The Little Red Book of Selling

I’ve been compiling a list of business books that are keepers and I thought this one might have potential. I heard about it at www.personalmba.com, which is worth checking out. It was on the site’s reading list of 40 books that are supposed to mirror the course work in your average MBA curriculum. On the site they have message boards and discussions for each of the books and a host of other topics.

So I was wandering through Borders with the aforementioned reading list and a gift certificate from Christmas that was burning a hole in my cargo pocket. I grabbed this book because I need to get better at sales and marketing in my own business. I’ve read a handful of books from the sales genre over the past 18 years either because I thought the concepts could be applied outside of a strict sales position or because I actually had some field sales responsibilities. After just a few chapters, this book clearly stands out as less sales and more general self-help than the other sales books I’ve read.

But first, this book also really stands out because of its physical structure. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Well, go grab one and just heft it in your hands, you’ll see what I mean. First of all, it’s printed on glossy, dense paper stock. Because of that, it’s not any thicker than a paperback of the same length despite the fact that it’s a hardcover. And what a hardcover it is. No dust jacket needed on this baby. The hardcover has a fabric-style texture and the title, subtitle, and author are kind of branded into the fabric. It is black print on red background, pretty cool looking. Finally, it comes with one of those ribbons fastened to the binding that you can use as a bookmark. From a structural standpoint, with its durable construction and small stature, you can easily carry it in any briefcase (or purse if you are so inclined) and leave the bookmark at home.

It has all of the normal sales standards like “be prepared” and “get in front of the real decision maker.” Gitomer goes into detail with methods, tips, and tricks on how to excel at these sales skills. But that’s not what really separates this book from the normal sales or self-help book out there. What makes this book different are some of Gitomer’s offbeat sales principles and his method of presenting them.

Offbeat may not be the correct word. I don’t have that much sales experience and I have not been to that many instructional classes on selling so my assessment may be a little off. But what would you call a principle that says effectively be funnier and your sales will increase? He devotes a lot of time to teaching you how to get better at humor because he feels that it gets you closer to the customer. He says go to comedy clubs, listen to comedy tapes, or make funny faces in the mirror. He does warn that humor is not a substitute for knowing your product and knowing your customer, because if you don’t know these basics, he says, you’re just a “clown that makes no sales.” That’s a great line. He has a few more gems, most of which can also be applied to making you a better businessperson.

The other item that makes the content of this book different is Gitomer’s method of presenting his sales principles. He presents them with a lot of tough love, so to speak, and it makes the book a lot more readable and memorable for me. Your average how-to or self-improvement book is either too dry or too fluffy with positive rhetoric. The touchy-feely nature of Who Moved My Cheese or the clinical, textbook style of Spin Selling does not resonate with me (these are popular business books, check them out on Amazon and you can get the gist from reading a few snippets). Gitomer, dare I say, brings it down to my level and talks to me like I am a colleague or a friend. He puts things in bold or extra large type so it seems like he is screaming it. Or he will say stuff like “kick your own ass” or “resign your position as master of the universe.” He does not sugar coat anything and the tone is more like regular conversations that I have.

The Little Red Book of Selling is with me a lot now. I am going through it for the second time because it has a lot of good content and it’s a lot of fun to read. Don’t be afraid to stop me the next time you see me and check it out.