Favorite Reads for Sales Teams: Avoid the “Book of the Month Club” Approach

It’s that time of the year again — Holiday Starbucks cups, panic over Q4 deals to close on 12/31, and finally, lists of books your sales team should read over the holidays (“Top 10  Must Read Books on Sales!”)  This won’t be one of those blog posts.  In fact, I encourage you NOT to push new sales books on your reps over the holidays.

What are the types of reads your sales team would be willing to peruse in their down time that have actual relevance to your business?

Too often, sales leaders fall into the BOMC trap.  Leadership by BOMC (Book of the Month Club) is often counter-productive, because the cool new business book may not align with the overall vision of the sales roadmap.

So what should you ask your sales team to read?  Following the KISS principle (Keep it Simple for the Sellers), here are three ideas to consider:

  • News about their top prospects, clients or partners who are publicly traded firms
    • They can focus on one account, or set up a feed for all of their key accounts
    • Here is an example of what they would see if they were just checking out Salesforce.com Inc. (CRM)
  • News about the industries they focus on:
    • It’s easier for sellers to provide insights for their clients if they understand the world they are living in
    • Here is an example of a good news source for those focused on the Pharma space
    • For a broader but narrower look at multiple industries, you can look at the perspectives shared by someone like Strategy&
  • And if you feel you must share some books, I’d encourage you to “go small” and share book reviews or abstracts:
    • Great sources include GetAbstractSoundview Executive Book Summaries, and my new personal favorite to read on my PC, phone and tablet, Blinkist
    • For each book summary shared with the team, be sure to provide clarity on the link between the book and your strategies, goals, or Big Rocks … and clearly describe the actions you want them to take based on the book

Speaking of “going small,” below is a piece that Symmetrics Group published on Top Performers which showcases top sales professionals and the best-in-class qualities that set them apart:

Download Articles on Top Performers in Sales

Respect the time constraints and attention span of your team and select the smaller, high-impact resources that encourage them to step back and learn something new to apply to their jobs.

First published Nov 22, 2016 in the Symmetrics Group Blog


Tom Martin

Tom is a member of Symmetrics Group’s Advisory Board, and brings 25 years of experience as a specialized generalist in the sales effectiveness industry, where he is sometimes referred to as “The Consultant to Consultants.” Tom is passionate about KISS (Keep it Simple for the Sellers) and focusing on the reinforcement and sustainment activities that drive sales transformations.


4 Ways to Cut Cost of Sales (Without Cutting Heads)

Originally Posted in 2016 on the Symmetrics Group blog.


Like many business projects, sales effectiveness projects are often focused on the big 3 – Increasing revenue, cutting costs and/or reducing risks.

When we talk to sales leaders, the primary stated business objectives of sales transformation projects usually tie back to increasing revenue – capturing new accounts, improving up-sell and cross-sell, increasing renewal rates, increasing revenue per seller productivity.  Reducing cost of sales (COS) could also be, and should also be, considered when establishing the metrics of success in new sales effectiveness initiatives.

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Overcoming Sales Challenges: A Buyer Focus on Seller Deficit Disorder

Originally Posted on Aug 5, 2014 on the Force Management blog.


Occasionally salespeople will sign up for the challenge of trying to sell me something. This doesn’t always end well, but is usually entertaining.

I’ve had a few recent experiences with SaaS software providers trying to sell to me and I found myself thinking about John Kaplan and his comments around Seller Deficit Disorder. (My colleague Brian Walsh did a great job of breaking down the Sales Leader Deficit Disorder in this post.) This common “ailment” encompasses two of the biggest complaints buyers have about sellers:

  1. You don’t understand my business.
  2. You don’t listen.

My recent experiences were at different stages of the buying process, which led me to realize that Seller Deficit Disorder evolves during the sales process. As buyers make their decisions, their perspective on these two complaints actually changes, depending on where they are in the buying process.

The typical progression for a buyer in their buying process is relatively simple:

  1. What are my Needs?
  2. What are my Choices?
  3. How do I mitigate Risk before buying?
  4. How do I ensure Success after buying?

When you consider the buying process, Seller Deficit Disorder progresses. It’s no longer simply, you don’t understand my business and you don’t listen. See the graphic below:



What drove me to think about Seller Deficit Disorder when I was being sold to? I received the following email, after I downloaded a whitepaper that was “needs-focused”:

I noticed you were on our website. Is there something specific you were looking for? Perhaps we can chat tomorrow at _____ to discuss your interest in ______

The lack of any reference to what Force Management does makes me assume the seller didn’t review our website or my LinkedIn profile. The follow-up email also didn’t address the “need” that prompted me to download the white paper in the first place. By tailoring even just one sentence, I wouldn’t be saying to myself that ‘he doesn’t understand our challenges.’

