Archive for January, 2013

the signal and the noise. why so many predictions fail – but some don’t. nate silver.

English: Icon representing Bayesian statistics

the signal and the noise. why so many predictions fail – but some don’t. nate silver.2012. ISBN 9781594204111. A hard book to classify. Better than Freakonomics and others of that ilk, this book has some pretty hard math and science behind it.  You will learn how gamblers, chess, baseball, poker, the stock market, climatology, weather, terrorism,  and earthquake forecasting schemas work and where they are weak.  As well you get some great advice on Bayesian mathematics, how to reduce  errors in your forecasts ( but never eliminate them, nor do you eliminate your bias).

Great lines (From many sources) :

  • The future seen as sprinkles of probability
  • With more evidence we can get closer and closer to the truth
  • The majority of scientific hypothesis deemed to be true are actually false
  • Big Data will make us more prone to failure
  • most data is noise
  • combining forecasts could reduce error 15-20%
  • the stock market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent
  • unknown unknowns are gaps in our knowledge – but we do not know they exist

Valuable book for your library – this is required reading to reset your brain away from common fallacies. Very readable, good for that trip to the UK and back . My only gripe is that the paper quality is too low – for my eyes I need a brighter white to  see the text.

Secrets of Selling Services. Everything you need to sell what your customer can’t see. Stephan Schiffman


Secrets of Selling Services. Everything you need to sell what your customer can’t see.  Stephan Schiffman.  2012. ISBN 978-0071791625.  Guest post by David Moulton.

As with most sales books one reads, I picked up some selling tips from Stephan Schiffman and he also reinforced some of my biases in selling services.  However my overall impression was that this is a book you would pick up in the library but not one that you would purchase.  On the plus side he discusses the 80/20 rule for client meetings – they should talk most of the time while the salesperson asks lots of good questions to understand what is happening in their customer’s business.  His comments on ‘knee-jerk’ discounting by salespeople is very accurate and his assertion that no discount should be given unless there is a suitable concession on the buying side is well-taken.  The author does not use the word value very often and that can be the issue when a purchaser pushes back on your price.  We may understand the value of our services but if our customer doesn’t, it will likely be impossible to convince them that you have the solution to their situation.  I would also criticize his book for not mentioning ‘Rusher’s Gap’ when dealing with pricing.  In my experience with selling services, one of the big issues with customers is ‘project creep’ – the price of the project increases as more and more issues come to the surface.  Rusher’s Gap is the difference between what the proposal quotes and the buyer’s experience with ‘project creep’.  Discounting your price is not going to have a major impact on a obtaining a sale if the buyer has seen quoted projects double in cost after signing the contract.  I found the dialogues that Schiffman created to be less than believable.  And finally after commenting numerous times that service selling is different from product selling, the author concludes with the following comment “A service is a kind of a product…the fundamentals of selling don’t really change whether what you’re selling is a physical product or a service.  Really, it’s just the emphasis that’s different” (Pages 217-218).  Thanks Stephan – I read over two hundred pages to have you reach this conclusion.  My dad used to call this type of comment a BGO – Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious.  My final correction is that President Gerald Ford was never a Senator – he served in the House of Representatives until he was named VP by Richard Nixon (Page 141).  The book showed promise but in the end the final result was disappointing.”

Guest post by David Moulton

Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream. Steve Van Remortel.

Vanilla ice cream

Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream. Steve Van Remortel.2012. ISBN 9781608323876. A complete walk through of a strategic planning process with a difference. The author takes you through all the steps to show you how to discover and develop the individual talents of your team and from there how to learn to better differentiate your company by analyzing all facets.  This system allows the planning team to look at the business with fresh eyes and to develop skills of continuous renewal.  Quite impressive. I have been in a few situations where the company could have benefited from this process. The book is logically organized and clearly written.

Debt. The first 5000 years. David Graeber.

Wipe our Debt

Debt. The first 5000 years. David Graeber. 2012. ISBN 9781612191294. The author an economic anthropologist is a prolific academic writer. He was one of the architects of the Occupy Wall Street movement (penning the phrase we are the 99%).

I enjoy these types of thematic history books. Although his writing wanders ( and you will wonder where it is going) it is not enough to deter you from reading this very informative and well documented text ( the chapter notes are almost another book , fascinating).

