Book Review “Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard” by Chip & Dan Heath

by Victor Antonio

Amazon Description: Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?

The primary obstacle is a conflict that’s built into our brains, say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the critically acclaimed bestseller Made to Stick. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.

In Switch, the Heaths show how everyday people—employees and managers, parents and nurses—have united both minds and, as a result, achieved dramatic results:
● The lowly medical interns who managed to defeat an entrenched, decades-old medical practice that was endangering patients.
● The home-organizing guru who developed a simple technique for overcoming the dread of housekeeping.
● The manager who transformed a lackadaisical customer-support team into service zealots by removing a standard tool of customer service

In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.

 

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Mastering the Complex Sales & Value Leakage – Jeff Thull’s Rule

by Victor Antonio, Sales Buy•ologist

Mastering Complex Sale by Jeff ThullSometimes an author presents a concept that is so shocking (i.e., a paradigm wrecker) that it takes a while to get over the shock and socialize it.  Well that’s what happened when I was reading Jeff Thull’s book, Mastering the Complex Sale.  The book itself is about how to win the complex sale using a specific analysis-methodology in order to be more effective at selling your product’s value.

But that wasn’t the shocking part.  Towards the end of the book, Thull introduces the concept of the Value Leakage Bucket.  And in his explanation, he makes, in my opinion, a shocking revelation with regard to value degradation that quite honestly caused me to have the reread the section twice if not three times.

But before I share with you Thull’s assertion, allow me to paraphrase how he views the Value Chain of a product being brought to market.   (Note: As you read the following, keep in mind that I do not do Thull full justice and I suggest you get the book; worth every penny)

Here’s my “Victor-ization” of Thull’s assertion.

Step 1: Product is conceptualized by Product Management (PM), or the like, based on direct feedback from clients.  At this point in the process, the product being conceptualized is perfectly aligned with the needs of the client.  We can figuratively say that the Value Bucket is filled with 100% value.

Step 2: The Engineering Design Team (EDT) then begins to work on designing the product but realizes that certain compromises or trade-offs have to be made with the physical (e.g., size, aesthetics, layout) and the functional (features and capabilities) aspects of the product in order for it to be produced.  Value Bucket = 70%[1]

Step 3: Manufacturing reviews the new product design and communicates back to PM and the EDT that in order to make the product cost effective, certain changes (i.e., compromises) have to be made on the materials and components.  Value Bucket = 40%

Step 4: Marketing now has to craft a message, a strong value proposition, to sell this new product that is NOT completely aligned with what clients want.   Which means that the marketing collateral will center around ‘me too’ features thereby making the product harder to differentiate from the competitors.  The result is marketing collaterals with weak value propositions.   Value Bucket = 20%

Step 5: Sales now takes the product and the product collateral developed by marketing and tries to sell a product whose value is now about 20% of what the client’s want and/or need.

Wow!  That is a startling revelation.  Salespeople are only equipped with 20% of the intended product’s value when selling.  If true, emphasis on the if, then it’s no wonder salespeople have a hard time articulating a value proposition that DIFFERS from their closest competitors.

Said another way, Thull asserts that by the time salespeople gets their hands on the new product, its value once 100% aligned with the client’s needs, is now at 20% of its impact value which essentially equates to having a “me too” product like your competitors.  And, because the product is now comparable to a competitor’s product, the client sees no reason in paying a premium for the new product.  Translation: No difference in value equals price discount in the client’s eyes.

So blaming salespeople, for not selling more, may seem a gross miscarriage of management justice.   Salespeople are maligned when new product sales fall short of expectations, but the real blame should be spread across the entire product value chain, not just sales.  But could it be, according to Thull, that oftentimes salespeople are given products they can’t sell because there are no ‘real’ differences between their own and the competitor’s product?

When the value, the differentiators, have been reasoned out and whittled down to standard features, the product is condemned to the realm of commoditization.  Which leads to price concessions by the seller, which leads to lower margins, which leads to less R&D money for new products development, which leads to less tolerance for new product features, which leads to more watered-down products that salespeople can’t sell without price concessions.  The seller and the company have now entered the downward spiral of commoditization.

New Sales Term: Based on this premise, when a product has been reduced to 20% of its real value and the salespeople are expected to sell it, we should say that the salesperson is a victim of Thull’s Rule!

