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The Color of Sales

By Mike Farley

As a rule, I’ve resisted the temptation to cover books about sales in these columns.  

I’ve read a great many of those books through the years, and I’ve always tended to think of them as buffets where I pick up useful insights, wisdom or motivation – and ignore suggestions that don’t seem as useful.  But no single book I’ve run into has proved to be so helpful that I’ve felt compelled to share it with you here.

At last, however, I’ve found an exception – a wonderful book by emerging sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer called The Little Red Book of Selling (Bard Press, 2004).  I picked up a copy of this compact 220-page volume two years ago at an airport bookstore (and have picked up a couple more since then), and I see why Gitomer is becoming one of the leading voices when it comes to sales.  He may not have reached the same status as Zig Ziglar or Dale Carnegie (both of whom I admire greatly), but his star is clearly rising.

I decided to break with tradition and cover this book only after attending one of Gitomer’s seminars, during which I had the opportunity to rub elbows with an amazingly broad spectrum of sales professionals.  It was a terrific experience for me mainly because I’d read several of his books (the one listed above being my favorite) and was impressed and pleased by the way he expanded on his key themes.  

His writing is remarkably concise.  He avoids long preambles and philosophical meditations, choosing instead to jump right in and get to the point.  It’s also the kind of text that enables you to read and absorb a key thought in a couple of minutes, a convenience that’s been enhanced by sizing the book in such a way that it easily fits in a briefcase or purse.  I find myself reading passages while I wait for appointments – a quick refresher that gets me fired up for the meeting to follow.

In a nutshell, Gitomer’s approach to selling boils down a single mantra:   Serve the customer.  He repeatedly asserts that if you do so, success will follow.  

In The Little Red Book, he breaks his discussion into a dozen sections that cover such topics as networking, branding, humor and creativity – the latter being of particular interest to me as a watershaper.  Throughout, he offers (mostly) commonsense advice – but does so in ways that make the ideas both easy to grasp and inspiring.   

As an example, Gitomer spends a fair number of pages on the value of creating your own personal brand.  As he points out, lots of us describe what we do in uninteresting terms.  To change our ways, he challenges us to write brief descriptions of our work (or our company’s) that will prompt a listener to ask further questions – simple yet powerful advice.

What impresses me most about this book (and his others) is that he’s developed a foundation for sales that applies to so many different types of selling.  Yes, what we do in the watershaping industry has idiosyncrasies that take us far beyond any generalizations.  But even so, good ideas are good ideas, and if all that’s involved is bending or expanding on the touchstones he offers to make them directly applicable to what we do, I’m all for putting them to work.

 

Mike Farley is a landscape architect with more than 20 years of experience and is currently a designer/project manager for Claffey Pools in Southlake, Texas.  A graduate of Genesis 3’s Level I Design School, he holds a degree in landscape architecture from Texas Tech University and has worked as a watershaper in both California and Texas.

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