I love the title of this book. Doesn’t everyone want to be Smarter, Faster and Better? I know I do. I read this book and pulled some great habits out of it. I found the writing reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell who I also enjoy and I liked the case studies that were used to illustrate points.
52 Weeks of Book Reviews. Week #38 – Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg @cduhigg
It’s tough to not like a book that was so well thought out and researched. I liked the use of case studies and they all illustrated the issues very plainly. The content and style did indeed remind me of Malcolm Gladwell (apparently i read his Blink in week 5 of this year) which isn’t a bad thing, the use of case studies seems similar, however I prefer how Charles would introduce the case study but not revisit it until he had made his point. He often dives right into the case study without much setup and then once I’m engaged in the case study’s narrative he pulls out to frame the rest of the story within the story. It’s a good trick, it kept my attention and even though I knew what was happening I still looked forward to understanding what would happen in the case study.
I’m a nerd and I appreciate other nerds, especially if they are in sales and double that appreciation if they are successful. Roberge by all accounts has been highly successful and his approach to sales has been very systematic and what’s really important here; it’s repeatable and teachable.
52 Weeks of Book Reviews. Week #37 – The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to go from $0 to $100 Million by Mark Roberge @markroberge
I’m a strange combination of attributes for a sales professional myself. I’m a member of Mensa, the High IQ society and I’m a terrible introvert with a penchant for excel and video games. These attributes usually lend themselves to more of the sit at home and code while drinking mountain dew type’s of lifestyles, but instead, I’ve decided to make my living interacting with others on a daily basis. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. The thing is, though that it’s no longer punishment and I’ve successfully taken my weaknesses and turned them into my strengths. I feel like the swordsman from The Princess Bride who fights with his left hand until he feels it’s necessary to do otherwise. In fact, I am not really left handed and neither is Roberge. If you don’t get the reference it’s ok. It’s a nerd thing. What I really mean is that it’s ideal to force yourself to become really good at something you aren’t and to learn it from another perspective, that’s how the status quo gets broken up.
This is the final book from Zig Ziglar and it feels like a “Best of..” compilation to me. It has the best of the best of his presentations
from the last 40 years. It’s hard to believe that “See you at the Top” was written over 40 years ago as I type this. 40 years of inspiration boiled down to about 4 hours of reading is a lot to ask, but Zig and Tom deliver.
52 Weeks of Book Reviews. Week #36 – Born to Win: Find Your Success Code by Zig Ziglar @thezigziglar
I’ve seen a few different covers to this book but I think the QR Code cover is current and just like this book, it could, and should get updated in years to come. I can hear Zig in my head with his signature delivery style when I read this and my colleagues and I try to deliver out own versions of his lines on a regular basis. The fact that Zig has people in a call center ranging in ages from 20 – 50 still actively reading his material and entering into dialogues about it in a casual work setting speaks volumes. I follow @thezigziglar on twitter, I listen to the downloaded books on my phone, just like thousands of people before me, have on iPod, CD, or even Cassette Tape and I have read half a dozen of his books at this point. I can say that it’s remarkable how relevant his material has stayed. Zig offers a great foundation for a sales career and his material can help anyone’s mindset. If all you did was read and follow Zig’s advice you’d do very well in this business.
Effort X Skill = Success. Some coaches get by with a ton of blustery effort and massive enthusiasm. They get what they want to say out and often it’s a great feeling but it fades quickly and I need to get energized all over again. Keith isn’t that type of writer. I haven’t seen him speak or watched any videos but his writing seems very skillful and I’m sure he’s passionate about what he does, but it’s the thoughtfulness and the well laid out plan that catches my attention.
52 Weeks of Book Reviews. Week #35 – Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions: A Tactical Playbook for Managers and Executives by Keith Rosen @keithrosen
This is a tactical playbook. It’s full of specific tactics and I think it’s fair to say that most of the tactics are straightforward and easy to understand. We aren’t talking about rocket science, brain surgery or a membership to mensa here. We are talking about execution. I don’t mind that Keith hammers home the fundamentals of his coaching and talks about asking the right questions and particular systems multiple times. I’m still of the mindset that repetition helps people to learn and even though we bought this book and want the information contained something like 72% of the knowledge gained is instantly lost. Retention of knowledge is fleeting when we read a book like this. It’s important to take notes and implement the tools right away.
