One – What’s Special about this month’s book?
‘Selling is not optional’ challenges one of the biggest myths that many salespeople and business owners struggle with – ‘I can’t do sales’. Not so, says Mike Brunel – ‘we are all in sales’ (page xii, Introduction). So, if we’re all in sales together, we all need to get better at selling. The great news is that you can, by first changing your sales mindset and then implementing tips from Mike’s seven-step sales framework.
This is an excellent book to review at the beginning of the calendar year while your business is planning your sales strategy for the new year ahead. Are there gaps in your sales process or in your team’s abilities? This book will help you identify gaps and give helpful tips to help deliver the sales results you want this year.
Two – Book Details for ‘Selling is not optional’
Book Title – “Selling is not optional”
Author – Mike Brunel
Publication Date – 2016
Publisher – Lioncrest Publishing
Three – Who is Mike Brunel?
- Starting his working life as a shearing hand, Mike went on to build a successful career in media sales.
- Mike co-founded NRS Media in Wellington, New Zealand, expanded it into a global powerhouse in media sales and training, and was eventually responsible for opening offices in London, Atlanta, Toronto, Sydney, Capetown, and Bogota.
- His products and services are now sold in 23 countries and in 11 languages, generating $250 million annually in sales for his clients. Mike sold the company in 2015.
- Mike’s abiding passion for sales and for the business of selling has seen him carve out a niche as a sales coach and mentor from his home base in Wellington, New Zealand.
Four – What is the book’s premise?
That we are all in sales, and that we can all be successful at sales.
Here’s Mike Brunel’s Sales Manifesto (buy the poster from Mike Brunel’s website), which has a similar punchline to the famous lines penned by Arthur Miller in his 1949 play ‘Death of a Salesman’:
A company says, “Why should I hire you?” Sell.
Your child says, “Why do I have to eat greens?” Sell.
Your date says, “tell me about yourself”. Sell.
And if you can sell, you can change the world. A job in a great company. A child that grows up happy and healthy. A lasting relationship with the love of your life.
The only thing you have in this world is what you can sell. So go out there and sell it.‘ (page 180)
Mike goes even further – we can all raise our sales game, even business owners who are afraid of sales. ‘Mastering selling requires only…expert knowledge of (your) product and a strong belief in it’ (see page xviii Introduction). With Mike’s encouragement, you can change your mindset about sales and ‘banish the fear of rejection’ by swapping the word ‘selling’ for ‘relationship building’ (page 12). This simple change is the foundation for Mike’s seven steps to developing winning sales skills, unpacked in ‘Selling is not optional’.
By following the steps in Mike’s sales process, we’ll see an improvement in our sales.
Five – Does the book deliver on its premise?
Definitely. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in sales for a couple of decades, this book has excellent tips that will help you raise your sales game.
Mike acknowledges that ‘most people don’t take naturally to selling’ and that ‘Folks freeze with fear, unable to make the call’ (page 11).
‘What you have to remember, though, is that if you are doing something you love, if you are selling something you believe in, then you are performing a service. You are not ripping off the customer, or doing the wrong thing by them. Someone is going to buy it from you. As long as you remember that, you can lift your head back up and start again.’ (page 11)
‘Selling is not optional’ is written in three parts. Woven through the book is the story of the huge journey to global sales success that Mike and his co-founders made when they formed NRS Media, and of course Mike’s remembrances of the greatest salesman he ever knew, his friend Rob Hall (who was actually a mountaineer).
Part One ‘Easier than you think’ introduces the beginnings of your sales journey and details excellent preparation tips before you meet with your customer.
‘Once you understand the buyer’s needs and wants, you can then move your customers toward their best options. Show them you can solve their problems, and then ask they if they would like to buy that product or service from you. Sometimes it really is that simple.’ (page 23)
In Part Two – The Selling Journey – Finding the Path, Mike lays the foundations for a successful sales mindset. Mike admits that he loves rugby – so it’s only fitting to see a good rugby quote that relates to sales success:
Particularly useful is Mike’s list (pages 38-42) of the beliefs, traits and habits of the best salespeople. If you’re planning to hire a sales rep or business development manager this year, Mike’s list covers 12 key areas to test for in your new staff member – including persistence, purpose, accountability and listening skills. Get these right and you’ll having a winning salesperson.
Of course, you’ve got to be listening to the right information – which is information about your customer’s problems, priorities and budgets. How do you get this information? By asking the right questions. You’ll find some good sales questions, plus a discussion on the difference between open and close-ended questions in Chapter Four – Insight.
Part Three outlines The Selling Journey – Walking the Path and covers the final steps to confirming a sale. See Chapter 7 – Presentation, for a good discussion about Crafting your pitch, features, benefits, and adding value (pages 104-110).
Keep thinking about your customer, even after you’ve confirmed a sale. This is simply good customer service and pays real dividends for your business. ‘Customer service is the new marketing’; after all, ‘the competition is only a mouse click away’. (page 173)
Six – What is the author’s voice like?
