. As one can see, family connections (keibatsu) and nepotism existed. These took the form of classmates working together, alumni of certain universities (especially Tokyo Law) hiring from the same, industry making room for MITI retires and the more traditional familial connections.
As a non-national reading Johnson’s book his probe into the world of MITI and Japanese economy is somewhat awe-inspiring. He has assembled an exhaustive genealogy of MITI and related bureaus, which entails so many names one marvels. One also notices that the names begin to blend into one another and that they are all male. That says something about the Japanese patriarchy. Readers should also be warned. The book contains many Japanese terms – a function of Johnson’s familiarity with the subject-matter – and one may find it necessary to use the Index to refer back to the first explanation of the meaning of the Japanese terms. Speaking of which, the bibliography and indices are unparalleled in referring back to source material.
As indicated, the book contains much insight not just on MITI and its particular methodology, but also on the wider economic and trade policies and its supporting structure in Japan.
Another measure of the success of MITI’s coordinated `mixed economy’ with state as an actor was how several countries adapted it to their own benefit. This type of plan-central model was emulated by Korea, Taiwan et al. On a tangent, Ozawa is also assertive that Japan was given leniency in liberalizing its system and opening up its industry and domestic economy to foreign competition by ‘virtue’ of the Americans’ desire to preserve it from socialist encroachment. In this way, the Korean War was advantageous to Japan. These Western fears bought the Japanese much time to gain industrial footing before gradually opening up following the death of the Soviet Union.
A major caveat, which the book understandably does not address as the focus here is MITI, yet is relevant, is exceptionalism that does exist among Japanese conglomerates. The author allows that for every Nissan or Mitsubishi working closely with MITI and being a part of the industrial structure, there is a Sony or Honda which showed little interaction with the Japanese government beyond what is normal anywhere. The Americans even endorsed and supported a war criminal, Nobosuke Kishi, as Prime Minister in 1957.
At some point in the late `60s and early `70s MITI lost its luster and currency in Japan. Its waning popularity was a function of scandals, some conflict and even its opposition to progressive law making. One such anti-progressive posture was its pushback against proposed laws to combat industrial pollution. It was somewhat restored when in 1973 and 1974 the Arab/Israeli war ensued, with the world falling into the grip of the Arab oil export embargoes. It, and its associated energy policies, allowed MITI to demonstrate its importance once again. Japan diversified its quest for oil to Iran and Mexico, and away from the Arabs, including the promise of and the construction of a large Petrochemical facility in Southern Iran in exchange for reliable oil supplies. Japan being Japan it had the benefit of little in the way of natural resources such as fuel or ores. The country was dependent on foreign energy.
Nonetheless, by 1980 Japan was one of the richest nations on the planet and began formulating its industrial and trade guidelines on that basis.

 

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Nov 212011
 

THE A TO Z OF RETAINING EMPLOYEES BY KEEPING THEM ENGAGED, SATISFIED AND GRATIFIED

 

 

Because everyone likes a good list Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em Getting Good People To Stay contains 26 chapters (beginning from A and ending in Z) of strategies, ideas, questions and surveys on how to keep one’s best employees. Written for managers of people, the book offers strategy and advice on how managers can keep their best employees to stay, and stay to be productive and performing.

The book may be considered anachronistic given the tough times, but there is no better time than now to keep one’s top employees and, as such, Love ‘ Em Or Lose ‘Em’s concept would be timeless. Also, remember the book is addressing employees one likes to keep. Whether the book is too liberal or enlightened and how the pressures and deadlines of real life come between theory and practice should not be a hindrance in the adoption of all, several or even just one of these notions.
Personally, using acronyms or colloquial would not be my choice, let alone in a book’s title, but there is a plethora of topics and angles considered here. Here are select notes, which are elaborated on in their respective chapters:

A- In its pages the book features reasons why people stay at their work (page 13: exciting work, career growth, good co-workers, fair pay…), offers ‘Stay’ interview questions (page 15: ask, ask, ask for knowing is better than not and superior to guessing)
B- Managers believe money is the most important factor in making people stay and, not having enough to offer, fear asking employees about their needs and wants. The book argues that, as mentioned, asking is nonetheless a must and indeed managers are the prime reason employees stay or go. One’s manager is where the buck stops. Company culture is important, but managers are more germane. Loyalty is to boss, co-workers and work; not to buildings or brands. Managers need to be held accountable for keeping their employees.
C- Managers need to know their people’s talents, offer perspective, discuss trends, discover options, co-design an action plan and then support it. For instance, a vertical promotion is not always the sole option. A horizontal move may be a better fit and more complementary.
D- The authors argue that everyone is prejudiced one way or the other. As such, conveniences and preferences sometimes masquerade as requirements. Trust the employees and they become trustworthy.
F- The chapter speaks to work/life balance and poses questions such as ‘what is the point of a high-power job that makes you miserable?’ Advice: be caring and flexible. Set clear expectations and explain they need to be delivered, but from there offer flexibility.
G- Not all who want to be promoted will leave if advancement is not available, but good ones will leave if they are not challenged. Other options exist and include lateral movements and relocation. Help your employees with their goals.
H- Managers must hire right fits with patience. Listen to candidates and employees and do not hire in desperation. Embarrassingly, the book references itself and suggests leaving a copy of the book on the table during interviews, thus signalling what a great place the company is. On a more modest note, the authors speak to re-recruiting people.
J- Here is something useful: a ‘jerk’ check list. Do you recognize yourself or someone you know?
K- Have fun at work! It makes people more productive and never compromises results. Of course, it has to be in conjunction with achieving company results.
N- Here the book makes a very good point. If a company loses a piece of equipment, say a computer, the police or security is called in and an investigation is launched. Why is the same care not accorded the loss of an employee? According to the book, and oft-cited statistics, replacing a staff member costs twice the amount of the person’s salary and escalates to three times the annual salary for platinum employees.
T- The book insists on truthfulness and honesty. Managers should be candid and discuss the good and the bad. Confidential company secrets and others’ personal information notwithstanding, information is to be shared. Moreover, the sharing should not be restricted to annual evaluation time. As well, share bad information in-person.