I bought a hard copy of this book right after listening to the Audible version. I liked the Audible version but I need the hard copy to reference during the day. 1:1 coaching sessions fall into the category of Important but Non-Urgent activities that are easy to push off in favor of some reactive behavior. These same coaching sessions are the actions that will yield the highest results and also cause us to stretch the most as leaders.
Keith is a pro. You could literally throw out your current management playbook and substitute this for whatever you are doing now and if you actually did what he prescribes, you’d be an all star. It doesn’t take much to be a sales manager, but it takes an awful lot of grit, consistency and a willingness to actually coach in order to be a great sales manager.
I feel like I’ve just been let in on a giant top secret training for Mission Impossible. This guy has done the things that we watch on T.V and even though I’m sure those actions aren’t nearly as glamorous as the television presents, It’s infinitely more interesting because it’s real.
52 Weeks of Book Reviews. Week #34 – The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over by Jack Schafer
So how does this apply to everyday life? There are so many applications, but think of this as “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, but from the perspective of someone who’s life actually depending on it. That’s a whole different level of ownership. I can’t imagine that I’d ever be in a situation like any of the ones described in the book, but I could use the techniques to make friends and gain trust in a more consistent manner. Some people will say that if you use tactics to make friends or to gain your way in business it’s unethical, disingenuine or manipulative. I guess all of these things could be true, but I always encourage you to use your powers of persuasion for good instead of evil. That sounds a bit grandiose, but seriously evil people are always persuasive. Hitler and Charles Manson were great salespeople, they just sold crap.
The book touches on several subjects which I’ve been interested in for some time. It touches on body language and micro expressions. The body language stuff all seems relatively straightforward but, I can only imagine that it’s a beast to remember to look for all of these tells and still keep up the conversation. The micro expressions are a bit trickier still. Mostly Jack talked about eyebrows and eyes but I’m wondering if you ever watched that show “Lie to me”? I think it had Tim Roth in it, but it was amazing. The science behind the show is mostly legitimate as well and focuses on microexpressions. The main character could read these micro expressions and tell you what you were thinking. I believe there is a new show coming out soon about a jury consultant who uses some of the same science. It seems like a modern-day Sherlock Holms to me. You can tell so much more from a conversation if you can just pay attention to all of it. The book also seems to touch on some NLP, the pseudo-science that basically talks about low-grade hypnosis and tricks your mind into responding a certain way. Like if I get you to say yes 4 times in a row and then ask you for a favor, you are likely to say yes again.
So here is the deal, I like the book. I found it immensely entertaining and I probably have 2 dozen things I need to practice so I don’t come off as snobby, peevish, condescending or cold. I’m a natural introvert and so I don’t like small talk and social gatherings in general. I probably rub people the wrong way too often and you know when you send an email and then think that you probably shouldn’t have because email doesn’t include things like tone and pace? Yeah, that happens to me in real life because I don’t naturally have tone or pace that matches what most people think it should. I’m responsible for not only the intent of the message but, also for the interpretation and I struggle with that often in person. Books like this help me and even if you aren’t socially awkward I bet this book would help you too. Everything in life is Sales, and people buy from people they Like. Flip the switch.
Everyone knows what they should be doing in Sales. I’ve never met anyone that thought they should prospect less. Almost everyone knows that they aren’t as efficient as they should be. Everyone knows that they aren’t as disciplined or as structured as they should be. The trick is to find a book, program, mentor, coach, colleague or boss that will motivate you to do the things you know you should. That’s hard to do in a book format, but Jeb does his best to reach out of the pages and slap some prospecting sense into the common sales person.
