Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Review of "Little Red Book of Sales Answers"

I'm working my way through a number of different books on programming, UI, and many other topics. Most of these are picked out of Joel Spolsky's list. This is a great list and everyone should try to read everything on it.

Most recently, I finished reading the Little Red Book of Sales Answers by Jeffrey Gitomer. This is a very interesting book. I know nothing about sales and have no interest in it, but still there's a ton of good stuff here. The whole book consists of 100 small questions and answers, so it could not be easier to read. And everyone should!

There are lots of themes in the book, but some of the most important ideas include:
  • Communicate! Jeffrey writes newspaper columns, articles, and books. He has his own sales newsletter. He speaks at hundreds of conferences and shows a year. Essentially, if you're in sales, you know Jeffrey. Becoming a figure like this gives him recognitions, makes people trust him, and gives him every employment opportunity imaginable.
  • Read! The book recommends that you read a few books each year on positive attitude, sales techniques, etc. In my mind, the subject matter is not really important. I read as much about sales and marketing as I do about programming and software development. And I couldn't care less about sales or marketing. The key here is that Good Books on any topic are worth reading. Of course, if you're dying to become a product manager, you should read some books on product management. But not only product management. Read about as many topics as you can related to your coworkers, customers, managers, etc. Know everything you should know and as much about what everyone around you should know as you can.
  • Practice! From public speaking, to negotiating, to cold-calling, this book reminds you that nothing is easy the first time. Like most of the suggestions in the book, this is so obvious. But what do we do about it? Mostly, we avoid the problem with excuses (too busy, low priority, I'm already good enough, etc.) Stop it! Now! I will try to do the same.
  • Quit your job! Well, not necessarily. If you don't love it and don't believe in it, do something else. From a sales perspective, Jeffrey argues that if you don't own the product your selling, use it all the time, and love it, you can't sell it. The same goes for pretty much any job. If you're a programmer, for example, and you hate the software you're developing, get out! Otherwise, everyone will suffer. Not just you.

The book is not perfect. For one thing, it reminds you of what kind of person gets involved in sales and how annoying they can be. For example, Jeffrey talks about cold calls and how when a customer says "No", it means "Not yet". This is the kind of attitude that forces me to tell a telemarketer four or five times: "I'm not interested in saving money on long distance/health insurance/wireless costs/energy costs!" But this is more of a general complaint against the entire profession, than an attack on the book. As long as there are sales people, there will continue to be a world of people annoyed by their perseverance.

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