These are just overview samples of the book’s content. One must pick all or the most relevant and commit to them. The book does not drill deeply into any one topic and, therefore, is better suited for quick reference, fast learning and quick practice.

Ultimately, if one believes the content, Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em is not just pro employee; it is also pro employer.

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Oct 142011
 

THE BOOK OF QUITTING OR PERSISTING

 

 

The Dip is an easily digestible self-help book comprised of 80 pages in short form with a simple message. Godin implores the reader to quit when appropriate, brave it when the circumstance demands it and to recognize the dip, which is a trough or low-point that may or not be the catalyst for success.

According to Godin one can face three situations. These are characterized as curves and are:

-The Dip: the period or stretch between kicking off a job, a project or the work required between the beginning and fruition. The author advises one that quitting ahead of time – i.e. not starting – is necessary if one is not going to be the best at something. Godin, however, values the best greatly and emphasizes that the super stars are number one because they recognize the right potential and slog in-between. These types fight through and come out winners at the other end of the dip.

-The Cul-de-Sac (dead-end): is a job, process or plan that simply put is going nowhere. The author wants you to quit and to insist your friends quit too when in a cul-de-sac. Don’t wait, he insists, quit now and save your time and life.

-The Cliff: is the rarer case where there is a deep and dangerous plunge at its tail-end. Godin’s example is smoking and the consequent emphysema. There is a sharp drop at the end of The Cliff.

The Dip is slightly better than the average ‘advice’ or ‘help’ book. Compared to malicious stuff like QBQ that tells employees to become modern corporate serfs Godin does have a point. It encourages people to be realistic and quit when necessary with pride and courage or persist and work through given good potential. He does prescribe quitting ahead and not avoiding pain as well when the dip is not right.

Having said that, it is not quite clear how one would identify a dip versus a Cul-de-Sac. While he invites one to ask himself whether measurable progress is being made that in itself is hardly simple or self-explanatory. The metrics are missing of course. It is too bad, but at least the author does insist that suffering in silence or feeling like failures when quitting are not virtues. Coping is actually a culprit.

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Aug 292011
 

“HE WHO ASKS THE QUESTIONS HAS THE POWER”

 

 

 

Secrets Of Question Based Selling is an odd title not to mention grammatically suspect. It sounds as if the book is making reference to a methodology that one has to study elsewhere and only then arrive at this book in order to acquire said system’s ‘secrets.’ Speaking of which, the book has over one hundred ‘secrets’ in boxes and captions, yet none of them are actually secrets. They are better described as tips or perhaps factoids. Even if they were secrets, which they are not, surely that can be no more since the book’s publication! Most are self-evident to say the least. Here is Secret #1 for example: “Salespeople are being held at arm’s length, and rejection is making it more difficult for them to stay motivated.” How about “Greater needs cause prospects to feel a greater sense of urgency for finding a solution and making a purchase”? Who knew? Sarcasm aside, and not to dwell too much, what is the book like? Well, it claims to double – not triple, improve incrementally or improve by 54%, exactly double – your sales.

Tom Freese’s book was recommended to me by a sales director and so I began it with anticipation. Nonetheless, it took me longer to get through it than most books. For some reason it was a lengthy and difficult read despite not being a long book or being written in difficult English. The book is likely verbose and has a difficult time getting to the point. It is divided into three parts.

Part I is a short course on the QBS Methodology.

Part II speaks to the power of strategic questioning,

while part III, to the books credit, gets into the Implementation of what one has learnt and moreover delves into the larger sales process including prospecting and presentations. This last part is partially like bonus material. Here Freese suggests taking the price/cost question that inevitably follows a presentation and pivoting it into the next step of the sales process including, but not limited to, asking questions as to where one stands.

