by Jeff Cox & Howard Stevens. 2000, 255 pages, $21.00, ISBN 0-684-85600-X. Published by Simon & Schuster.
The subtitle of this book defines the book quite well -- "choosing the best way to sell for you, your company and your customer". The inventor or entrepreneur offering a new product or service is often surprised to find customers are not rushing in and demanding their product. If they are wise, they quickly seek the advice of someone who is successful in marketing and sales.
Before you dismiss this book as yet another cutie pie sales manual, note that is is based on "data collected on 250,000 salespeople, more than 8,500 corporate sales forces and interviews with over 100,000 actual customers...". It comes recommended by some of the top sales management people in the nation.
The introduction points out that since the 1970s, the business world has undergone major changes. While technology and lean organization are now mandatory, it is the quality of your sales force that has become the critical factor.
The book is written in the form of a fun-to-read story -- In ancient Egypt a guy named Max invents the wheel after witnessing the backbreaking efforts needed to drag the huge stones required to build a pyramid. How he and his wife, Minnie, with advice from "Ozzie the Oracle", convince people to buy this revolutionary new product and then the stages of evolution that their business goes through will generate laughter and tears, especially if you have gone the route.
In their very first session with Ozzie the Oracle, six "bedrock questions" are asked. Among them -- Who are your customers and your competitors? A common delusion among new inventors and entrepreneurs is that the entire world is on pins and needles waiting for their product because it has no competitors. Wrong. The world got along without wheels for millions of years and very heavy objects were being moved by men, horses and elephants using sledges. As the Oracle points out, "in the early going, all new technology begins with a very small base of customers who have surplus wealth to risk on it.
The book dissects and examines each stage of a typical company's growth and explains why each stage needs a different kind of salesman and sales strategy. In the very beginning, we meet "Cassius the Closer". He accepts "that ninety-nine percent of the population are not going to buy the kinds of products he sells". He has the skill known as "qualifying". That is the ability to screen potential customers and to focus on those who are likely to buy. As you read how he thinks and acts, you will recognize how often you have been "qualified" over the years.
As a product becomes accepted, another stage or level is reached where the customers begin demanding technical support and the salesman who just makes a deal and runs is no longer successful. Also direct competition rears its ugly head. The need for public-relation professionals arises and the need to offer customers added value by technology innovations.
Then, as time goes by, the product may reach a level of standardization where customers know exactly what they want and price, delivery and quality become paramount and your sales force must be capable of building a long term and strong working relationships.
The arrival of the clones and low-price imports presents yet another challenge. Now what is needed is a sales force that can deal with two basic customer questions -- "is this really the best price?" and "is buying here going to be a hassle?".
Throughout the book, boxes contain notes and insights citing the important principles in each chapter. At the end of the book, charts tie together how the basic salespeople (closer, wizard, relationship builder and crew captain) relate to technology, customers, strategy, selling, approach, marketing, getting the sale, and service. As the authors point out, "Many famous companies run by well-paid people have made costly, even ruinous, mistakes by straying from the selling style appropriate for the customers who pay the bills".
In each stage of business evolution, the writers emphasize the importance of finding "world class" salespeople, i.e., the best of their kind. They list the characteristics by which you can identify such people. To their credit, they also list the negative characteristics that may be found in each basic type of salesperson. For example, the closer -- "many can operate without feelings of guilt that would be normal in other people".
In its field, this book may end up a classic like Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Both are deceptively simple, yet give us deep insights into human thinking and behavior.
You may pay hundreds of dollars to attend a sales and marketing seminar and not learn some of the fundamentals that this gem of a book conveys.