Feb 082008

As Good As It Gets Given The Subject’s Limitations


Having some knowledge of the subject, I am of the mind that selling is next to impossible to teach, learn and predict. This may raise eyebrows, but let’s deal in veracity, shall we?
Man has not invented or perfected the science which can predict human behaviour, reaction or rsponse. Psychologists and sociologists may well be the first to tell you so.
Given this context, no text can claim to have mastered the art of selling – it just is not a possibility.
Having said that, SPIN Selling does as good a job as any; having researched and field-tested its recommendations and results. That is as good as it will ever get – and yet, as mentioned earlier, there are no guarantees.
As such, I admire the book for being best-of-breed, but have to believe that neither this nor any other method will come close to covering it all or covering it precisely.

Nov 072007

So You Want To Be A Consultant, Eh?


Pondering a career as a consultant? Wondering whether a career as an independent consultant is feasible? Not sure how to go about it? Need help setting up a business consulting in the United States? Then Getting Started In Consulting is the right book for the budding consultant rookie.
In a book drawing from personal experience Alan Weiss covers the A to Z of how to set up a business as an independent consultant in virtually any field. The topics range from the mundane (office furniture, gadgets needed, etc.) to the more germane such as obtaining financing, fee structure and structured networking, marketing and selling.

Divided into neat chapters including useful sidebars and summaries and providing succinct checklists at the end of the book Getting Started In Consulting is an easy to read and digest book by someone who has walked the walk. The knowledge that this is more than a mere academic study is in fact reassuring.
Nevertheless, the book is not perfect. The obvious, and Weiss is forthright about this given the title of the book, issue is that certain aspects of the book are quite elementary. Furthermore, some of the discussion regarding technology is already dated – and the book is only three years old. Finally, the author’s insistence on finding the least expensive options when obtaining the services of others, compensating others’ services cheaply, shopping at Wal-mart and so forth are not only symptomatic of the petty and cheap society we live in, but also go against Weiss’ own advice on how to structure one’s consulting fees, charging customers and asking for superior remuneration and are moreover counter-productive on a macro scale. If adopted universally, these tactics will perpetuate what consultants themselves face day in and day out. Namely, everyone’s top concern is minimizing costs and getting a service cheaply.
All in all, Getting Started In Consulting is a valuable book for consultant rookies or those with ambitions to rev up their practice and is a good investment for the reader.

Oct 052007

Showware – Showing Them Your Soft Wares


Demonstrating To Win is an exhaustive book on the topic of demonstrating software by experienced hand Robert Riefstahl. The author delves into the subject at hand with precision and detail through chapters like Demonstrating Is Not An Art!, Important Demonstration Concepts, The Demo Crime Files! and Your Demonstration Setting. There can hardly be a better resource than Demonstrating To Win for professionals in the industry. The book covers the obvious, mundane and elementary to the detailed nuances and tricks of the trade and aims to articulate the author’s main thrust that in order to win the day the presenter has to build a bridge that the prospect wants to cross in order to reach you (and your software product).
Each chapter is augmented by a brief summary which offers a synopsis of the topic covered and the author practices what he preaches by offering his experience in plain language. There certainly are a couple of instances where the reader will notice the book’s age and its year 2000 publication date, most notably during the technical discussions, but Riefstahl’s guide is comprehensive and advantageous all the way through and still relevant to those demonstrating software to potential customers.

Sep 012007

Do Not Leave The Sword Behind On The Next Sales Call


Here is a book on sales technique with a different angle. Samurai Selling: The Ancient Art Of Modern Service by Chuck Laughlin, Karen Sage and Marc Bockmon takes lessons learnt from the famed and legendary shogun and the nameless or ordinary samurai of Japan and applies them to the arena of modern selling. The authors are armed with metaphors, quotations, excerpts and parables of the samurai and use them to create analogies between the two worlds. Samurai, the authors tell, translates roughly to ‘one who serves’ and the writers seek to instill the value, along with other concepts like Ki, balance, integrity, urgency and APE (Account, Problem and Effect) questioning into the reader.
The concept is different and interesting, but the book has as many hits as misses. For one, the authors’ analogies are often stretched and forced. For another, the book seems to run out of applicable parables on occasion and just does without. Moreover, to maintain perspective, the samurai sought to serve without looking for gain. The modern salesperson – and his manager – would hardly care for that attitude. Yes, serving brings and facilitates the sale, but the juxtaposition still has merit.
Samurai Selling is a lofty ideal – the authors’ use of it to launch, nurture and enrich a corporate training career notwithstanding – but looking around one sees plenty of real-life examples which contradict its application to success.

Jul 152007

A Succinct And Easy-To-Read Book On The Basics


The 25 Sales Habits of Highly Successful Salespeople is a concise book on how successful salespeople go about their profession. The 25 ‘habits’ are quite basic and hardly represent a revelation to anyone but the most novice of salespersons.
Nevertheless, the 130-odd pages can be a fast and quick review, or check list if you wish, for anyone interested in covering the basics.
The book’s title might or might not be referring to Steven Covey’s famous series. Either way, The 25 Sales Habits can apply to more than just salespeople.
Pro: A quick read with a quick reference summary at the end.
Con: Too basic for most and a partially dated entry in the ocean of sales collateral designed to launch a training career.