52 Weeks of Book Reviews. Week #33 – Fanatical Prospecting: The Ultimate Guide to Opening Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, Email, Text, and Cold Calling by Jeb Blount @salesgravy
Jeb has a very straight forward no nonsense type of approach that appeals to me. He’s not as crude or in your face about his methods, but he’s still very passionate and doesn’t mince words. You have to prospect and you have to prospect a lot. You can definitely be smarter about it, but being smarter doesn’t mean you do it less, it just means your results are better. I haven’t read Jeb’s other books, but I’ve been aware of salesgravy.com for a few years now and he’s been slowly but surely creeping into my sales consciousness.
I’m amazed at how he took what easily could have been a chapter in a lot of other books and expanded the idea into a complete book. The message is clear and every word in the book is written to convey that message. Despite what you would think, the book doesn’t get repetitive or dry in fact, it’s upbeat and Jeb manages to stay the course and describe many different angles of the message.
What is Fanatical Prospecting? Why should you do it? How do you do it? Jeb provides the answers and does so in a way that appeals to a wide audience. Many people forget the “Why” of why they work so hard. Jeb tries to remind you of your “Why” and then motivates you to take action. He lays out clear paths and lets you know the pitfalls to avoid. Social Media is a tool, it’s not considered prospecting, though. Pick up the phone and say hello to someone. Jeb gives the advice and then lets you know why he gives that advice and then gives reasons that you should listen to it before he gives it again.
I don’t expect you to be motivated to change your habits with my words alone, pick up this book and really dive in. You’ll find something to motivate you into action.
These guys get it. These ideas are great and they are stitched together with a lot of formulas that aren’t necessarily new but are known to work. They repurpose some problem-solving assessments and some great planning exercises in a way that is easy to understand. I love the philosophy about genuinely attempting to help the customer and by doing so create a win-win scenario.
52 Weeks of Book Reviews. Week #32 – Never Be Closing: How to Sell Better Without Screwing Your Clients, Your Colleagues, or Yourself by Tim Hurson @timhurson and Tim Dunne @dunne_tim
This is Sales as a Problem Solving exercise. It’s a great book for anyone that can follow direction and basically paint by numbers. The steps are literally all laid out for the successful sales career, it is up to you to execute. There is a ton about successful planning and deconstructing the results of sales meetings and there is also a lot of great info about rapport building and gathering information. This isn’t a “sales” book that talks about the techniques of closing, persuasion or the nuances of NLP and sales hypnosis. I think this book would apply to a lot of B2B types that aren’t really ready to call themselves salespeople but probably are. There are entrepreneurs and anyone in a small business forced to wear multiple hats that can find themselves in a situation where selling is a necessity.
The book also does a great job of breaking down some personality types based on what motivates them. I’m always particularly interested in the human mind and personality types. I believe I’m probably energized by ideas, but I really want to get the results so I am working hard on habits and accomplishing small goals to train my mind to recognize and crave accomplishment. I would like to see the personality discussion actually expanded and applied to the rest of the book. The rapport building could be greatly impacting by the client’s motivation and energized basis.
The problem I run into with salespeople who WANT to be salespeople is that they are often motivated by people and connections. They are less focused on the details by nature and tend to have shorter attention spans. They love sales because they get to meet a lot of people and are presented by a lot of small challenges that are easily solved or moved on from in search of something shinier. Never be closing can be implemented by those salespeople, but only in small increments. The professional salespeople that I know ALL have a process and are ALL obsessed with their system, so I know it can be done. Every system works a certain percentage of the time, but there are just too few top producers. By definition half of all salespeople are below average and it’s those people that need this book, but I fear wont have the grit to follow through on what it suggest. It’s all about installing the right system that works for you. This book doesn’t touch much on prospecting, a little about referrals and research ahead of time, but that applies primarily to B2B salesmen. I don’t think this would apply as much to Retail Sales or any kind of Consumer Direct sales. If you are on a showroom floor or in a call center this may not apply as much to you. You can always learn something but you aren’t having sales meetings or presentations in the board room to apply some of these systems. You could still deconstruct your phone call or introduction but you aren’t going to research your client with anything other than your eyes and ears. If you are in a B2B this book requires very little translation and is packaged and ready for you. Force yourself to take the steps involved, do it for a week, then a month and then 60 days. I think you’ll be amazed.