Mike Brunel’s book is completely authentic just like the real Mike – relaxed, positive, kind and very insightful about sales. The text in this book is simply laid out. Be assured that there are some real gems of sales wisdom in this book. It’s not every day you get to understand sales secrets from someone who’s helped grow a ‘multimillion-dollar international consultancy with sales in excess of $300 million annually’ (page xiii Introduction). ‘Selling is not optional’ is loaded with tips that just might be the difference your sales need.
This is also a practical book, with checklists and thought-provoking exercises at the end of chapters.
Mike happily admits that writing a book is one of his ‘strike moves’ as ‘the information I provide here allows customers to evaluate me and determine if their needs and wants match what I am saying’. (page 80)
No problem Mike – you already outlined on page 42 that 50% of respondents to a recent survey thought that honesty is a crucial trait of a good salesperson. Mike’s ability to see the potential in salespeople, and to see the areas where some small changes could yield big results, make him an excellent partner for your sales growth strategy.
Seven – Any memorable quotes?
Magnify memorable quotes speak to the heart of many people’s fear about getting involved in sales – hearing the dreaded ‘No’ from a customer.
Here’s what Mike Brunel says about the word ‘No’
Even when you know what motivates your buyers, some clients will still say no. That’s great. A “no” answer just means that the client needs to know more about you and your product. Maybe you need to know more about them. Think of it as a need to “know” more, not a final “no”.’ (page 138)
That’s right – you’ve got to keep on persisting and not give up:
Eight – What are some insights I can get from reading this book?
The key insight is that ‘We are all in the business of sales’ (page xii, Introduction). That means you. Whether you want to be in sales, or you’re a reluctant seller because you haven’t yet grown your sales function – you and everyone in your business is part of your sales team.
Strike moves are another great insight. You’ll laugh out loud at the audacity and brilliance Mike showed when he arranged to deliver a beautifully wrapped door to his ideal client who was still purchasing from the competition. Just a few weeks later, Mike’s team at NRS Media signed a major contract with their new customer (see page 80).
Highly recommended is Chapter 8 – Negotiation. After encouraging you to see the customer’s ‘No’ as a simple ‘Need to know more’ signal, Mike details the motivational reasons why people buy and offers a very helpful negotiation checklist. This is a particularly good chapter to read with your team, and then brainstorm how you’ll overcome any ‘No’ that you’re currently facing.
Negotiation skills are increasingly important – one of the twenty-first century sales realities is that ‘The buying cycle is shorter. Buyers may have the same insights you have.’ (page 61)
Does this conflict with other sales writers who believe that today’s sales cycles are becoming increasingly long and complex? In a word – No. The total sales cycle encompasses all the research that your customer is doing while they’re underwater like a submarine. When they surface, they are often ready to buy. This means the buying phase of your sales cycle just got faster.
Mike Brunel advocates practicing how you’ll respond in sales situations, with the right sales questions. Whether you’re in a sales team, or the whole sales and marketing function for your company is all on you – there is something here to help you progress your sales opportunities and grow your sales.
Nine – How important is it to ask the right sales questions?
You need to know what your customer wants, and to have a thorough understanding of what you’re really selling. Asking the right questions will help your customer to share their pains and fears with you, allowing you to present the right solutions.
There’s also great power in hearing yourself say something out loud.
What questions can you ask to help your customers articulate the truth about their business needs? An answer comes out of your customer’s mouth, this is far more powerful than any suggestions you could make. For example, when your customer admits that not solving their problem could potentially cost their company upwards of $100k, your $10k solution just gets a whole lot more attractive to them.
What if the customer is not ready to buy? What can you do to progress a sale where there’s a distinct pause from the customer?
Mike is prepared for this, as he reveals that according to another author, ‘only 6% of your clients will actually buy your product right now’. (page 76).
At Magnify, we often say that sales are like whales – people surface when they’re ready.
Mike takes a similar approach to progressing those ‘stalled’ sales:
This is a sales book, as opposed to a marketing book, but it’s clear that Mike also sees the alignment of sales and marketing – which helps you keep your customers to continue learning about you and the solutions you offer, even while the sale has stalled.
Ten – Did the book live up to expectations?
Yes. This book is an honest, authentic analysis of several ways that you can improve your sales skills. Whatever your level of experience, you’ll find some tips in here from a sales veteran who has been ‘mentoring others for over 30 years’ (page 65).
Eleven – Who would you recommend this book to?
For business builders and all those in sales
- Who want to improve your sales skills
- Who are stuck on how to move forward with that perfect customer that’s not responding to your contact
- Who have a team of salespeople to manage, but still see room for growth and development that supports achieving your sales goals
Twelve – Who should buy this book?
- Business builders who want some actionable steps to sales growth
- Customer service and other support staff who need to understand their part in your company’s sales growth
- Sales managers and leaders who want to grow sales capability in your team
Thirteen – Where can I buy this book?
Fourteen – Recommended snacks to accompany reading this book?
This book is insightful and yet easy-to-read. You need snacks that get you into a relaxed, learning frame of mind. Brew your favourite cuppa (green tea, coffee, whatever), pop a handful of gingernut biscuits on a plate along with some fresh cherries. Have some post-it notes handy so that you can refer back to the best bits that will help you progress your sales – and enjoy learning from a true sales master.