Today marks the formal shipping date of Beyond the Sales Process: 12 Strategies for a Customer-Driven World.
For those of you who are interested, here is some of the back story. (Here is Steve Andersen’s take.)
As a sales industry watcher, former analyst, trainer, and consultant, if there’s a sales book out there, I’ve probably read it. I’ve been mentioned in quite a few of them, and I’ve provided testimonials for a number of others. I’ve already authored two highly successful sales books myself—why would I write another? It’s hard work. Very hard work.
For starters, it’s unlikely that I would have considered writing another book, if it hadn’t been for Steve Andersen. When he proposed that we co-author a book together, it was an offer I simply couldn’t refuse.
I met Steve years ago at a software company as I was making a transition from my role as VP of Sales to VP of Operations. Steve was brought in to replace me, and it only took about a week for me to realize that he was someone very special indeed. In fact, I had never met anyone nearly as competent; his experience, knowledge, and drive gave him effectiveness around selling and sales management that was, in my experience, unrivaled.
We worked side-by-side for the next few years. He and his team sold a lot of software. I serviced those customers and kept them happy. We spend a fair amount of time together with customers and on our own, driving to visit clients, attending meetings, and even attending jazz concerts, an interest we both shared.
Fast forward. Steve left the company. Then I did. But we stayed in touch. When he started Performance Methods, Inc., he asked me to come aboard. I was involved in my own consulting practice at the time, so I had to pass on what would have been a terrific opportunity.
In 2005, I started ES Research Group (which has sometimes been referred to as “the Gartner of sales training”). PMI was the first firm that ESR analyzed and reported on. At that point, since Steve’s company was the first we evaluated, a comparison to others was difficult, but my team and I quickly discovered how very effective and successful PMI is at what they do.
As an impartial observer, ESR could never favor any one of the sales training providers that we evaluated during those years. It was important that we remain unbiased, and just as importantly, that we were perceived as such. But, after conducting multiple assessments of sales training providers and their outcomes, there were clearly some key differences. PMI stood out as a leader in many of the areas we looked at, including the quality and experience of their people, client satisfaction, their approach to customization, the depth and value of their intellectual property, and the commercial terms around engagements with their clients. I chose not to heap what might seem to be undue praise on Steve’s company while I was running ESR, but I wanted to. In some ways I regret this, but Steve respected my commitment to neutrality.
When I closed ESR in 2014, the first person I heard from was Steve Andersen. “I’ve always wanted to write a book,” he told me. “And the only person I can imagine writing it with is you.” I hadn’t been looking to take on an intensive new project, but knowing Steve—his indisputable success, his brilliant mind, and his deep understanding of the relationships among companies and their customers—I had to admit that our admiration was mutual. I agreed to put my author’s cap back on and plunge in.
In March of 2014, with the assistance of our talented development editor Jennifer Bohanan, we started writing.
From the get-go, we determined that our book would be different from anything else available on the market, or it wouldn’t be worth the time and effort we would have to expend in writing it. If you want to understand how much of a departure Beyond the Sales Process is from the repackaged same-old, same-old gathering dust on most salespeople’s bookshelves, you’ll want to give it a thorough read. In the meantime, I can provide some key considerations about what sets this book apart:
- Typical sales books focus only on “the sale,” that fleeting time when a customer is actively engaged in buying something in particular. Beyond the Sales Process is about how companies (especially their customer-facing resources) relate to their customers before and after, as well as during the sale.
- Most sales books focus only on the “what,” claiming that if you just do what the author did, you too will be wildly successful. In Beyond the Sales Process, Steve and I explain how to do what needs to be done. And we provide evidence from real people who validate that the how’s we put forth really work. (This is especially important for some Millennials, who won’t settle for what if you can’t back it up with how.)
- Unlike other books, our guest of honor is the customer, not the reader, and we provide a rare and laser-sharp focus on your relationship with them. We understand that, without the right customer-driven approach, your sale to that customer might be limited to just one.
- Steve and I believe that selling isn’t done to the customer. Our approach doesn’t rely on generating or filling out forms, controlling people that you claim to respect, assuming that your customer is somehow damaged, or bright-shiny objects (such as technology).
- We don’t claim to offer a silver bullet. We don’t believe in or resort to tips, tricks, and shortcuts.
- Our book is not about name-dropping or cashing in on others’ research. It is instead a direct result of the knowledge Steve and I have each gained through live engagements with hundreds of companies, from start-ups to the Global 100, over the course of many years—especially the last eight.
- In Beyond the Sales Process, in the form of in-depth case studies, executives from real companies share their stories about how they work with their actual customers. When a company submits to—and encourages their most important customers to participate in—exhaustive interviews that result in a multiple-page case study about what really works from the CEO level on down, readers gain something truly meaningful.
- Steve and I wrote the book we wanted to write, that we believe needed to be written. Our publisher initially pushed back on the case studies and the 20-plus illustrative graphics and models we planned to include, but they eventually relented, and even came over to our side of the issue. Why? Because the case studies are real-life applications of the Engage/Win/Grow approach and its effectiveness. The models reveal how the approach works. The additions we insisted on were no superfluous window dressing. From beginning to end, Beyond the Sales Process is clear, concise, and compelling.
- A broader audience can find out how top performers in some of the world’s most successful companies do what they do. From start-ups to SMEs to the Fortune 500, sellers at all levels can learn and execute proven strategies that will catapult them to a new level of accomplishment as they engage, win, and grow with their customers.
- It’s a book about leadership and coaching. Everyone on the customer-facing team, especially sales managers, contend daily with too much information. (Steve calls it the “tyranny of the urgent.”) So he and I decided we’d provide coaching to our readers, whether they’re sales people, account managers, or sales leaders. We manage that through…
- …Diagnostics! How can you, as a rep (or manager), be sure you’re where you want to be in your relationship or opportunity? Each of the twelve strategies wraps up with six sets of probing, insightful questions that will evoke the actionable awareness you need to do the right thing the FIRST time.
- You’ll not only read about what Steve and I have learned, but also gain the collective wisdom of dozens of people in the market, including customers, consultants, analysts, and most importantly, the customer’s customer.
- Steve says, “If our reader can peel off just several of these strategies and get better at them, they’ll be more successful with their customer.” (We thought that was fine until a reader sent me an email suggesting just the opposite: “I tried, but I can’t skip any of it—too much value in each strategy.”)
- Another reader writes, “Everything is fully explained. Nowhere is it assumed that I’m supposed to know all of the concepts, terms, and abbreviations, nor have the authors concluded that their readers are beneath understanding what’s being presented.”
- Yet another reader says: “Beyond the Sales Process provides salespeople with actionable ideas. There is definitely something to be learned by everyone.”
If you’ve read the excerpt, you’ll know that we spend substantial time discussing what your customer is doing when they aren’t buying from you. Being successful in sales means having a successful customer, so we never advocate for hit-and-run selling. Sure, you can do it and win a deal—once. But if you’re competing against someone who is engaging, winning, and growing with their customers, you’re going to come up short every time.
So, after spending two years focused on writing, I’m pleased to promote Beyond the Sales Process, as well as the Engage/Win/Grow approach. And I’m delighted that I had the opportunity to write about this important topic with my friend, colleague, and someone who is truly the smartest guy in nearly every room I’ve ever been in. Read it; you’ll understand just what I’m talking about.
And after you’ve finished, we want to hear from you, so send us your thoughts, insights, and feedback.