Yes, I made that up!  Jeff you can thank me later 🙂


[1] I extrapolated these percentages from Thull’s graph and should only be used as an indicator of magnitude rather than actual percentage drops.  Thull doesn’t use a specific percentage until he gets to Step 5.

Making the Number by Greg Alexander, Aaron Bartles and Mike Drapeau

Victor Antonio’s Book Review

Making The Number by Greg AlexanderThis is one of the toughest books I’ve had to review.  Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly:

Good: The book does a great job in trying to ‘legitimize’ the sales process as a science (e.g., defining sales taxonomy, metrics, indexes, etc…) and not an art. This alone makes the book a must read; especially for those individuals/companies who believe in process-driven sales organizations.

Bad: After pontificating much about what great companies should do to be World Class, it never really gets around to discussing actual case studies. The few case studies provided at the end are just ‘overviews’ which to me was a big let down. I wanted more analytical/systemic/logistical examples of what other companies did to make the change.

Ugly: Too often I was reminded that Sale Benchmarking Index was the ONLY company to have the largest sales repository of accumulated data and by de facto, the answer to your sales problems. It came across as a sales brochure for the company.

That said, I recommend you buy the book. Yes, I’m a bit hard on the book, but the ROI is there! This is not your ‘normal’ sales book. I would argue it’s more of a compendium of best practices and ideas culled together to give the reader a sense of what it’s going to take to move from a Level 1 ad hoc sales process to a Level 5 predictable process.

Get the book…it’s worth the read!

Competing on Value by Mack Hanan and Peter Karp

Victor Antonio’s Book Review 
competing on value by mack hanan and peter karp

This past weekend I finished up reading the book, Competing on Value by Mack Hanan and Peter Karp.  I was again taken aback by the writing and insight found in this book published over 20 years ago (1991).

This book is a great follow-up to Mack Hanan’s Consultative Selling and I highly recommend it for any salesperson in the B2B space.

The book covers five chapters on value:

  1. The value strategy
  2. Know your value
  3. Price your value
  4. Sell your value
  5. Control your value
Competing on Value re-emphasizes that the approach to selling should be value-creation and not price justification.  Although it was written in 1991, this book could’ve been easily written last month.  The principle of selling on value and demonstrating ROI is more important today than ever.
This book is by far one of the most underestimated books on B2B selling that I’ve come across!

Ram Charan: What the Customer Wants You to Know: How Everybody Needs to Think Differently About Sales

Victor Antonio Recommends:

Ram Charan’s Book: What the Customer Wants You to Know: How Everybody Needs to Think Differently About Sales

Amazon Description: Ram Charan skillfully and efficiently offers a tutorial on upgrading the productivity of any size company’s sales force. His answer: evolve salespeople from order takers to knowledgeable ambassadors who approach customers armed with cost-saving solutions they will be happy to pay for Charan’s method involves Value Creation Selling, which at a broad level means reconfiguring a sales force’s orientation toward customers’ profitability before its own success. The author recommends fostering in salespeople the skills and mindsets of a general manager and equipping them with a value account plan, or the document that defines the value proposition and the business benefits the customer can expect to get from it. Charan walks readers through the process of fixing the broken sales process with a combination of diagrams and anecdotes from real companies, all while applying the concepts and actions to a booklong case study of a fictitious software company, Sturgis Corporation. The book serves as a practical guide to competing with aggressive price-cutters in today’s market. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book Recommendation: Customer Centered Selling: Sales Techniques for a New World Economy by Robert Jolles

Victor Antonio Recommends:

Customer Centered Selling: Sales Techniques for a New World Economy by Robert Jolles

Amazon Description: Customer Centered Selling teaches you the secret of the world-famous Xerox sales training program. The secret, Robert Jolles reveals, is reversing the conventional selling practice of searching for customer needs. To truly create urgency, you must focus instead on the customer’s problems and decision-making process. Jolles provides a systematic, repeatable, predictable approach that teaches you to anticipate and influence behavior as the customer moves through an eight-stage “decision cycle” and ultimately discovers his or her needs. The book includes a series of case studies, activities, and exercises that enable you to better understand the principles being taught, so you can immediately apply them to your own unique scenarios. This book is a “must read” for all sales professionals, sales managers, and managers in need of a disciplined approach to persuading others. Sales & Marketing Management A simple yet clever strategy for building customer relationships….A useful read for both trainers and sales managers.