5 Sales Lessons I Learned From 5 Books in 2016

Some people go hang gliding for thrills. Some climb mountains. I read sales books.

Read sales books

Photo by Pavla Zakova

Here are some lessons I picked up from sales books in 2016:

    1. A few months ago a roofer in the Southeast rescheduled a meeting three separate times before cancelling it entirely. The AE and Sales Manager I was working with were angry at the client, but this passage offers an alternative explanation:

 Before you can even sell your product, the customer must purchase your selling time, which is comprised of your own time as well as the information you can provide to help the customer move closer to making a decision.

The currency the customer will use to purchase your selling time is her time… For her investment of time, she has to receive something of value from you in return that is equal to or exceeds her perception of the value of her time. That means that in each instance a customer invests in your selling time, you have to provide value in the form of information that will help move the customer at least one step forward in her buying process…

…If you provide something of value in exchange for the time the customer invests with you, then the customer will reward you with additional time to continue to sell to her.  Andy PaulAmp Up Your Sales: Powerful Strategies That Move Customers to Make Fast, Favorable Decisions

The roofer had met with this salesperson before, and had arrived at a perceived value for another meeting. Each day, in his mind, the roofer made a business decision — there were other, more valuable, ways for him to use his time.

2. Have you ever called someone after hours, planning to leave a voice mail, and found yourself tongue-tied when they answered “live”? It’s because you weren’t prepared for all the ways the call could go.

The concept below sounds almost blindingly obvious, but I’ve made thousands of sales phone calls over the years, and this way of thinking never occurred to me until I read these words:

 Calls can go one of three ways—your prospect answers, a gatekeeper answers, or it rolls to voicemail. Each one requires a different type of response from you. Be prepared no matter which way it goes.” Mark Hunter, High Profit Prospecting: Powerful Strategies to Find the Best Leads and Drive Breakthrough Sales Results

Often as you dial the phone, you’re prepared for one of the possibilities. Once you realize that there are three, and only three, it becomes simple to prepare for each call.

3. If you’ve ever pushed a customer to get a “yes”, walked out of the room with the “yes”, told your boss you had a done deal, and never actually consummated the sale, here is a pretty good explanation of what you may have received:

  I’ll let you in on a little secret. There are actually three kinds of “Yes”: Counterfeit, Confirmation, and Commitment. 

A counterfeit “yes” is one in which your counterpart plans on saying “no” but either feels “yes” is an easier escape route or just wants to disingenuously keep the conversation going to obtain more information or some other kind of edge.

A confirmation “yes” is generally innocent, a reflexive response to a black-or-white question; it’s sometimes used to lay a trap but mostly it’s just simple affirmation with no promise of action.

And a commitment “yes” is the real deal; it’s a true agreement that leads to action, a “yes” at the table that ends with a signature on the contract.

The commitment “yes” is what you want, but the three types sound almost the same, so you have to learn how to recognize which one is being used.”– Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

Voss, a former international hostage negotiator for the FBI, mixes hair-raising war stories with advice that can apply to anything from kidnapping ransom talks to sales negotiations. It is his position that using manipulative techniques to get a client to say yes will only generate resentment — you may get a “verbal” from the client without ever getting any money.

4. A question I often ask during a needs analysis involves triggers. I ask the advertiser what’s happened in their customer’s world that’s caused the customer to need a product or service.

Jill Konrath has gotten me thinking about events in the advertiser’s world that would cause them to be open to a new advertising opportunity.


This trigger event acts as a catalyst, forcing these organizations to reevaluate how they’re doing things. Often, when seen through this new lens, the status quo is deemed insufficient to meet their changing objectives and requirements. At this point, the prospect may not be sure what to do. They just know that something has to change in the not-too-distant future…

If you know what these optimal trigger events are, you can pursue opportunities when you have this higher likelihood of closing an accelerated deal.” Jill KonrathMore Sales Less Time: Surprisingly Simple Strategies for Today’s Crazy-Busy Sellers.

Konrath advises asking your existing clients — in particular, those who’ve started with you in the past 6-12 months — what happened to cause them to change what they’d been doing. If you can find some common threads, you’ll know what kind of prospects to pursue in the future.

5. This last one isn’t a sales book, exactly — it’s Bruce Springsteen‘s autobiography.

Springsteen’s a musician, songwriter, and social commentator… but he’s also a salesman.

He’s gotten geeks like me to pay cash money for every album of new material he puts out, even though it’s all on Spotify. He’s re-sold us the old ones by turning them into box sets with outtakes. He’s convinced me to pay to get into 48 shows, and I’ll pay to get into more if the opportunity presents itself.

But he hasn’t just created a market for his records and his shows. Some of us will hand over money just to be in his vicinity.

Case in point: My wife, the lovely and talented PDXKnitterati, paid $35 and stood in line for hours for the opportunity to spend  – maybe – 10 seconds chatting with him as one of his minions snapped a photo. A woman in line flew to Portland from Chicago for the opportunity to stand for hours so she could spend those 10 seconds chatting with him.

Thousands of people did this, and as near as I can tell they all thought it was a great experience. I’d have done it if I’d been in town that day.

The guy can sell.

Sales Lesson from Bruce Springsteen

Photo by PDXKnitterati

There are sales lessons throughout the book, but here’s the passage that’s stuck with me:

 1+1=3:  The primary math of the real world is one plus one equals two. The layman…goes to the job, does his work, pays his bills, and comes home. One plus one equals two. It keeps the world spinning. But artists, musicians, con men, poets, mystics and such are paid to turn that math on its head, to rub two sticks together and bring forth fire.” Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run

That’s what the best salespeople do — we figure out a way to make one plus one equal three

A “tribute band” called Tramps Like Us is playing at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park in January. Tickets are $20. Face value for tickets to Bruce Springsteen’s last tour was $150, and they were going for well over that on the East Coast secondary market.

I’ve seen Tramps Like Us. They do a good job. Why would people pay $150 or more when they could see and hear roughly the same songs for $20?

Because when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play the songs,  customers believe they get something extra. 1+1 = 3.  

If all you offer to your customer is $3000 worth of commercials  for $3000, they will view you and your company as a commodity — anybody can do that. You’re Tramps Like Us.

The best salespeople… the ones who make careers of this — bring extra value to every interaction. Creative ideas, promotion ideas, business wisdom. Bring the value, and customers will pay $5000 for $3000 worth of commercials plus you.

This is my final post of 2016. I’ll be back next week with more advertising, marketing and sales value… and news of a sales book of my own.

Have a happy New Year — and go make one plus one equal three.


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