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Book Review: The Challenger Sale

July 30th, 2014

The Challenger Sale, Dixon and Adamson.2011. Penguin.

The Challenger Sale evokes reactions and disturbs conventional thinking. The authors want to encourage organizations, groups and sales people to “push the customer’s thinking and teach them something new” p 21. It is not surprising then that the reader is given a challenge to think about sales in different ways. Even the introduction by Neil Rackham stirs up controversy:

“How you sell has become more important than what you sell. An effective sales force is a more sustainable competitive advantage than a great product stream.” p XVI

Many believe that you are only as good as the product you sell (this was the first thing anyone ever said to me about sales). In social media discussions, my research found that many analysts, leaders and sales managers disagree with The Challenger Sale. However, I believe that is exactly what the authors want. By disturbing conventional thought, readers will think “I never thought of it that way’ or “I wonder if that is true?” This pattern of disturbance is a theme in the book leading the reader to question traditional views. For example, the authors defy the notion that sales is all about relationships. This one point has been the subject of multiple discussions with thought leaders, educators and fellow sales professionals. This makes The Challenger Sale valuable to me and worth the price of the book.

You will also find skills and perspective. Three behaviors that sales people can integrate into their profession are Teaching, Tailoring and Taking Control. p33 There are many positive aspects to these actions. Teaching helps customers learn, think and feel in new ways. Personally, I have an educational style and totally agree with this approach to selling. Tailoring is adjusting the message to the audience (visit or search “The Persuasion Equation” on YouTube for tip). My favorite phrase from this book is “solution selling is customization in the moment” page 78. Taking control (another deliciously disturbing idea) is to push sales people to maintain momentum across the entire sales process. I believe the use of questions creates momentum in all phases of the sales process (search “The Art of the Q: Build Your Business with Questions” by Charlie Van Hecke on Google,, i-tunes or B& for more information).

The best way to summarize is to confess that I have bought two copies of The Sales Challenger and one copy of The IT Sales Challenger (by Neil MacArthur which applies concepts to my industry). It makes me slightly upset, causes a rethinking of long held views and well, challenges me! In future reviews, we will visit the IT Sales Challenger and dig deeper into the question: ” What can leaders who seek sales excellence learn from The Sales Challenger?


Book Review of Sales Coaching: Making the Great Leap from Sales Manager to Sales Coach by Linda Richardson

April 22nd, 2012

You do not need to be a C.E.O. or Business Owner to benefit from reading and learning from
Linda Richardson’s classic business book: Sales Coaching: Making the Great Leap from Sales Manager to Sales Coach. One primary theme is that coaching helps people remove obstacles.  I’ve applied many of these concepts to family life, church organizations and volunteer work. If you are motivated to make a difference in the world, than I would recommend that you read Sales Coaching!

  • One of my favorite quotes from the book is: “Coaching takes Strength – real emotional muscle” page 91

It is a privilege when you are in the Coach role. If you try to be analytical without taking in culture, values, feelings then you may misread a situation. In both professional and personal situations, I’ve found that emotional intelligence is vital in assisting others to become capable, dynamic citizens. Linda Richardson makes an early observation that “most coaching comes in the form of telling.”

  • The point is that we should ask questions and let people come to their own conclusions.
  • This shows respect and allows learning and growth to occur.
  • By asking questions, you can establish a dialogue based on actual behaviors.
  • These conversations can then take place over time and be referenced
    in different situations.

My only critique of Sales Coaching is the author’s point that “coaching is about how to change by doing things differently.” Most really good business people find what works and do it over and over again. They find the best practices, or success habits, of achievers and pattern their attitudes and behavior to reach new levels of performance. There are times to get people to change their behavior and there are times to reinforce what people are doing right.  Saying “coaching is all about how to change” sounds like a cliché.

To elaborate, let’s compare coaching to a really good golf lesson. The best golf instructors observe, ask questions and make small changes over time. One lesson that I took involved being recorded on a digital recorder.  My swing was compared to the swing of a golfing professional. The technology allowed frame-by-frame assessment. My golf coach pointed out my strengths and areas of improvement. Small changes were made and my golf game improved. This also allowed me to develop a deeper understanding of the game so I could enjoy it to the fullest.  A coaching mindset in business follows a similar theme:

  • We help people identify and remove obstacles so that they can be more productive and enjoy their lives, relationships and careers!
  • The art of asking questions helps the people understand their best qualities.
  • This instills the confidence to make small changes.
  • This works with co-workers, family members and children.
  • Praise is a powerful, positive and wonderful motivator!