Do you have a story? Is it well thought out and ready to go? Is it practiced, polished and perfected? Have you wondered what happens at a Toastmasters group? Never heard of Toastmasters, but you’d like to be able to captivate a crowd? This is the book for you.
52 Weeks of Book Reviews. Week #31 – Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire by Paul Smith
I’m not an outgoing person yet, I frequently am called on to speak in front of groups. I need to give presentations, speeches, motivational messages, heartwarming calls to action and convey very straightforward information without putting the audience to sleep. I’m also in sales and I’m a leader. This means I take groups out to award dinners, outings and work functions like mixers. I also talk to customers, both internal and external and I have to often find a way to make the mundane interesting, or to convey complicated financial information over the phone in a way that makes sense and spurs action. I have learned to do this in part because of the principals in this book, plus I just winged it.
On a grander scale, your story or your companies story can be crafted in a way that can be told in one of these encounters. Your Story is the reason you are in business, it’s what brought you, your business or company into being and it’s what made you, You. There is a formula to crafting a story and keeping attention. I wish I had read this book sooner, I had to use trial and error over the years and even then this book probably doubled my Story I.Q. and made me that much better. You can use the ideas, methods, and suggestions in this book to increase sales, increase your employee buy-in, boost morale and raise your visibility in all social settings. Good story tellers are remembered and identified with. Great opportunity often arrives from people we are barely acquainted with, but through the power of a story a connection was made and you became memorable.
This all boils down to communication. I’ve said before that I now hire communication students and look for strong communication skills from employees and colleagues. How a message is percieved is how you are percieved. Can you craft a message that is received by a large audience and in a way that motives, inspires or impacts them all? Can you also communicate in a 1:1 setting or a small group and get the same response? It’s a tall order, but those that can deliver are coveted.
It’s easier. It’s faster. It has more feedback. I can post videos there. It’s more casual. It’s interactive.
You should join the conversation there. You can ask questions, get support and network there.
Click the link and ask to join today!
I basically write these reviews for myself, a way to hold myself accountable to reading a book a week for the entire year. It’s amazing to me that it’s already been 30 weeks into the year. July is coming to an end and I am astounded at the knowledge I have gained from the 30 books covered so far. I’m really excited about the next 22 weeks and in fact; the more I read, the more I realize that there is an every growing number of books that I need to read. Each week I try very hard to pull relevant information out of a book to positively impact my life. This week I realize that I’ve been sharpening my saw, working on the 7th Habit all year long.
52 Weeks of Book Reviews. Week #30 – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
I don’t often criticize an author instead, I attempt to be completely optimistic and find only the positive that can help me. I’ve read a lot of authors this year and if I were a real book critic I suspect that I would have found a lot of faults in almost all of these. I’m not a book critic, I’m a salesman and the first person I sell to everyday is me. I have to sell myself on the fact that reading more content in the form of books will be more valuable than watching T.V., reading blogs, playing video games or playing on social media. Stephen Covey does an excellent job of describing the most important activities in our life, the activities that don’t offer instant gratification but instead will lead to long term improvement, those Important but Non-Urgent tasks. Reading a book a week falls into this category for me, it probably does for most people. I have successfully tricked my mind into turning this activity into an Important and Urgent task by imposing this blog deadline on myself. I wonder what else I could trick my mind into doing?
The 7 Habits is a great book, pick it up. Apparently, over 25 million copies have been sold and for good reason, it all makes sense. Covey conveys his message and it’s stood the test of time. Use this book as the catalyst to do something great, or to just be great. We aren’t all going to be public leaders, CEOs, politicians or group leaders but we can all grow a little bit each and every day and strive to be just a little bit better than we were the day before.