Book reviews

Book reviews - Sales Books

Book Recommendation: The Perfect Close

I don’t like to make predictions, especially about the future, but I predict that James Muir is a name you will be seeing more and more in the conversation about top sales experts. I’m basing that on his new book, The Perfect Close.

But first, let me say that the book’s title is a bait-and-switch, albeit a positive one. That’s because the two closing questions that Muir recommends are only introduced in Chapter 12, almost at the end of the book. The first eleven chapters are all about the approach that you should take before and during the sales call to put yourself into the best position for the close. But I think that’s the best way for presenting the material in this book. Muir tells you right up front that you can skip right to the Chapter 12 if you like, but that would be like going to a five-star restaurant and only ordering dessert. You’ll get instant gratification but miss a tremendous amount of nutrition and flavor.

The “nutrition” you will glean from reading the entire book is a complete course in planning and executing an effective sales conversation. The big picture is that you must think deeply about the what and why of every customer call and communication: what is your purpose, and why should the customer meet with you? It’s an idea that I cover in Lean Communication for Sales, but The Perfect Close goes into far more detail and provides many more examples.

The “flavor” comes from the tons of examples of examples of what you could and should say, and what you should avoid saying. In fact, if I had to point out one improvement opportunity, there are almost too many examples but then you can simply skim over areas where you already get the point.

The “perfect close” itself consists of two simple questions and I like them because they are natural and non-manipulative, which makes them effective and low-risk. The questions are low-risk because they don’t force the buyer into a corner where the default answer is “no”; instead, they let you know what their attitude is and where they are in their decision process. But the crucial point is that the perfect close works only if you’ve done all the things that Muir recommends before you get to that point: having the right mindset, preparing effectively, and planning your sales call.

Overall, The Perfect Close is an excellent book, based on a good blend of research and personal experience, both with successes and failures. I highly recommend it.

There are several points in the books where Muir hints at upcoming work, and that’s why I predict he will become well known, and I look forward to reading even more from this promising first-time author.

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Sales Books

High-Profit Prospecting

Do we need another book on prospecting? As a seasoned (i.e. old) sales professional, I have to admit that’s what I thought when Mark Hunter asked me to review his book, High-Profit Prospecting. But then, I reflected on the prospecting examples that I receive every day as a small business owner, and I realized the sales world is desperately in need of his advice.

Most prospecting books are like diet books: everyone knows generally what’s in them, but they buy new ones anyway because the ones they’ve already read “don’t work”, and maybe this time it will be different—maybe this one will have a new wrinkle or a different approach that will truly work. High-Profit Prospecting passes this test.

The first section of the book, “Basic Truths about Prospecting”, is solid but not particularly different. Hunter counters the myth that social media and the Internet have made prospecting obsolete, and then goes on to anticipate and answer the most common excuses that salespeople use to explain their failure to prospect. If you are already convinced that you need to do more of it and do it better, the first part of the book is preaching to the choir.

While you might be tempted to skip right to the section on tips and techniques, you should definitely make a sincere effort to answer the comprehensive lists of strategic and tactical questions about your process in Part II, “Preparing for Prospecting Success”. Doing so will put you in a much better position to succeed.

Of course, in the end, it still comes down to execution and consistency, and Part III is where the book picks up and delivers valuable insights as well as practical and powerful tips. The overall approach is strong, and Mark’s advice about preparing, organizing and executing a prospecting plan will definitely help salespeople who are at the beginner to intermediate level. But even if you’re advanced (or just old), you can learn a lot from the gems of advice offered throughout the book, because small details can make a big difference in prospecting, where you’re dealing with first impressions. Some examples:

  • Write emails on you smartphone because that’s how most recipients will read them.
  • Call when most people don’t. (This one worked on me recently, because the caller earned my respect by calling on a Friday afternoon.)
  • Call busy executives the first two minutes just before and after the top of the hour, when they are between meetings.
  • When speaking to the gatekeeper, ask for 20 minutes of the executive’s time. Any shorter will make it seem like your offer is unimportant, and a half hour is too long.
  • Eleven rules for leaving a great voice mail should be required reading for every sales professional.

I highly recommend High-Profit Prospecting to any salesperson at any experience level—particularly to anyone who plans on calling on me!