He discusses honor, credit, slavery, religions  and sociological  history as it pertains to debt (which was developed to fund wars)  – building up to his core question – why should you honor your debts?  At times I wondered how he was getting to this, with a very strong argument against original pure barter theory, Adam Smith and economists in general.

He makes the case that bankers ( central anyway) are adept at making something out of nothing ( ie money or large debts).  This appears to be the basis of his rationale against bailing out the large Wall Street bankers if you do not forgive those who have mortgages under water, or sovereign states like Haiti who will never get out from under the debt load.

His thinking would likely have big forgiveness of many nation states debts  ( Greece etc), and he has the historical records to show why it was done in the past.  He also shows how  the whole world pays tribute to the US wrto their currency and  foretells a long view of China where they may be on their way to unseat the US dollar as the world reserve currency.

I did tend to agree with him that capitalism ( and greed)  requires a  belief that its time is limited, thus one has to grab what you can as quickly as you can.  He believes that capitalism is foundering and since it requires growth (and lots of permanent have nots to function) its flaws will eventually sink it.  He is not optimistic that the World can ever be a place where all are able to enjoy its fruits.

I recommend this book as a good thought and discussion provoker. Not for the light reader.

The Journey to Sales Transformation. 25 Axioms for becoming a Trusted Partner to your Customers. Bob Nicols Jr.

Slovenščina: Nicolova prizma.

The Journey to Sales Transformation. 25 Axioms for becoming a Trusted Partner to your Customers. Bob Nicols Jr.  2011. ISBN 9781466388550.  A sales parable that talks to the sales manager/CSO.  The teaching power of these stories is strong and effective.  If you are the type of person who appreciates “stories” that teach, then this is your book.  The points the author makes are very true and he does a great job at showing where today’s sales organizations go off track. I appreciate his point on the need for process, structure and people in sales.  We see poor process to be at the root of most poorly performing organizations.  The summary at the back of 25 axioms (and the order in which you proceed) is worth the price of this book.  Recommend to all high performing sales professionals

Winning the Battle For Sales. Lessons on closing every deal from the world’s greatest military victories. John Golden.

Cover of "SPIN Selling"

Winning the Battle For Sales. Lessons on closing every deal from the world’s greatest military victories. John Golden.2013. ISBN9780071791991.   From the company that brought you Spin Selling comes a very interesting take on sales lessons. The power of story and metaphor is a known component of successful selling. Here it is used to  wrap good sales advice around the telling of a battle.  The point is clear and more importantly the lesson sticks.  Golden is the CEO of Huthwaite, a company I know is doing interesting things in sales execution. It turns out that the author is quite a  writer as the stories and lessons flow very well. I was surprised how much I enjoyed and appreciated this book.  You will learn a lot.  The advice is very up to date – being based on knowing more about your customer and the buying journey he/she is going through  than your sales process.  A few nuggets about  useful sales pipelines.

  1. It is not the dollar amount in your pipeline that matters – it is the dollars associated with opportunities that are being worked on and are progressing.
  2. It is not the number of opportunities in your pipeline that matters – it is the number of opportunities that have a realistic chance of closing.
  3. It is not how many sales calls your sales salespeople have that matters-it is how many sales calls that end with a customer commitment that moves the opportunity forward.

Sales efficiency is about the tactics/activities that most quickly get you in front of the right buyer. Sales effectiveness is how to maximize results when you are there.  Quite different.

This should be on every sales managers shelf , any sales training organizations library, and in your library if you want to be a top producer.

Contagious Selling. How to turn a connection into a relationship that lasts a lifetime. David A. Rich


Contagious Selling. How to turn a connection into a relationship that lasts a lifetime. David A. Rich. 2013. ISBN 978 0071796958.  A small but quite valuable book. The writer is skilled at showing you how to click with your customers. He makes the distinction that there can be two kinds of business relationships., one built on price and one built on a relationship.  There is a good analysis and  steps provided for a sales person to become more valuable to their clients (and not to forget post sale activity as well) .  A small treasure in this book is his section on what I have  called  the ten tips they teach in buyers school.   This section is worth way more than the price of the book.  I liked his question., ” Mr Buyer someone will always give you a lower price , but I can give you a lower cost ( ie greater value) “.   In these tough selling times a good book to boost your activities.