We're working with an awesome sales coach who assigned us to read the book The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. I really enjoyed reading it and learned a ton. Sales is not something I have a lot of formal training in, and this book taught me several new things that I didn't think of as sales before and which are very effective.
At a high level, the authors did a bunch of research and analysis and figured out the type of salesperson/behavior that is most effective. It boils down to three core behaviors: teaching unique insights, tailoring the conversation to multiple stakeholders, and taking control of the conversation and process. The teaching part was the newest to me and the most interesting. I enjoyed reading the case studies and examples and can totally see how teaching your customers unique insights can be super effective.
I read it on Kindle and ended up highlighting 276 things (i.e., I learned a lot!). You can read some of those here. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to improve in sales or learn about "commercial teaching."
Based on Noah Kagan's recommendation on his interview with Tim Ferriss, I just finished reading SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham, and I really liked it.
I was afraid it would be a cliche-filled business book, and I was pleasantly surprised by the thoughtfulness and scientific approach of the authors. It's now pretty clear to me why this is a classic and the #1 best-selling business sales book on Amazon.
I don't think there's any rocket science it preaches. What it does get right is that the SPIN questioning process makes the buyer get down to the nitty gritty details and actually understand the problems he or she is facing. It's like the classic problem of software estimation, where only sitting your butt down and figuring out what you have to do and counting all the little details will give you any remotely accurate estimate (I'm concurrently reading Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art by Steve McConnell as part of our eng reading group).
I like that the book puts the focus on how to interview and ask questions instead of how to present and "market" features. This focus on interviewing and gaining empathy reminds me a lot about d-school/design thinking processes and lean startup methodologies for entrepreneurs seeking to "sell" (= learn).
I also liked how the authors tried hard to disprove their own theories, including running multiple studies to check for the strength of the Hawthorne effect on their subjects. They had a entire long appendix devoted to the control and statistics methodologies they used.
SPIN = Situation, problem, implication, need payoff
Larger sales techniques
Based on research of 35K sales calls
1 sales behavior and sales success
Closing, probing open questions, and objection handling are not the key skills
Longer time frame
Seller not present when buyer deciding
Multiple calls needed
No relationship between open questions and sales success
Good investigating questions follow 4 step spin model
Situation questions: tell me about your company's growth plans
Problem questions: is this operation difficult to perform
Implication questions: how will this problem affect your future profitability (help understand a problem's effects and urgency)
Need payoff questions: would it be useful to speed this up 10%? How would that help u?
2 obtaining commitment: closing the sale
Classic closing techniques ineffective
Association between closing and lost sales
Closing techniques work for low value products
Closing success for large sales not only just an order
Judge success by customer actions not words
Implied needs vs explicit needs
Less successful salespeople don't separate implied and explicit needs
Implied needs not success signal in larger sales
Value equation: comparison between cost of solution and seriousness of problem
Larger sales need explicit needs uncovered
Can't just rely on problems; need to grow them to something actionable
Purpose of questions is to uncover needs and convert implied to explicit
4 the spin strategy
Situation questions not positively related to success
Use them with purpose
Problem questions more useful
Are you satisfied with your current solution for x? Doesn't it mean you lose out with y?
Linked to sales success
Implication questions: you say x is hard to use. What effect does this have on your output? Could that lead to increased costs?
Keep growing understanding of problem by adding up costs that weren't perceived before
Need payoff question: positive solution based questions. How would that help? What benefits would you see if you got x? How do you think a faster machine would help you?
Get customer to explain to u how ur product solved their problem
Make customer the expert
Rehearse the customer for internal selling
Have buyers explain the benefits to the seller
Implication questions are about the problem (sad)
Need payoff questions are about the solution (happy)
Write down list of 3 potential client problem areas before the call
Think of related difficulties of those problems (implications)
Don't ask need payoff question when u can't meet that need
Need payoff examples: why would that help? Would it help if? Why is that important? How would that help? Would it be useful if? Is there any other way this could help u?
5 giving benefits in major sales
Features and benefits
Benefits better, can only address explicit needs
Advantages just show how it meet any need
Benefits tied to sales success but only when needs made explicit
Don't neglect needs in favor of features of new product
Turn attention from product to customer
Don't demonstrate capabilities too early in the call
Beware of advantage statements
Be careful with new products
6 preventing rejections
Objection handling less important skill
Better to prevent objections
Listing features makes buyers want less for expensive goods
Features increase price concern
Link between advantages and objections
Don't talk about solutions until gotten enough info on needs
First impressions less critical
Durable impressions made during investigating stage
Don't always begin with connecting about personal interests
Early in call u want to establish ur role as the seeker of info and buyer as the giver so u can ask questions instead of talking about solutions
Get down to business quickly instead of pleasantries
Don't talk about solutions too soon
Concentrate on questions
8 turning theory into practice
Ppl work harder to learn knowledge instead of skills
Practice only one behavior at a time
Try the new behavior 3 times
Quantity instead of quality
Practice in safe situations
Focus on investigating stage and asking questions
Implications of problems: increased costs, demotivates best people, causes inefficiencies, answers to so what
I just completed my second Jeffrey Gitomer book: his Sales Bible. I can definitely see his style of numbered lists, with an extra "0.5" at the end at all times, and his intense energy and enthusiasm for sales philosophy came through strong in the audiobook. At times, the text seemed to lack structure and direction, and I felt like there was a lot of repetition. However, buried in this tome are a lot of great nuggets and sample scripts, clearly developed after a lot of field testing.
It's interesting how many of the sales techniques presented link closely with the principles of psychology from some of the other books I've recently been reading.
Below are my main notes and lessons from each section.
Think: the sale is in your head
Meetings and questions