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Book reviews - Sales Books

Where the Ground Truth Lives

Anthony Iannarino’s career has combined the best traits of a salesperson, teacher and writer, so it’s no wonder that his first book, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, can be read by all for both pleasure and profit.

I say “all” because the advice contained in this book can help you whether you are just starting in sales or have more years of sales experience than you care to count. Beginners can benefit by adopting the right mindsets early and by honing their skills over time, while old dogs like myself get a much-needed reminder and kick in the pants to get back to things we thought we knew.

The first half of the book focuses on mind-set, or the beliefs and behaviors that characterize successful salespeople. Anthony addresses ten of these mind-sets, including self-discipline, caring, persistence and accountability. One might argue whether some of the mind-sets, such as optimism and caring, are inborn traits that are very difficult to change, but even there Anthony goes beyond telling you they’re important—he provides checklists and advice for developing them if you’re falling short.

The second half of the book is all about skill sets, and these are definitely areas where even those of us with a lot of experience can find room for improvement. From closing to prospecting (yes, you read that right: for Anthony, closing comes before prospecting—but you will have to get his book to find out why), to negotiating and business acumen, the skills you need to succeed at complex B2B sales are here. As you read each chapter, it’s clear that Anthony’s ideas are based on real—and most likely painful—experience. For example, he cautions against the commonly dispensed advice to call as high in the organization as possible. He reminds us that “You may be presenting to the C suite, but I promise that you will be executing further down the organizational chart, where the ground truth lives.”

I love that phrase: the ground truth. That’s exactly what Anthony tells the reader in every page.

As an author of three sales books[1] myself, I could easily quibble with the title of Anthony’s book, because there are a few areas about sales that Anthony does not write about in his book. But then I’m reminded of what happened to Winston Churchill. As a boy he was held back from the smarter boys in his class and made to focus exclusively on English—and we know how that turned out. He wrote:

Naturally I am biased in favour of boys learning English. I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat. But the only thing I would whip them for is not knowing English. I would whip them hard for that.”

This book is like learning English. It’s packed with exactly the right lessons that you need to succeed in sales. In that sense it is the only guide you would ever need. If one of my kids were going into sales—this is the first book I would have them read. They could always read mine later—as a treat!

[1] Full disclosure: Anthony proved me an advance copy and also includes my book Bottom-Line Selling in his recommended reading list at the end of Chapter 16.

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Book reviews - Sales Books

Book Recommendation: Sales Manager Survival Guide

Imagine that you’ve just been named a first-line sales manager. You’re proud, you’re excited, and you’re about to be overwhelmed by the demands of the job. It is one of the toughest jobs in business. You’re going to quickly find out that what got you there won’t keep you there; the skills that got you promoted as an individual contributor don’t translate directly to getting work done through others. To top it off, your company spends a minuscule amount of its sales training budget on sales management skills.

Sounds like a sure-fire recipe for failure, but fortunately you have a wise mentor—let’s call him Dave—who has decades of experience in the sales trenches, and even more importantly knows how to impart that wisdom to others. This mentor helps you get oriented to the job and gives you excellent guidance about how to navigate and survive the crucial first 90 days. Building off that, he schedules regular sessions with you to focus on critical building blocks of sales management success, such as coaching, hiring, managing performance, and practically everything else you need to know to not only survive but thrive.

Your sessions with him are succinct, direct and powerful; he doesn’t waste your time with vague management theories; and he’s always completely candid with you. With that kind of coaching and mentorship, as long as you heed the advice and do the work, it would be almost impossible not to succeed as a front line sales manager!

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Actually it’s mostly true. He does exist, his name is Dave Brock, and the only thing wrong with the scenario I just mentioned is that you probably can’t afford for him to spend time with you personally each week. But you can buy his book, Sales Manager Survival Guide, and get the same benefits. If you are a first time sales manager, this book will launch you in the right direction, and if you’ve been in the role for a while, it may help you make whatever mid-course corrections you need to assure success.

All that said, I have to be completely candid. I’m a bit biased, having known Dave for over 25 years, first as a client, next as a sales training partner (which is why I know he knows how to impart his wisdom), and as a fellow blogger and sales expert. So maybe you’ll just have to trust me on this: Sales Manager Survival Guide will be one of the best and most indispensable investments you could make as a sales manager. the only reason not to have a copy is if you have a healthy consulting budget and already have Dave on speed-dial.

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