Sales 101 B.C.

Can you name three of today’s best-selling sales authors? Simple, right? Jeffrey Gitomer, Zig Zigler, Brian Tracy, are just a few of the familiar names. Now here’s a more challenging question: Can you name one female best-selling sales author? Just one.

Tough, isn’t it? That’s because there is only one female author in the Top 50 Best-selling sales books on Amazon: Jill Konrath, author of the groundbreaking Selling to Big Companies and the new bestseller, SNAP Selling. Technically, there are two, if you count co-author of Go for No, Andrea Waltz. But seriously, two? TWO?!

I never noticed who was really dominating the sales book market until my new book, ACT Like a Sales Pro was released. A few days ago I was interviewed on a syndicated business show out of Ventura, California, KKZZ, which airs on 51 stations across the country (none in Colorado.) Host Ron Tunick told me that out of the hundreds of interviews he’d done with sales authors, 99 percent of them were men. Yet statistics from the Bureau of Labor show that nearly half of the salespeople in this country are women. In some industries, it’s much higher. 88 percent of the nearly 16 million direct sellers are women.

Fellow ColoradoBiz columnist Liz Wendling wrote an insightful column last August called “Top 5 reasons women make great salespeople.” She named traits like women’s ability to empathize, listen, multi-task and network. These same traits would seem to make for a great sales author as well. And yet only four percent of today’s top selling sales books are written by women.

I discovered another interesting fact after watching my book debut on Amazon last week like some people watch the stock market. There was a heady five-day stretch where it landed and hovered at #1 in “Hot New Release in Sales and Selling.” It was a fun ride but I was soon knocked out of first position by an audio version of Dale Carnegie’s Sales Pro series. FYI, Dale Carnegie died in 1955.

Not only are the best-selling sales authors almost exclusively men, but many of these authors are getting a little long in the tooth. Twenty-three year-old SPIN Selling in 2011? The hokey Ben Franklin close on today’s savvy business owners? I’d like to see you try it!

Yes, some of the messages in these books are timeless, such as Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, and many offer common sense advice on basic sales principles, but with the sophistication of today’s buyer, some of them sound less like Sales 101 and more like Sales 101 B.C. Our customers and our way of doing business are evolving at a breakneck pace, and relying on outdated strategies and ineffective techniques seems, well, outdated.

So why are these golden oldies still the “go to” books for sales organizations? Perhaps it’s because they are familiar names. Or we’re busy. Rather than seek out fresh, new approaches, we reach for well-known names whose advice may have worked in the past but fails to produce results with today’s complex, sophisticated buyer.

Why are we, as salespeople, managers or C.E.O.’s, not supporting new authors in our field– particularly female authors–and what can be done? I believe it starts with the individual seller. You are ultimately the one who has to put strategy and techniques to the real test. I encourage you to discover new authors. Dig deeper than the list of familiar names. Start a Sales Book Club. Suggest to your manager that your team take turns reporting on new books at a monthly sales meeting. Give them a 5-star review on Amazon.

Support women sales authors who have a real pulse on the market. Start with Jill Konrath’s timely SNAP Selling to help you deal with the busy, frazzled buyer of today, or fellow Colorado author Kendra Lee, whose book Selling Against the Goal offers a repeatable process for getting leads with a high rate of return. You can even sample the first two chapters of my book (no charge!).

Emerging technology, changing customer expectations and new models of doing business mean the old way of selling is over. In this environment, the salesperson who will thrive-and ultimately the organization that will thrive-is the one who continuously adapts and evolves at the same rate as every other aspect of business. Ready or not, the sales evolution is here. Don’t get stuck in sales b.c.
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Categories: Sales & Marketing