Good information for a new salesman?
February 27, 2008 8:32 AM   Subscribe

My family owns a small business. We manufacture boxes, which we sell to other industrial clients. We've hired a salesman, but he has no sales experience. (We're okay with that.) We're teaching him about boxes, but we'd like to get him some sort of training in sales. We don't have traditional expectations (we think of the job more as "customer relations"), and aren't going to demand that he meet quotas, but we'd like him to have grounding in the basics. Can you recommend some good books on sales? How about training seminars in the Portland (Oregon) area? Any web sites he should read? Info on how to approach cold calls would be especially helpful. (So far we're just going with the "baptism of fire" approach, which has its pros and cons.)
posted by jdroth to Work & Money (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Secrets of Question Based Selling

This will cover everything from cold calls to closing large deals, and the book is not that large. It is really a fantastic book.
posted by fusinski at 8:37 AM on February 27, 2008

Response by poster: Also - any recommendations for software-based contact management? We hear ACT isn't very good. But what other option is there?
posted by jdroth at 8:41 AM on February 27, 2008

I have an aversion to performing a sales function, despite my (supposed) natural talent for it. So in order to make those occasions where it is unavoidable as painless as possible, I was pointed towards Customer-centric Selling.

This helps by focusing you on the customer's needs and how the benefits (not features - they're different) meet those needs. The sales cycle then becomes a partner-based discussion on how you and the customer together can meet the customer's needs.

It also gives you some useful pro forma documents and matrices to fill out to help that discussion along.

Worth reading.
posted by mooders at 8:43 AM on February 27, 2008

Also - Highrise from 37Signals is a very good online contact management tool.
posted by mooders at 8:44 AM on February 27, 2008 - $10/month per user for the group edition. If you can spare the change, every sales person I know is in love with it.
posted by fusinski at 8:45 AM on February 27, 2008

I did a 2-day course recently with the Canadian Professional Sales Association. I'm sure there's a US equivalent. It was worthwhile. My company paid for it, so I don't know how much it cost.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:49 AM on February 27, 2008

I personally recommend The Little Red Book of Sales by Jeff Gitomer.
posted by ShawnStruck at 8:51 AM on February 27, 2008

Seconding as your CRM and anything by Jeffery Gitomer, but I'd also add SPIN Selling. It sounds like you want this guy to not be the "typical" sales guy, but more customer-centric (solving customer's problems through your products). This is the guide for that.

Disclosure: I'm a recently recovering sales-guy. Kicked the habit two months ago.
posted by po822000 at 8:54 AM on February 27, 2008

In my experience, 99% of "sales technique" books are crap, often leading the reader to wonder if the author(s) have ever worked an actual day in the field themselves, since most such books offer advice that would only work if every client you ever dealt with was dim enough to fall for cliche sales tactics (unlikely if the person works in a position that would give him or her the power to make large scale purchases) or happened to follow the hypothetical "scripts" offered in the books word for word. The only sales book I've ever read that left me feeling like the author knew of where he spoke and made me want to stand up and cheer since so much of the advice was spot on is Winning Through Intimidation, which I think might actually be out of print but easy enough to get. There is a revised edition called To Be or Not to Be Intimidated?: That is the Question, which gives it a less cheesy title and updates some of the dated references from the original.
posted by The Gooch at 8:55 AM on February 27, 2008

I should mention that SPIN Selling, recommended above, is one of the titles I had in mind as books that would only work if the clients you deal with follow the hypothetical scripts offered in the book word for word. There is nothing more annoying when reading a sales technique book than reading these hypothetical scenarios where the clients "just happen" to say the exact right thing at the exact right time that leads directly into the books recommended sales pitch. Sure, it sound great in the book, but unlikely to ever occur in a real life scenario, unless you happen to be very, very lucky a lot of the time.
posted by The Gooch at 9:01 AM on February 27, 2008

Also echoing SPIN Selling. I also know it's what UPS uses to train their salesforce ... (logistics isn't the same as box sales, but hey, similar, right?)
posted by fourstar at 9:24 AM on February 27, 2008

While Selling Retail talks about a retail setting (duh!), there is a ton of useful information that applys to sales in general.
posted by Silvertree at 10:46 AM on February 27, 2008

I work in a B2B business -- when I moved from R&D to marketing, I asked one of our sales directors how we taught our sales people to sell. He recommended Solution Selling which is all about determining and solving customer needs.

I also found a good reference from my MBA program's marketing class: Think Like Your Customer by Bill Stinnett. There is a bunch of training material on the web for his stuff too: Link. I cannot vouch for the training classes, but the book is good.
posted by elmay at 11:23 AM on February 27, 2008

I read the question and thought to myself, "Huh. A box company. JD over at GRS worked at a box company. Small world." Then I noticed the author and smacked myself in the forehead. Sounds like you're having a hard time making as clean a transition as you'd liked.

I'd suggest "Selling the Wheel" which helped me figure out my personal sales methods, and provided some pretty good feedback on steps to improve them. It helped to inspire me to move into a different position that better fit the way I naturally sold. It also really shed some light on some past negative experiences I'd had with other sales folk, and helped to explain why we really didn't get along.
posted by dblslash at 11:40 AM on February 27, 2008

Response by poster: Sounds like you're having a hard time making as clean a transition as you'd liked.

Actually, things are going well. I'm pleased with my replacement. But he has no experience with sales, and I'm not the sort of guy who can train him. I can impart box knowledge, but my own sales skills are weak. We don't want him to be your typical salesman -- and he won't be -- but I do want him to have grounding in the theory!
posted by jdroth at 4:45 PM on February 27, 2008

So you hired a salesperson for a box company...with no box company experience...and no sales experience.

I'm not sure that's an approach I would have taken, but I hope it works out for you.

As far as CMS options, I have personal experience with Goldmine (works, but not worth the hassles). I've heard (third-hand) that Prophet, an Outlook plugin, is good.

As far as books, there's always Zig Ziglar, who people seem to love or hate.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 7:39 AM on February 28, 2008

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