Why a salesperson is writing for salespeople
Back in the summer of 2021 I decided to start writing a book to help first time sellers. That project has actually turned into three books that are being published alongside each other and I wanted to share why I felt these books were needed by the sales community.
Most sales books are written for management, not salespeople
When I started in technology sales in 1999 the sales bible was the recently published SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham and his Huthwaite Research team.
The book had been first published four years before and through the team’s research they had ridden alongside thousands of successful (and unsuccessful) salespeople and determined that the successful salespeople were very good at asking a specific type of question.
These ‘implication’ questions helped a customer to develop an explicit need in their mind, that in turn helped make their own decision that they needed to make a purchase.
Now this book was useful and interesting to me as a salesperson — but it wasn’t written for me. It was written for Sales Leaders, primarily to inspire them to implement SPIN Selling as a sales methodology, and perhaps to engage Huthwaite Research as a consulting organisation to coach and support their sales teams.
The second book I read thoroughly was Customer Centric Selling by Bosworth, Holland and Visgatis which came out in 2003.
An in-depth piece of research that taught empathy for the customer’s situation. Stop pitching and start listening — solve the customer’s problem and they will solve yours.
But again, whilst interesting and useful to me, it wasn’t written for me — it was written for Senior Leaders. It refers to “sellers” not “you”:
When attempting to get access to key players, the salesperson should be politely insistent.
When you check the back cover, all three authors are cofounders of CustomerCentric Systems LLC and the team is available for consulting to help leading companies implement their Customer Centric Selling methodology.
And finally, one of the most common pair of sales books in use today is The Challenger Sale and The Challenger Customer — once again the output of detailed pieces of research by CEB, a consulting firm now owned by Gartner who are open for business to help you implement their sales methodology for a fee.
So where are the books written for salespeople? Where are the books that tell a new salesperson how to do their job?
Sales books only cover one aspect of the job
If you can get over the fact that most sales books are written for your boss and not for you, then what’s the problem?
Each sales book typically focuses on one aspect of research that is then developed into an entire book and methodology that can be implemented at a company.
You’ll find a book on negotiation, a book on email marketing, a book on questioning, but they each leave out the other 75% of the job.
Where in SPIN selling does it tell you how to find a great company to work for and get hired?
Where in Customer Centric Selling does it tell you how to manage a forecast?
Where in The Challenger Sale does it tell you how to manage meetings effectively?
I felt there was a real gap where a first time seller was crying out for someone to ‘just tell me what to do!’
Sales careers are very siloed
I’ve been lucky enough in my career to sell to small businesses and large global enterprises. I’ve sold direct to customers, as well as building out a European-wide channel programme. I’ve sold products as well as professional services. I’ve worked for vendors as well as partners.
But in each of those roles there is very little coaching or advice on what happens in the other roles.
As an SMB salesperson Enterprise sales can seem like this mythical process
In direct sales selling via channel partners can seem like a loss of control
In product sales selling professional services can seem like much harder work
It should not take an entire career for a salesperson to find out about different types of sales or how they may be better suited to a sales process being run by colleagues in the very same company.
Writing for a first time seller
Over the last nine months I’ve written for two people.
Myself in June 1999. In the Summer of 1999 I sat down at my new desk for my first sales job. I had a telephone, access to Goldmine (the CRM of the day) and no clue what to do. I’ve tried to visualise those early days and remember the challenges and lack of knowledge I had. These are the “How To” guides I wish I had then.
My SDR partner in my current role. This colleague is the same age and experience as I was back in 1999, but of course has access to very different tools and systems than I had. I wanted to provide real up to date value to this colleague as he gets promoted into his first AE role — what is it he needs to know but doesn’t yet have experience of?
The outcome of my writing is three books:
Start Selling Tech — this ebook helps non-sales people (students, graduates or anyone in a non-sales role) to learn about sales as a career choice, decide who to work for, learn how to target a hiring manager and how to nail the interviews for their first tech sales role — Buy On Gumroad
How To Sell Tech — this paperback helps first time sellers in their new role. I walk through the Sales Flywheel - a step by step guide through all of the external and internal activities that make up the role — from prospecting, qualifying and negotiating, to closing and injecting urgency into your deals. I also focus on the softer skills such as managing meetings, presenting to large groups of people and forecasting to your manager — Pre-Order On Amazon
Sales Journal — this workbook is an essential companion to anyone in a tech sales role — whether a first time seller or an experienced campaigner. The journal contains 52 weekly forecasting sheets to help think through your call. It includes Account and Opportunity Canvases to guide your research and thinking, Qualification Canvases to help decide what to work on, and Negotiation Canvases to help plan your strategy at the end of a sales process. I’ve been using this Sales Journal over the last six months and its firmly taken its place next to my diary and notebook.— Buy On Amazon
Together these three books are written to directly help someone at the start of their sales careers — exactly what I wish I could have read back in the summer of 1999. I hope they provide real value to you if you are in that situation today.
If you’d like to hear more — follow me on Twitter where I share more tips and tricks for first time sellers.