Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The need for focus // A very positive review of Competitive Selling

Too often I read books, talk face to face, or hear approaches by people who are afraid to lose an opportunity. If asked which of two offices they would prefer to work at, they say both. If asked which of two specialties they handle, they claim “either.”

By failing to make a choice, they become a last choice. The person who says “both” as to which city they would take a job in, no matter how well they support the proposition, has said “neither” – dropping to last place for both locations. The choice of “both” of “all” or “any” is really the choice of “none.”

I’ve made the mistake myself. In an area I have been involved in since the 1980s I regularly see people making it (e.g. “What kind of ADR services do you offer? What are you best at?” gets answered with “all” or “anything a potential customer might pay me for” which of course is really heard as “None. Don’t hire me.”).

Landy Chase does not make that mistake. Needs analysis based selling is by far the most effective long term method for building sales relationships. Understanding it is essential to anyone who negotiates or sells. The method naturally appeals to people whose native mode is analytical or cooperative.

Chase has a book for teaching the method to the 25% to 35% of the population is competitive. He has chose a specific market, one that is underserved (at least for those who are explaining needs based approaches). His book is good enough that you should seriously consider it regardless of your approach to life and negotiation and sales.

He addresses the weakest part of his analysis first. “Weakest” = “most likely to be rejected by his audience” not faulty. That is a brave step, but it is also essential to teaching needs based approaches. Either a reader will start thinking about needs based approaches or they can’t make the jump. Addressing it first, while the reader is still open, is an excellent early way to begin.

///////////-- Aside
I should note that a good friend of the family (we decided where to live when we moved based on where they live) has been employed for the last thirty years in sales in industries where the entire industry is defined by value instead of price.

Everyone in those industries accepts that what they are really paying for is expertise, not the product. For the products you don’t even need a sales person or a vendor – for the expertise you can’t get it without one.

I’ll note that you pay the same price to go to a top 14 law school as you do to one in the bottom 5%.

Once he introduces the concept, he transitions to nuts and bolts. The nuts and bolts part of the book starts early. It is really well done. In case you’ve wondered why I spent such a long time on the opening description in a book review, the book deserves it. The book is well enough done I can recommend it even if the “predator” motif (which is extremely aggressive) is not your flavor of choice.

I’ve really just not seen the nuts and bolts handled so cleanly or clearly in many areas. I read a fair number of sales related texts for two reasons. One, they often touch on negotiation – an area that is a long term interest of mine (thirty plus years of study and reading in the area). Two, ADR is very much sales, both in practice building (see Selling the Invisible) and in delivery of service. While much of it has nothing to do with what I do, I’ve been reading sales texts for a very long time.

///////////// -- Aside
Another aside. My favorite company generally provides better value at a higher price, but lower cost. The combination translates to a lower net price over time. I had no idea until I sat through a long knowledge mapping session that those points existed or fit together. As a thriving Fortune 100 company, it obviously has clients and business, but it was fun to see the concepts set forth in this book that are applied by that company.

The book pairs well with Conceptual Selling.

But the strongest thing about the book is the detailed nuts and bolts advice that is integrated into a consistent and organized whole. Honestly, the first thing I did after I finished the book was look for the name of his editor. The book was tight enough that I wanted to do a search for other books with the same editor.

You will find reviews of the book. You can find the author on-line at http://landychase.com/

But, what can I tell you about this book that you won’t necessarily get other places?

• The writing, structure and editing are very tight.
• It is a high application level book. That is, the book presents legible, consistent and organized information that you can see, hear and hold and apply directly.
• If you have not been able to get a handle on needs based approaches, this will educate you on how to use the concept in a step by step way.
• The book is complete.

How much does it cross over into other areas (i.e. non-sales)? It had some useful material on group dynamics in chapter 5, some excellent support of ethical behavior mid-way through chapter 7, and I enjoyed his final chapter on how the ordinary becomes extra-ordinary. But this is a book tightly oriented to direct selling.

I’m grateful Anna Suknov sent me a review copy. Thank you Anna.