The title is an imposing agenda for any book, and immediately my mind went to a 400-page text with research and examples and lessons and case studies that would take a semester in college to read and understand and absorb, to say nothing of writing a review of it.
Instead, I found a 25-page expanded list of things to do in major account selling – a very complete and valuable list, at that. Think of it as the condensed version of the 400-page text. If I were highlighting all of the important points as I read that textbook, this would be my compilation of the yellow lines. It would be in my briefcase, and I would review it from time to time and try to better understand and apply the principles.
That is not a criticism of the book, it is a challenge to the reader. There is no skimming here, no filler or repetition or extended explanation of the points that you can breeze through and be impressed about how much reading you have done. Each and every sentence must be read carefully, and the ramifications thought through and understood. Looking for examples of the specific questions you might ask to use “questions as a consultative tool?” There are none – you’re left to understand the concept of the “questions as a consultative tool” and fit that into you own particular circumstances.
In other words, you must think. This book is not going to take you by the hand and lead you through all the possible situations that you might encounter and the methods for dealing with them. It is going to tell you, “If you anticipate a particular objection is likely to come up in a meeting, it may be better for you to surface the concern before the customer does.” Think about that. Apply it to your own sales environment, to your individual customer interaction.
Ruff and Spirer cover some very important concepts that are often overlooked or misunderstood, especially in a short form like this one. And in a short review like this, I can only mention a few.
Ask, talk, listen. This is one of my pet sales peeves and a pervasive problem with sales people. Stop telling before you’ve asked and heard.
Three core sales performance skills – asking questions, active listening, and positioning capabilities. I would organize these differently because I think these leave some stuff out, but they do cover those in the “five business development competencies.” My own preference would be to group these eight capabilities under three universal skills: Probe, Prove, and Close.
Features and benefits. In many sales circles, the value of features and benefits has been overwhelmed by fancy presentations like interactive on-line demos and such. But there is no substitute for having a useful feature and explaining specifically how that provides benefit to the customer needs.
Open vs. closed questions. Another myth put to rest. Open-ended questions are not intrinsically better than closed ones. Both have their place and uses. Ignore that at your own risk.
Win the competition but lose the sale. One of the most overlooked problems in sales, and one that has ramifications far beyond any specific opportunity. Unless you routinely understand that both your position vis-à-vis the competition, and the customer’s position vis-à-vis budgets and funding and internal politics and a myriad of other factors outside your control or influence, you may well have the satisfaction of being the selected vendor for a cancelled purchase.
One area I would like to have seen covered is the value of LinkedIn and other social sources for finding and vetting leads. It might be that they categorized this with marketing-developed leads, but these days such tools are a boon to every sales professional.
I liked the book, mostly because its concepts are accurate and useful, but also because even though it was short, it took me a disproportionate amount of time to read. I had to actually stop and think while I was doing that. How odd.