Two New Sales Books Reviewed

The field of sales produces a lot of books. Inevitably, a few are better than most. Given my own biases–thoughtfulness and action orientation, I like to believe–here are two new good ones.

Making Rain

Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation, by RAIN Group co-Presidents Mike Schultz and John Doerr, was just published by John Wiley & Sons. Yesterday it made #1 in the Sales category, and reached at least as high as #21 in all book sales on Amazon. Which suggests the authors know a little something about selling. (Disclosure: I read this book in draft and wrote a blurb for it, and I’m a contributing editor on affiliated along with author Doerr. Am I biased? Yes.)

RAIN, just to get that out of the way, is an acronym for Rapport, Aspirations and Afflictions, Impact, and New Reality. It’s one of several acronyms the authors use to provide a roadmap around pretty much the entire territory of sales.

The concept of a “rainmaker” is one that derives mainly from complex sales, often professional services sales—it’s the person who does the dance to heaven to bring down the rain; a revered talent in both native cultures and national corporations. Despite the complex sales heritage, there is much in here as well to support the solo, simple product salesperson as well.

What has always impressed me about Schultz and Doerr’s work is that it integrates the ‘soft’ stuff and the ‘hard’ stuff so well. For example, the “R” in rain is unabashedly about the good old “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care” stuff. You know—Zig Ziglar, even Dale Carnegie. They give ‘motivation’ a good name among the kind of people who mock it in Chris Farley SNL reruns.

But RAIN also performs the same role that SPIN did so powerfully in Neil Rackham’s formulation of SPIN Selling (or for that matter ELFEC in my own Trust-Based Selling)—it’s a powerful prescription for sequencing conversations.

Finally, the authors are equally at home in the world of value propositions and risk assessment; in process as well as principles and psychology. They have a nuanced view of influence—the balancing of inquiry and advocacy. Basically, they cover the field from all angles. If you had to buy one book on sales as a salesperson or sales manager—this would be a top candidate.

It’s a good book, folks. Check it out.

Selling from Strengths

From the good people at Gallup, there is the new book Strengths Based Selling. Tony Rutigliano and Brian Brim have taken decades of Gallup research info (and Gallup is Research R Us) to integrate some personality profiling around sales skills into a book that looks systematically at what accounts for high performing salespeople. Compared to RainMaking Conversations, which is about sales process as well as the act of selling, Strengths Based Selling is on the face of it more focused on the introspective, i.e. about who you are.

Rutigliano is the author of a previous book called Discover Your Sales Strengths. He describes this book as being more tactical, in the sense of giving the individual salepeople specific ideas about how to conduct themselves at various steps in the sales process. And while that’s true, the sales process is really more the bread surrounding the meat of determining of just who you are.

To that end, the book comes with a complimentary self-assessment test, the Clifton Strengths-Finder Assessment. There are 34 broad talent themes in this rubric; take the test and it will tell you your Top Five themes. The bulk of the book is about how different types deal with different parts of the sales process. (I took the quiz and no surprise–this is Gallup after all–it was dead on for me–Intellection, Input, Strategic, Adaptability, Ideation).

Despite this apparent psychological and tactical approach, the book is very strategic in two critical ways. First, the authors point out that a great component of your success comes from creating and putting yourself into positions and situations that leverage your strengths.

That means not just knowing who you are, but constructing the world around you in ways that make your strengths resonate. It means things like identifying complementary resources, and letting others know your strengths and asking for their help in leveraging them. It means finding out how to design your job around you. It ultimately means facing whether you’re in the right job.

The authors also have an audacious take on ‘work-life balance.’ They suggest it’s a myth, and that we’re all better off talking about work-life integration, that the term ‘balance’ itself suggests an uneasy and moving trade-off. I think they’ve got a great point.

But the most basic message of Strengths Based Selling is: there is no one type of successful salesperson, and there is no one methodology. Not everybody can sell, but there are a hundred paths to get there–not one. I find this remarkably parallel to the point made in my interview with Richard Osborne on therapy and sales, coming from a psychological perspective.

Biology is not destiny, and there is no one answer. Rutigliano and Brim help you intelligently navigate the wide degrees of freedom available to those who don’t need the comfort of a faux one-size fits all ideology.