Frankly, I began to read this book with some skepticism because I had already read dozens (hundreds?) of books about sales – including Anthony Parinello’s Selling to VITO and Getting to VITO – and doubted that there would be much (if anything) left for Jill Konrath to discuss. I soon realized that I was wrong. True, Konrath offers few head-snapping revelations but her extensive personal experience (especially with rejection and failure) is rigorously examined, her advice is eminently practical, and the material is rock-solid, enhanced by the direct and conversational rapport she immediately establishes and then sustains with her reader. So many books about sales resemble a series of formal presentations at a conference or lectures by a business school professor. Not so with Konrath who understands that competition (with one’s self as well as with others) is “the name of the game” in the business world, and, success there can be achieved only in the “trenches” of thorough preparation and strategic (but prudent) persistence.
Appropriately, in Part One, she first explains what is required of those who attempt to sell to “big (ger)” companies. There are many challenges to avoid or overcome, several the result of misconceptions that Konrath summarily repudiates. This is a uniquely valuable section of the book because it makes crystal clear what experienced salespersons must “un-learn” about what they have assumed to be true thus far, and by doing so, Konrath makes it crystal clear to others what simply doesn’t work…and why. Those in the latter group will probably find it easier to apply her advice which is at all times practical…and immediately actionable.
In Part Two, Konrath explains how to “build a foundation” for what eventually should become a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective system for effective preparation, cultivation, and solicitation. What she is talking about really is a high-stakes “game” played against formidable opponents according to rules that can sometimes change suddenly. Some of the most important material in this Part focuses on the imperative need for a strong value proposition. There’s good news and there’s bad news. First the bad news: Most value propositions are weak. Now the good news: Most value propositions are weak. Her explanation of how to formulate and then leverage a strong value proposition, all by itself, is well worth ten (or 100) times the cost of the book.
What about barriers and how to overcome them? Konrath explains “how to become irresistible to decision-makers” by overcoming obstacles and eliminating objections in Part Four. In Chapter 18, for example, she explains how not to treat a gate keeper who can then become an ally, a “gate opener.”
How to accelerate the sales process? This question raises immensely complicated issues because decision-makers have too much to do, not enough time, and are under great pressure to add value to their company by eliminating waste, lowering operating costs, increasing productivity, solving various problems, filling various needs, etc. Although decision-makers are indeed hurried and harried, they will strongly resent being “pushed” by overly aggressive salespeople. What to do to “advance the sale”…and what not to do? Konrath addresses those and other important issues in Part Five.
Here’s her concluding advice: “Finally, realize that you are the biggest differentiator of all. Become an expert. Know your customer’s business, processes, and marketplace trends as well as they do. Deepen your knowledge of your product line, capabilities, and total solution capacity. Constantly be thinking about how you can help your customers improve their operations and reach their goals. Competitors can create copycat products and services overnight, but no one can replicate you and your brain. Your ability to provide a continuous stream of fresh ideas, insights, and information to corporate buyers will make you irresistible, invaluable, and ultimately, indispensable.” For many readers, the same will be true of Jill Konrath after they read her book.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Ron Ashkenas for the Harvard Business blog. To check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit email@example.com.
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Everyone knows the problems that arise when kids walk into a candy store: Everything looks so good they want it all, and they end up overdoing it. Unfortunately, practicing self-control doesn’t get any easier with age, which might explain why setting a limited number of priorities, and sticking to them, is one of the most difficult challenges facing managers today.
Here’s a quick example: The head of a large hospital brought together her direct reports and asked them to create a separate card for each major project or initiative underway. They then placed all of these cards on the wall and realized that, between the ten of them, they had over 150 active projects, many of which were drawing upon the same resources or impacting the same groups. It was no wonder, the team realized, that they were behind schedule and that their people felt overloaded.
