Strengths Based Selling by Tony Rutigliano and Brian Brim (Gallup Press, 2010). Reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., April 2011.
I loved the opening quote of this book: “Those who follow the part of themselves that is great will become great. Those who follow the part that is small will become small (Meng Tzu).” For decades now, Gallup has studied what is great in people (their talents and strengths) and the implications of people working in their strengths areas. Strengths Based Selling springs forth as a natural progress of their research. Specifically, Gallup studied over a quarter million sales reps from Gallup clients. The results were simple and stunning: The top 25% produced 57% year-over-year profits, whereas the bottom 25% were selling less than the year before. The big difference was talent, and applying specific, individual, natural talent areas of salespeople to their jobs. Gallup’s formula for successful sales people: Identify your top 5 talent areas (by taking the Clifton Strengths Finder for free with purchase of the book) and apply them to the sales process (prospecting, meetings, proposals, and sales). In short: “The key is to build a business case focusing on your strengths and managing your weaknesses.” [Or as we used to say in the Marine Corps: Never try to teach a pig to sing. It won’t work, and you’ll just piss off the pig.] Not only do the authors talk about salespeople, they also consider the customer. And for customers, emotions rule; in fact, the authors quote Simon Cooper, former CEO of the Ritz-Carlton: “’When it comes to customers, emotions are facts’” (p. 104). The authors also explore the emotions of customer engagement: Confidence, Integrity, Pride, and Passion. I enjoyed the section where the authors describe the stark difference between being merely a vendor and having expansive relationships. Their examples and characteristics will likely give many salespeople pause about the kind of relationships they have with clients/customers (see pp. 122-28). Bottom line: Identify your top 5 talents (take the Clifton Strengths Finder), work on polishing those talents until they become well-honed strengths, then use them daily when dealing with customers and watch success happen.