Jun 202007

A practical approach to workplace situations


Managing Multiple Bosses: How to Juggle Priorities, Personalities & Projects, and Make It Look Easy is a book with an atypical approach to solving common workplace issues. Written by author and speaker Pat Nickerson, the book is in fact a compilation of issues, discussions and solutions offered at different seminars by disparate participants. In this way, the book takes advantage of a rare common wisdom and set of experiences. Moreover, The overall subject-matter is more true to the book’s sub-title as opposed to its main title. Managing Multiple Bosses… has a broader focus than just managing multiple superiors. It indeed discusses and offers practical solutions for other aspects of the corporate circus. In this context, the book has a lot to offer and is even fun to read at times – the serious nature of the issues discussed aside.
The sole fault with the book though is its organization. Titles, sections and problems/solutions do not enjoy an elegant and logical pattern or organization. Rather, the book is somehow organized as one discussion after the other and the bold headings are of little consequence.
All in all, Pat Nickerson’s compilation is an above average read for corporate citizens.

Feb 232007

How To Access The Executive Suite And SELL


Selling To VITO (Very Important Top Officer) is a book dedicated to the science of getting past the proverbial gatekeeper and reaching the executive prospect.
The book discusses in detail everything from attitude to the format of letters one should mail to the content of the voice mail one must leave. In that respect, the book is complete and combined with the personal experience the authors bring manages to offer an above average methodology into an important aspect of most sales cycles.

Having said that, does the book’s advice actually work? Well, the answer is some yes and a lot of no. Having put the methodology to work first hand – letters, labels and all – it is fair to say that VITO helps, but is hardly a silver bullet. In fact, while the book facilitated some headway the final end-goal was never in sight.
The failed experiment might be the result of bad luck or a small and non-representative sample, but the bottom-line remains that the book’s effectiveness must be questioned. Furthermore, the book’s content is slightly dated as shown by some of the verbiage which might be translating into the same for the content

Jan 232007

An Outline For Teams And Participants In The Corporate Context


Strength In Numbers is a detailed and specialized book catering to teams, committees, groups, etc. and their participants in the context of the workplace.
In the course of 200 odd pages, Strength In Numbers examines every facet of formalized groups’ interaction and attacks the concept from every conceivable angle.
Unfortunately the author fails to provide adequate proof. Real-life examples are scarce and next to no empirical data is provided. Furthermore the absence of footnotes and quoted research seems to belie the subjective nature of the conclusions. As such, one has to rely on a degree of blind faith to trust the author’s expertise or accept the book’s findings. This major gap in the book is partially compensated by the comprehensive nature of the book as regards teams’ dynamics and the book’s many practical and applicable tools and guidelines that are usually tagged at the end of the book’s chapters.

Jan 012007

Unimpressive Book From An Impressive Salesperson


Achieving sales greatness without cold calling might be a looked-for goal in sales circles – although greatness is hell of a subjective term – but Never Cold Call Again is ultimately contradictory in content, immaterial to enterprise sales and poorly written and constructed.
Setting aside the author’s weak command of the English language, including but not limited to poor grammar, redundant and numerous superlatives and misuse of pronouns, what is more germane to the average reader is how Frank Rumbauskas begins with one premise and quickly proceeds to negate it. Firstly though, it is clear that Rumbauskas is better suited and more experienced at low figure sales. Some of his general advice might just be relevant to selling vacuums, low cost service or sub-$1000 telephone systems, but will not travel beyond to larger enterprise sales. One can cite his advice to include one’s telephone number and e-mail address in fax-back forms on page 59 as one example. Who is this book aimed at? Furthermore, miscellaneous advice, like pretending to be in a prospect’s area (naturally while calling the person on the phone as described on page 63) dressing up as a form of subterfuge or impersonating one’s executive assistant (again on page 63 – the author suggests giving this script to a fellow or a telemarketer: “Good morning. I’m an executive assistant with the office of Frank Rumbauskas. I’m pleased to inform you…”) is plain wrong and immoral.

It is prose like this, which disparages the sales profession in the eyes of millions.

At its core, the author’s assertion that individual cold calls are a waste of time and his advocacy for the concept of leverage are sane. He advocates a variety of marketing activities as a superior alternative to cold calling. These include e-mail newsletter, direct mail, fax blasts (when was the last time you were persuaded to make a large figure purchase based on a fax – the kind of which piles up on any company’s fax machine routinely…) and flyering for executive lunches. Aside from snags like how that last technique again hints at the book’s readers’ target market (what sort of an executive will attend a roundtable in order to take advantage of a free $5 lunch? – page 93: your flyer should say, “ABC restaurant, compliments of us…” or page 92: “the free lunch was key” and more) some of the practices detailed go against the writer’s own advice not to engage in one on one marketing. After all, flyers sent to cars or offices are presumably delivered one at a time as described by the author’s `cold walk’ technique (page 60 – “I’d walk through the door, hand my flyer…” – imagine getting an enterprise sale that way!!). That is the book’s main paradox. Moreover, the author’s assumption that all prospects and industries deserve a similar approach is plain asinine – which they do not in the context of sales larger than, say, $100.

Rumbauskas’ book deserves kudos for focusing on the concept of leverage and time management, challenging conventional thinking and being forthright. His contradictions and less than honest advice lose him a star as does his digression into actual sales techniques and page after page of redundant and repetitious subject matter. Other reviewers have pointed it out, but it bears repeating that the author consistently contradicts himself and (hopefully) does not even realize it.

Ultimately, Never Cold Call Again: Achieve Sales Greatness Without Cold Calling would have been better as a magazine article which was also supported by some empirical supporting data. Yet, and despite that, Rumbauskas is still a good salesperson. Why? I purchased his book despite all that.