A wise seller will keep Seller Deficit Disorder in mind when communicating with customers and prospects throughout the entire buying process. A value-based selling approach focused on effective discovery, required capabilities and positive business outcomes is the ideal remedy to address this disorder.

What actions have you taken in your sales efforts to overcome buyer preconceptions?

Worth the Read: Three Links to Improve Your Sales Organization

Originally Posted on June 4, 2013 on the Force Management blog.

economic growth newspaper

Today I’m sharing three posts that got my attention in the blogosphere. When it comes to improving your sales organization, who doesn’t love a good list to get you thinking? And, Oracle’s problem in sales execution (outlined below) is something I’ve seen with hundreds of clients. A sales execution problem centers on management’s operating rhythm.

I’ve added my own thoughts to these posts. Let me know yours in the comment section below.

9 Shortcuts to More Effective Sales and Marketing Collaboration

Business to Community blogger Matt Heinz has a great list here. I’d suggest a 10th shortcut (which is related to Matt’s 4 & 5). Have members of sales and marketing (and product marketing, engineering and channels) work together in a multi-day session to create the actual sales messages the sellers will be using. Force Management clients refer to this session as “white collar prison” when we do this in Command of the Message®, but they mean that in a good way. At least by the time they see the results!

Top 20 Reasons Why Sales Managers Suck at Coaching

Wow. Jonathan Farrington writes, “17% of all sales managers are effective at coaching.” I’ll say it again, Wow. Here are two I would add to his list:

1. Their company has not defined competencies for the different sales roles, so when themanagers coach they’re coaching to the wrong areas.

2. Sales Managers don’t have a list of defined competencies for being a sales manager. Oh, by the way, being an effective coach is one of them.

Oracle Blames Third-Quarter Miss on Sales Execution

After their missed earnings expectations Oracle’s CFO recently said, “the problem was largely sales execution, especially with the new reps.” With a name like Oracle isn’t that something they should have seen coming? If you’re having sales execution problems and your sellers aren’t ramping up quickly, you likely have an ineffective management operating rhythm, specifically around your sales planning and talent management responsibilities. Hopefully, Oracle will realize this. Time will tell.


Tom Martin, Executive Director of Operations

Tom Martin is a 20+ year veteran of the sales methodology and training industry. He has a diverse set of global experience with sales (direct, indirect and inside), channel management, marketing, SFA/CRM, consulting, finance, legal, training, systems and operations. He serves as Force Management’s Executive Director of Operations.

Worth the Read: Sales Solutions from Venture Capitalists

Originally Posted on May 2, 2013 on the Force Management blog.

Money Windfall

There are many organizations backed by venture capitalists that are clamoring to be leaders in their respective industry. We’ve worked with many in the high-tech space. Whether it’s articulating value and differentiation, hiring top sales talent or implementing an effective sales process, start-ups have unique challenges.

As the driving force behind these new businesses, venture capitalist firms are looking to create consistency, build on best-practices and drive results for their investments.

I like the way they think.

That’s why I often find myself reading some of their great insight in the blogosphere. Here are some of the most interesting posts I’ve come across recently. They’re too good not to share.

Use their tips. Read my thoughts. Share your own.

They’re worth the read.
1.  7 Tips to Ditch Bad Business Processes

As Mike Myatt points out, “One of the ways successful companies gain a competitive advantage is through creating process advantage.” I completely agree with his focus on mindset as a tip. Mindset is important and can be fully leveraged with a parallel focus on tools, process and content.

I partially disagree with is his “no Band-Aids” tip. While I agree that bubble gum and bailing wire are best used elsewhere, the reality of most fast-paced environments is that occasionally a Band-Aid on a minor boo-boo (comp plans) is a smart plan. The Band-Aid can allow you to focus your efforts on the double-bypass heart surgery (value-based sales methodology).
2.  The VC World Returns to Its Operating Roots

Ben Horowitz comments on the background of VCs today resonated both because we work with so many VC-backed technology firms, and because our clients also feel like they can get great advice from Force Management because we have been down the same paths they have.

