There are very few books that are so sparse but have inspired so much commentary. The book itself was written more or less about 2500 years ago and the first English Language versions didn’t show up until the early 1900’s. For roughly 2400 years this book was known in China but in very few other locations, now it’s virtually a household name in America.
52 Weeks of Book Reviews. Week #3 “THE ART of WAR” – Sun Tzu
First things first, I’m a Sales guy. I’m not a business mogul or Wall Street type. I know the book has been read and recently, (the last couple of decades are recent for a book that’s 2500 years old), The Art of War has been associated with ruthless business practices and the cold hearts of the corporate takeover world. I would like to think that today’s world has a lot more empathy than Sun Tzu’s time, but I grant you that the world is allowed to have a lot more empathy today due to progress and quality of life. Sun Tzu lived in a world where the End Justified the Means, we wouldn’t stand for that now. I’ll try to pull out some relevant bits for the Sales professional though, and there are some golden nuggets to be had.
When I say that the book is sparse, I mean it. It’s pretty much written in bullet point format. It’s more like an outline to a book, maybe that’s what makes this book so adaptable to other industries and situations. There is so much to fill in between the lines. I have to imagine that in 500 B.C. there wasn’t a lot of paper floating around. I would bet that writing material from something like bamboo would have been used and that the actual writing would have been painstaking to complete. The efficient use of words was likely essential to keeping the work accessible, transportable and replicate-able. No matter the reason, the book is a quick read and that alone probably helps. That leads me to tip #1 today-
TIP #1 from the ART of WAR. DON’T INFO DUMP.
It’s easy to consume some ideas which could easily have been made over complicated. The bullet point presentation reminds me that we don’t need to use flowery language or long drawn out scenarios to get our point across. If the point is valid, people will get it. Don’t tell a 30 minute story when a 3 minute bullet point presentation would have done the trick. People have been sold on Sun Tzu for centuries, follow his lead and give clear concise messages with functional examples.
TIP #2 from the ART of WAR. PLAN AHEAD RELENTLESSLY.
Sun Tzu basically lays out a contingency plan for every scenario. Based on his teachings, there were no tough decisions to make in the heat of the battle. There was a simple plan with slot closed options. Were the enemy troops garrisoned heavily or lightly? The answer didn’t matter so much because there was a solution to both options. The only thing that really mattered was accurate information and timeliness. Sales calls and presentations should be this well thought out. Whether or not you anticipated the objection or avoided it all together doesn’t really matter because you have a solution to every scenario. What matters is that you listen, observe and accurately assess the prospect, their problems and their ability/willingness to buy. Have a plan and selling anything to anyone is easy, unless it’s time to pack up and run to see another day. It’s OK to do that too if it’s the right choice. The trick is to plan ahead, so that you KNOW when it’s the right choice.
TIP #3 from the ART of WAR. CONSISTENCY IS BETTER THAN CHAOS.
It seems like a good portion of the book is dedicated to breaking the consistency of the enemy troops, while maintaining the consistency of his. He wants to create the right habits and practice like they battle. He wants a routine so that in times of War, his people are cool headed and able to follow commands. At the same time he wants to create chaos in his enemies troops to break their habits and force them to make a mistake. As long as Sun Tzu doesn’t make a mistake, he wins. If I’m in a sales environment I need to practice my sales techniques under all conditions to avoid getting flustered by a question at a crucial time. Consumer’s have skills too and they will use them to try and find out if your product or service is faulty.
There you have it, 3 sales tips from the ART of WAR. Now go read the book yourself! Click here to check it out.