 

QBS is a solid methodology and covers the fundamentals well. Certainly it borrows from a few other systems and gives the reader/learner a solid foundation for sales or a nice compact digest of everything in one place. Unquestionably, the concept of asking and asking and finding better ways of asking is sound and reasonable in sales. Nonetheless, there are several things to argue about. The introduction to the book erroneously claims that most sales trainings are not question-based. This seems inaccurate – unless there are many courses out there that have not crossed my path – yet the premise that questions uncover needs, standing, establish credibility and gain internal champions is spot-on.

 

Freese’s main hope is to have the reader stand out by improving the chances of a sales win by increasing the probability of success and decreasing the risk of failure. This, so far, is inexact as no two sales are identical and different processes will have to be followed, but having a parameter and methodology is a necessity. Freese is forthcoming in this regard. It follows that Freese believes his methodology of reducing risk increases productivity by increasing wins, enhancing excitement and diminishing rejections is the way to proceed. He notes that the average sale requires approximately five closing attempts which implies a lot of risk. Therefore, instead of sticking one’s neck out, he suggests probing for closure in the right way and at the right time. All this, by sending pings to gauge interest instead of directly asking, which might solicit an outright rejection.

 

Freese talks about ‘mismatching’ reminding the sellers that customers often engage in it almost subconsciously. People respond in a contrarian fashion. Seller: “can you see how we have the best solution?” Buyer: “well, you are not that good!” Instead of falling into that trap he suggests establishing ‘mutual interest’ which is achieved through strategic questioning until the buyer acknowledges a need. People mismatch because they are insecure and sellers must stop facilitating such responses. This thought suggests pushing for a sale is the wrong approach as it prompts buyers to reciprocate and push back harder. A better alternative is uncovering needs through questioning.

How? Reduce risk by 1- asking more questions and making less statements, 2- be more credible (diagnostic questioning conveys expertise and familiarity), 3 – make them curious, 4- ask, ask, ask and 5- Get into Momentum Selling. Freese wants the seller to become the messenger, not the message.

Here is where Freese introduces his notion of Gold Medals & German Sheppards. Some people strive for something (e.g. organic nutrition), while others run away from certain things (e.g. junk food). Find out which is which and work the angle. Some people might be considering both aspects. Based on that notion, strangely, Freese asserts that with QBS the customer’s personality type becomes irrelevant. That is hard to swallow for this writer. The real game in sales is changing latent needs to active needs (without needs the best salesperson is out of luck). That is, sellers need to transform ignorance into pain as most buyers are in the ‘latent’ category. This is where a process of mutual discovery works, one that turns prospects into informed buyers. Ask questions. Ask questions according to three definitions and categories: 1- Scope, 2- Focus and 3- Disposition. The conversational model of QBS, which is key to relationships, is:

 

 

It begins with creating curiosity. Page 104 suggests a script based on that notion (complete with a grammatical mistake) that suggests leveraging a name within the company when leaving a voice-mail or conversing in order to create curiosity in the customer’s mind. “since she (other person at the organization) didn’t know all the answers…” People buy from people and one has to build credibility first. After all, a salesperson does not initially have a relationship with the buyer. To build that employ strategic questioning by managing:

1-  Scope: How broad is your questioning? The more open-ended a question is the broader its scope. Yet, credibility is a prerequisite so open-ended questions are better for expanding questions and not for establishing them. Freese suggests asking a specific question and then delving into a series of diagnostic question.

2- Focus: Escalate the focus. Ask the right questions. Status (opportunity?), Issue (of prospect) and be analytical, Implication (of issue) and make it emotional, Solution (what is it?). Asking “what extent is ___ important” also avoids mismatching. Questions develop the relationship.

3-  Disposition: Since the situation changes it is important to know about the adverse factors involved. Not asking disposition questions or avoiding bad news limits one knowledge. Asking allows control since prospects are often reluctant to share bad news. This is why sellers mistakenly keep asking ‘hopeful questions’ like “we are doing fine, right?” Instead, it is better to ask ‘neutral questions’ like “are we going to hit the end-of-the-month deadline, or are we not going to hit that deadline?”

 

Additionally, QBS suggests we ask our buyers to become us and ask them what they would do were they in our shoes and what would the outcome of one’s action be. This is an interesting proposition. The book especially suggests trying this with an internal ‘champion.’ This is risky, however. One wonders if completely relying on an internal champion is sane as it might, to some degree, relinquish one’s own first-hand presence.

Selling is a process; but sales processes are no longer linear. Freese notes that some parts are more important than others and need a larger emphasis. On page 167 one comes across the book’s most provocative assertion that “customer is not always right.” If they were they would know everything regarding products and services and that is that. They would not need the salesperson. As such, the salesperson needs to take charge of the sales process by asking questions. Questions are power. If one is asked a question, first answer it with a question in order to maintain control and only later answer the actual question.

As you can see from the above QBS is a good read or rather a good compilation of material. It borrows from Consultative Selling, SPIN and Winning Inc. liberally however. Reading those or about those methodologies are good prerequisites or companions to QBS.

Of course, and it goes without selling, the author closes the book with the standard attempt at launching a training/guru/institute career. The saving grace is that unlike so many others he actually has a few things to offer.

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