Despite the realization that they had too much on their plates (and too many cards on the wall), this leadership team still struggled with narrowing their focus. Many felt that everything was important and nothing could be dropped without serious consequences. But if everything is called a priority, then nothing is. In fact, what’s worse is that people at lower levels, faced with the impossible task of trying to respond to everything, end up deciding what is important based on their more limited sense of the company’s strategy and their ability to get things done. By not clarifying the few key priorities, leadership teams unintentionally delegate priority-setting to their people. And then they wonder why everyone isn’t on the same page.
If you and your team want to do a better job with setting priorities here are four simple — but not easy — steps that you can take:
[Here’s one. To read the complete article, please visit firstname.lastname@example.org.]
1. Use your current portfolio to deduce your real
priorities. Most every organization spells out its stated priorities as part of its strategic plan. Over time, however, the clarity of these priorities dissipates as they are translated into actions — and as other projects and initiatives are added for various reasons (e.g. competitive threats, operational problems, customer opportunities).
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Ron Ashkenas is a managing partner of Robert H. Schaffer & Associates and a co-author of The GE Work-Out and The Boundaryless Organization. His latest book is Simply Effective.
In their latest book, Gupta and Wang note that, “Starkly put, China and India are changing the rules of the game” and many of the changes that have occurred in recent years are especially significant. The tasks are still important. However, with reference to the title of this book, Gupta and Wang point out that “being present in China and India [completing various tasks, however worthy they may be] is not the same as getting China and India right.” What to do must be determined by different perspectives and they are the focus of this book.
Hence the importance of fully understanding that only these two countries in the world “simultaneously constitute four stories rolled into one, each of them with the potential to be game changing in its own right.” The authors’ use of the word “game” in Chapter 1 is apt because it denotes players, opponents, and field(s) of competition, rules, officials, and scores. The word also connotes relevant mental and physical skills, practice, preparation, and engagement with opponents. Given these meanings and implications of “game,” now consider the stories “rolled into one,” any one of which could be a game changer, if viewed from these perspectives: “(1) China and India as megamarkets for almost every product and service, (2)…as platforms to dramatically reduce a company’s global cost structure, (3)…as platforms to significantly boost a company’s global technology and innovation base, and (4)…as the springboards for the emergence of a new breed of fearsome global competitors.” Gupta and Haiyan Wang explain why building robust strategies for both countries requires that the company doing so address each of the four “stories” head-on.”
Readers will also appreciate how carefully Gupta and Wang organize and then present their material, especially their core concepts and key insights. In Chapter 4, f or example, when explaining how to leverage both China and India for global advantage, they suggest that there are “three primary dimensions along which China and India are becoming central to global competitive advantage for a rapidly growing number of companies across a wide range of industries: cost arbitrage, talent arbitrage, and innovation. Each of the three sources of competitive advantage can be hugely important on its own. [That is also true of China and India.] However, if they can be leveraged in tandem, the impact can be especially powerful.”
They then create a statistical context, a frame-of-reference, for seven specific recommendations for making decisions and taking actions along several fronts (on Pages 107-108) when leveraging China and India as hubs for global advantage. They cite Eli Lilly & Co. and Portal Player as exemplary U.S. companies and explain why. Later in the chapter, they pose a critically important question: What is the optimal mix of global and local for a particular global hub? They then provide a set of five universal guidelines (on Pages 120-121) “that can be used to frame the analysis and discussions that lead to deriving the appropriate answer.” Once again, Gupta and Wang include another real-world example: specifically, a mini-case study of Accenture’s development of global delivery capabilities in India, led by Keith Haviland (a British citizen) under the supervision of Karl Heinz Floether (a German executive). Haviland and his associates succeeded. How? There were many key decisions and actions that helped ensure a successful ramp-up. Seven are briefly discussed on Pages 122-123. Once again, Gupta and Wang not only identify “what,” they also explain “how” and “why.”
I highly recommend this book to senior-level executives in companies that are already competing in the global marketplace or are now planning to do so. I also recommend it to senior-level executives in other companies that are within the supply chains of current and imminent global players.