Book reviews - Sales - Uncategorized

Consultative Selling by Mack Hanan: The Most Influential Sales Book Ever

Why am I writing a recommendation for a book that was first published in forty years ago?

First, because I believe it is the most influential sales book ever written, certainly for me personally and probably to the rest of the selling world, as you can see from the chart below. Last Friday, the New York Times ran an article about Google’s new tool which lets you graph the frequency of phrases in 5.2 million digitized books published between 1500 and 2008. I had been thinking about Mack Hanan that morning, and decided to compare several common phrases used in selling. Here’s the result:

As you can see, all these terms took off beginning just after 1970, and “consultative selling” began a steep climb that still continues today. (The blip in 1900 is also interesting, and I’ll look into that further, but that’s not my point today.) Not coincidentally, Mack Hanan’s book, Consultative Selling, was first published in 1970.

I first read his book in the mid-80s. The ideas in his book resonated with me then, colored my development as a sales professional and sales trainer, and continue to form the foundation of my selling approach. Consultative Selling was the single most influential book in my development as a sales professional, and I suspect that many share that view. In fact, the chart above provides proof that this is so.

The ideas that captivated the sales world beginning in 1970 are well-known today, though in my humble opinion still more talked-about than actually performed:

  • Salespeople should talk about what a product does for the customer rather than what it is
  • The essence of selling is not pushing products but transferring value to customers.
  • You improve your own profits through improving your customers’ profits
  • It all begins with understanding your customers’ business
  • The critical importance of creating long term partnerships at high levels

The reason I had been thinking of Mack Hanan? My friend Dave Brock had told me on Thursday that Mack recently passed away. He was a friend and mentor to Dave, and though I never had the privilege of meeting him, he was in a sense a mentor to me as well. His influence lives on in thousands of sales professionals today.

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