My only ‘tweak’ to the comment is that uniformity can be a crutch. If everyone on the team has the exact same background, you can easily miss out on the great insights that come from seeing a problem/solution in one environment and utilizing that same solution for a problem in a whole new area. Our 100-pound brain, Dave Davies, talks about “pattern recognition” as one of the critical skills for great consultants. It can be just as effective for those who are dealing with the growing pains of a new venture.

3.  Through the Looking Glass: Hiring Sales People

Here’s another one from Ben Horowitz. The story about Mark Cranney is priceless … even more so since I have met him in person and can believe it is all true. To take Ben’s conclusion one step further, focus on a whole sales talent management system, like RSA did with us. You might also take a look at Force Management’s Cost of a Bad Hire Calculator to see how big your problem might be.
4.  Is Customer Segmentation the Key to Your B2B Website’s Success?

This post reminded me of how a few Force Management customers have literally recreated their website based on the sales messaging created during their Command of the Message® implementation. MarketSource is one of the more recent.


Tom Martin, Executive Director of Operations

Tom Martin is a 20+ year veteran of the sales methodology and training industry. He has a diverse set of global experience with sales (direct, indirect and inside), channel management, marketing, SFA/CRM, consulting, finance, legal, training, systems and operations. He serves as Force Management’s Executive Director of Operations

Improve Sales Performance with Google Alerts

Originally Posted on Feb 5, 2013 on the Force Management blog

Google Logo

Google Alerts is a fantastic, and free, resource to help you keep extra eyes on your prospects, clients, competitors…and even on how your own firm is being written about on the web. I was initially hesitant to start using this tool because I am overloaded with far too many blogs and email newsletters. However, I gave this a ten-day test period and came away a big fan.

Even if you are already overloaded by emails, here are a few reasons why you might want to use Google Alerts (though as with most things, use this in moderation!):


Problem: Having a hard time finding a valid business reason that is compelling enough for a prospect to take your call or respond to your email? Having an even tougher time finding information on business drivers because your prospect is not a public company?

Google Alerts Solution:  Set up an alert for the company and use a keyword that you think would help, for example “XYZ Inc.” “sales.” You might also set up an alert with the VP Sales’ name.


Problem: Wondering how your marketing and sales messaging translates into the ‘real world’ and what your prospects might see when they search for solutions like yours?

Google Alerts Solution: Set up alerts referencing the Positive Business Outcomes your solutions deliver, or even the Value Drivers that are the most important to your buying audience. For example, “articulate value and differentiation” and “management operating rhythm” are on my list.


Problem 1: Wish you knew what your competitors were up to even though you don’t have a formal competitive intelligence initiative? Wondering if any of your alliance partners are starting to cozy up to one of your competitors?

Google Alerts Solution 1:  Set up an alert for the company names.

Problem 2: Wondering if anyone in the industry is being bought or sold?

Google Alerts Solution 2: Set up an alert for “your industry name” “acquisition”…be the first kid on the block to hear the news

Using the tool is simple. Just go to Google Alerts and enter each Alert you want, along with a few pieces of information – what type of Alert do you want (I use “Everything”), how often do you want it (I get some “Once a day” and most “Once a week”), and how many results do you want “Only the best” or “All results.”

That’s it! Try them out for ten days and play around with a few keywords. Delete the Alerts that aren’t worth the ten seconds of reading time. Let me know if you find other good uses for the Alerts.

Tom Martin, Executive Director of Operations

Tom Martin is a 20+ year veteran of the sales methodology and training industry. He    has a diverse set of global experience with sales (direct, indirect and inside), channel management, marketing, SFA/CRM, consulting, finance, legal, training, systems and operations. He serves as Force Management’s Executive Director of Operations

The $10 a year website for new training firms and independent contractors

Originally published November 16, 2009 on my original blog, Sales Training 2.0.

I’ve been talking to a number of people recently who fall into a couple of camps

  • starting a training firm, or at least hanging out a shingle to be a training firm
  • starting life as an IC for a training firm
  • starting to represent multiple firms as an IC and wondering how to convey your new multi-faceted message

Some books and articles advise new ICs and business owners to avoid making the time and monetary investment of setting up their own website.   I agree in principle because many new entrepreneurs focus on the wrong things when they start their business – especially when it comes to ‘advertising, marketing and promotion.’   However I know that many salespeople lose credibility with their prospects who look to the web to ‘authenticate’ the people selling to them.

I would suggest two options that can work for a new IC – one of which that can also work for a new 1 to 3 person training company.

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