📅 4th June 2020 | 2020/21 Sales Book Reviews
No not a post about certain stations on the London Underground system. Instead an evaluation of ‘Gap Selling’ (published in 2018) by the American author Keenan who describes himself as a Chief Antagonist at his firm A Sales Guy Inc. He is also the author of Not Taught: What It Takes To Be Successful in the 21st Century That Nobody’s Teaching You.
Quite a bit to ingest with this volume which is described as ‘fresh and provocative’ – I liked the early reference to the author’s ‘knowledge deficit’. He refers to mastering the nuances of the game. The game being professional selling. The list of sales excuses are another reminder of how many salespeople are not managing to hit target which has been an issue across B2B sectors worldwide. He cites the main reason as ‘too many people suck at selling’. Don’t hold back Keenan!
A more considered reason is that many salespeople don’t know what they need to know (Long gone are the days where internal sales training departments oversaw their people are always up-to-speed). An explanation is outlined in Chapter Two – ‘The Nine Truthbombs of Selling’ (please excuse the Americanism). Tidy stories underpin the points he tries to make. I particularly like the first gap. Customers current state v future state. In ‘Truth No. 5’ the author explains how customer emotions can create resistance to change. The most powerful sentence in this section is probably the best in the entire book – ‘In fact, every time talk about yourself, you risk triggering those change-resistant, emotionally fraught thoughts and feelings in your customers’.
Another key difference between today and the pre-internet age is that in the past, customers expected a whole song and dance about you, your firm and what you can offer – no longer. Keenan uses industrial language, several times, to ram this point home. You see, we’re now in the ‘Show-Me’ economy as opposed to the ‘Tell-Me’ economy.
The first half of the book runs through what Keenan sees as the main principles of his gap-selling. The piece on business relationships mentions ‘Challengers’ as those sellers who understand their business and their customers business. This came to surface in The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. They, like Keenan, cite credibility as the key factor to being truly successful. We are all aware that customers like to do business with sellers who really know their subject.
Other ‘good’ stuff:
The Problem Identification Chart
Using a change of Tone when you ask a question (although Zig Ziglar goes to this in depth in ‘Secrets of Closing The Sale’)
‘Manage The Pipeline’
Troubleshooting (overcoming those objections)
The Chapter entitled ‘It’s Not About You’ ….and finally this:
‘bidding on an RFP is not selling, it’s participating in a beauty contest’. Classic.
Uncovering a customers current state, or their pain, will aid the seller to see a path, or gap, to the customers future state. This entire process was what Neil Rackham’s S.P.I.N. is based upon (sure some of the ‘S’ or situation questions you’d ask in your discovery meeting are less important, as today you’d do your initial research off-line). What we have in this book are alternate terms to this sales technique of S.P.I.N. which originated in the 1970’s.
In the chapter on ‘Discovery’, there are some great examples of questions you can ask of your customer. One of them is ‘what happens when you’ which can be followed up by ‘share with me what’s been the impact……..’ Again, these are similar to what was taught is sales training in the last century. More specifically, they are the Implication questions in S.P.I.N.
Throughout the book, the author uses certain profanities to make a point. In my view, this debases the serious issues Keenan outlines.
In Chapter Six, the author shows more detail about the ‘gap’ – or putting it another way, showing the customer the true extent of not doing something to resolve an issue which may be bigger than they realise. There’s a handy illustration which shows ‘where the value lives’ between the current and future states. This approach is similar to that of Tim Reisterer from Corporate Visions and his ‘unconsidered needs‘. Uncover those needs and you’ll set yourself apart and be able to charge more.
Chapter Seventeen deals with getting your message across. For the umpteenth time there’s a reference to how cold-calling isn’t dead (as long as you do it right). To me, cold-calling was a right of passage and remains a necessary part of doing the grind. I like the passage about e-mail and persistent e-mailing. Keenan says this about this particular medium. ‘don’t ever walk away until they tell you to go away’ But first you must understand the context of why he writes that. And it’s this. Traditional prospecting is just annoying (not wrong). ‘Gap-selling’ prospecting challenges the prospect about a substantial issue. As ever, this goes back to doing your research. Fewer but better targeted e-mails will strike a chord.
If your new to selling and haven’t heard of Alfred Tack, SPIN, Mike Weinberg or The Challenger Sale then ‘Gap-Selling’ is a worthwhile read. At times though it feels as though the author has been a bit magpie-ish. For those of you at Sales Director level, the sections on hiring and coaching are a good resource and a reminder of what characteristics a top seller has to have or acquire to be truly successful.
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