Dataclysm by Christian Rudder

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking)Dataclysm: Who We Are by Christian Rudder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With this book, Christian Rudder gives a very nice introduction to data science as a way to feed our understanding of our society by tools that were only dreamed of by sociologist a few years ago. This book provides clever analyses presented in a simple and intelligible way and is not shy of explaining where the data is not sufficient to provide understanding or can be misleading. After reading this book, I feel that I know more and I really want to tinker with data.

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Agile Selling by Jill Konrath

Agile Selling: Get Up to Speed Quickly in Today's Ever-Changing Sales WorldAgile Selling: Get Up to Speed Quickly in Today’s Ever-Changing Sales World by Jill Konrath

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In “Agile Selling”, Jill Konrath focuses on giving sales inducing advice to individual sales representatives that are new to their position. While she gives a lot of inputs on the importance of focusing your efforts on the value that the product brings to the customer, the author also incorporates advice on personal working habits that one may expect more in a self improvement book than in a sales techniques book.

The book takes the form of short chapters that focuses each on one skill to acquire for the agile seller to be successful. Because of this, the book sometimes gives the feeling to be a collection of insights more so than being a single entity. However, it is interesting to study the form that the author gives to each of the chapters:
– The title: Factual and pointing towards what the reader will get out of this chapter.
– The body of the chapter: Starting with a real life story and building upon it to extract the meaningful advice that the reader can use to improve his sales skills.
– A one sentence conclusion: A sharp summary of the valuable information to be remembered from the chapter.
I found it interesting to find a “Tell-Show-Tell” structure being used in a book, as it is a useful communication method when you want to convince during a sales process.

— Spoiler Alert —
During the following paragraphs, the review will take the form of a summary.

In the first part of the book, the author presents her approach and explains why she believes that the success of a seller is directly linked to his or her learning agility. By presenting the current state of the sales environment and the recent changes in the relationship between a buyer and the sales person, she highlights how important is the capacity to learn new skills quickly and to be able to understand new market conditions rapidly to adapt the value proposition to the new challenges that your customers are facing, in order to be a valuable discussion partner to your prospect. Basing her analysis on several studies by different consulting firms, she presents the sales person as the main differentiator in the buyer choice decision. The buyer expects the sales person to be able to bring value in the discussion and will not be satisfied with a boiler-plate sales pitch that has no link to his particular challenges and pains. Considering the necessity for the seller to be able to provide valuable insights to the buyer, she then goes into the best approach for the seller to gather enough knowledge to become this valuable business partner that the buyer is expecting to meet during the sales process.

After introducing the importance of value based selling in the first part of her book, the author uses the rest of the book to advise sales representatives on how to harness the full power of value selling in their sales opportunities. As she explains that the seller should be a quick learner and focus his energy on self development to be able to conduct a valuable discussion with a prospect, she points out the information that he should master first. This information is exactly what will allow the seller to have industry credibility and be able to have insightful discussion with the prospect. She gives some generic self-improvement tricks on how to learn faster and be able to retain more information on the long term (Such as mapping a battle plan to decide what pieces of information to learn first, creating chunks of information that are meaningful, ditching multi-tasking for mono-tasking, etc.) As she presents the “needs-to-knows-now” information that a new joiner should assimilate in the first month in his new sales position, we can see the importance that she places in value-based selling. As an example, when it comes to the knowledge of your prospects, she highlights the importance to fully understand the status-quo, as it is actually your main competitor (According to her, 60% of the sales are lost to no-decision). She invites the seller to retro engineer the marketing material to fully understand the value that his products are bringing to his clients. She even encourages seller to interview recent acquired clients to understand fully the value that the product just brought to them. It’s her belief that a sales person that does not fully grasp the value his products are bringing to clients is not in a position to be successful.

After focusing on the necessary knowledge that the sales person has to acquire to build a successful relationship with his prospects, the author explains how to interact with prospects. In this section again, she mixes generic methods that are extremely useful to the sales person (Rehearsing over and over again, choosing role models, asking for help, giving yourself objectives so that you can measure your progress…) with advice that is specific to value based selling. In particular, she warns the seller against going into pitch mode too early in the discussion and instead to keep asking questions until the reason for change is fully understood. She also highlights how new technology and in particular CRM tools can help the seller understand better the prospect and his needs.

In conclusion, if “Agile Selling” does not provide new ideas in the Value Based Selling area, it really puts the responsibility to leverage the power of value based selling in the hands of the individuals and does not focus on changes at the organization level. I found this aspect of the book to be really useful to me.

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