Sales Coaching gets a five star recommendation as both a skill building book and a tool kit. There are plenty of examples with excellent questions. There are also checklists and forms that you can use as resources. For more resources, please visit facebook/salestrainer4U. A like will get you a steady stream of emerging markets, tips, positive news and skill building resources.

DRIVE by Daniel H Pink

January 2nd, 2012

Dan Pink’s DRIVE jumps on motivation and rides it like a motorcycle on a mountain road. There are twists and turns, but the more you ride, the hotter it gets. You know that feeling of freedom, raw excitement and the sheer rush of being alive. Oh – haven’t felt that way in a while?

It may be that your organization, team or family is using extrinsic motivation (carrot and stick) to motivate team members. You may want to pick up DRIVE and upgrade yourself up to Mr. Pink’s three elements of intrinsic motivation:
• Autonomy
• Mastery
• Purpose

While the book was written for workplace teams, the concepts can be applied to home, physical fitness, charity and any other dimension of your life. First, autonomy means that you have the freedom to make decisions. Mastery means that you are striving to conquer an area of interest, skill or subject. Don’t forget purpose, knowing ‘why’ you get up every day!

Re-wire yourself to ‘Positive’
One of my favorite quotes from the book is that positive psychology has “reoriented the study of psychological science away from the previous focus on malady and dysfunction and toward well-being and effective functioning.”[1] In other words, study the well-adjusted, successful people if you want to be happy, healthy, wealthy and wise. Look at the habits of high performing people and replicate these behaviors. Trace the behaviors back to values, morals and internal beliefs. Set your compass to a positive outlook based on autonomy, mastery and purpose. If you like these ideas – read Drive by Dan Pink. I’ve barely scratched the surface and every one of my friends and associates that read this book felt like there was renewed energy in their personal and professional lives. 

[1] Drive. Pink. Penguin Books. 2009. P 73


November 12th, 2011

Tribes, by Seth Godin, is a suggested book for business owners, managers and sales people who want to develop loyal fans and customers.  Godin’s style is to share stories about successful people and companies to weave the argument of being different; for taking risks. Yes – it is about leadership but there are great lessons for sales professionals who want to think and act differently to achieve success.

Godin makes the point early that “the real power of tribes has nothing to do with the internet and everything to do with people.”[1] We often make this point with new sales people who think that social media will make sales and generate revenue. Our opinion is that Social Media might be a way to get leads – but getting face-to-face with a decision maker is still the best path to making a sale. Yes, a web meeting is also fantastic – and so are phone calls.  Sales is a contact sport – so the more live people that you interact with – the better.

In Tribes, Godin frames a beautiful paradox about taking chances: “the safest thing you can do feels risky and the riskiest thing to do is to play it safe.” [2] A sales professional must be able to get outside personal comfort zones to reach a higher level of performance. Taking risks means that we must often go see customers with no guarantees of making the sale.  Playing it safe in sales is very risky – because low activity in sales is almost always a predictor of a drop in future opportunities.

There are career implications for sales professionals too. I love Seth Godin’s attitude altering statement: “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is – maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” [3] One of the reasons that I decided to view sales as a sport was to create a fun life for myself.  By becoming a sales athlete, my life became more exciting and challenging. I would encourage you to turn sales into a game and make it fun!

The ultimate lesson of Tribes for sales people is the power of references – people who can vouch for your products and services. If your tribe includes customers who will voluntarily say nice things about what you offer – then a positive gossip starts. Word of mouth is still the most powerful form of advertising – (even more than facebook) because customers believe other customers.  So my recommendation on this book is to buy it, read it and then apply it in your selling efforts.

[1] Tribes. Godin. Penguin Books. Page 6

[1] Tribes. Godin. Penguin Books. Page 64

[1] Tribes. Godin. Penguin Books. Page 101


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