September 23, 2014

Up Your Sales in a Down Market Is a Crash Course in Selling

Up Your Sales in a Down MarketIf you’re looking for a crash course on sales, or a sales refresher course, and don’t want to read a lot or learn a rigid sales system that some author says you absolutely positively must follow precisely — then Up Your Sales in a Down Market is a book for you.

Up Your Sales in a Down Market: 20 Strategies from Top Performing Salespeople to Win Over Cautious Customers is by Ron Volper, a business development consultant to the Fortune 500.

Whoa!  Wait a minute!  You’re thinking, “Did she say Fortune 500?  What could a Fortune 500 consultant possibly say that would be relevant to my business with 12 employees?”

A lot, surprisingly.  I received a review copy of this book in the mail, and I almost set it aside when I saw the cover blurb about the author’s experience with large corporations.  After all, we focus here on books for small business owners and entrepreneurs.  We tend to avoid books that target a corporate audience — that world is so different from the way small businesses operate.

Luckily, I took a few minutes to thumb through the book.

The first section I saw was a 2-page question and answer session between a patient and a  doctor diagnosing the patient’s ailment.  The author used this analogy to illustrate how salespeople must ask a lot of questions before presenting a solution to meet the customer’s needs and trying to close a sale.

Now… that same point about asking questions has been made in countless sales books before.  But somehow, seeing the point presented as a doctor making a diagnosis drove it home. Instantly the point clicked.  Next time you are in a sales situation, think of yourself as a doctor trying to make a diagnosis.  It’s not precisely like that  — for instance, in sales you have to ask more open-ended questions.  But still, the point about asking questions is memorable and it sticks, all because of the way the author presented the information.

What I Liked Best

This book is filled with practical bits.  For instance, you’ll find a concise 10-page chapter on how to give a sales presentation.  It covers everything from the best font size for PowerPoint slides, to the need to practice your presentation in advance, to using body language effectively.

Another gem of a chapter discusses the sales proposal.  It tells you when (and when not) to write and deliver a sales proposal.  But the best part of this chapter is the detailed outline of what should be in your sales proposal, along with the most common mistakes to avoid for each section.  Example: did you know that one of the most common mistakes on a proposal cover page is misspelling the customer’s name?

One of the things I especially liked about this book is the way each chapter begins with a hard-hitting sales statistic.  The opening statistic makes a point about what you should remember from each chapter.  Here are some examples:

  • “Top performing salespeople ask four times as many questions as their less-successful colleagues.”
  • “If you call prospects cold there is only a 2 percent chance you will speak to them, if you have a referral your odds jump to 20 percent, but if you have an introduction they jump up to 60 percent.”
  • “Top salespeople write out and practice their sales presentations three times more often than less successful salespeople.”
  • “Seventy percent of salespeople said they failed to close business because of price, whereas only 45 percent of their customers said price was their main objection.”

Who This Book is For

About 70% of this book is relevant to small businesses with small sales teams, and even to sole proprietors.  For instance, if you are a business owner who doubles as your company’s primary salesperson, you can learn a lot from this book, particularly if you personally lack a sales background. The information is practical, not theoretical.  It doesn’t use corporate-speak,  but instead uses everyday language.

That said, the primary audience for this book is sales managers and salespeople in large corporations who want to be top performers. Small businesses, you will get benefit — just don’t be surprised if you find certain chapters less useful than others:  the chapter on sales contests and motivations; and the chapter on realigning sales territories, to name just two that are more relevant to large corporations.

Up Your Sales is not about retail or eCommerce sales.  Also, if you sell small-ticket items or services, the selling techniques here will be less relevant, mainly because the economics won’t let you devote the time and effort to each sale the way this book describes.  Mostly this book will be best for those whose minimum sale is north of $1,000.

What I Would Have Liked to See

I feel this book has value for small businesses.  However, it isn’t up to date on the ways that small businesses today must sell if they want to survive.  For instance, most small businesses must make heavy use of email, phone meetings, online meetings and other long-distance selling techniques.  Many small businesses don’t have the time or money to send salespeople long distances to make in-person sales calls.  The techniques in this book are definitely geared toward the in-person sales call or meeting.

Also, the book is very light on using networking, word of mouth, and social media as part of your sales prospecting.  The section on social media consists of merely a half page that mentions using LinkedIn and Facebook to recruit salespeople to hire.  But savvy small businesses and entrepreneurs today are using social media to fill their sales funnels or as key marketing stages.  Word of mouth referrals and networking are huge in the world of small business.  Yet those are not really covered in this book in the ways that small businesses use these techniques.

But as long as you understand these limitations, Up Your Sales has value, particularly if your company sells products or services to large corporations.  This book does an excellent job telling you how to be more effective at selling to large companies.

5 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

5 Reactions

  1. Anita,

    I have been on the “other side” of the “negotiation table” for many years, as a purchaser, so this kind of book is a great learning source for me. I have to be better at “up my sales” in many ways. For now, I have been pretty good at sowing and cultivating the market “soil”. It is time for me to harvest now…

    Luckily the light parts in the book, on networking and social media, I have covered in great detail, by being a “Certified Networker” (from the Referral Institute – ReferensAkademin in Sweden) and a blogger and social media enthusiast since 2002.

  2. Hi Martin,

    I am a big believer that there is value in most business books, provided the book matches your needs. There’s a lot for small businesses to learn from this book, even if it is not 100% aligned with small business needs. The 70% it does align with is valuable.

    One thing that this book makes clear is that sales is a numbers game. The more prospecting you do, the more leads you develop. The more leads you develop, the more you have available to bring to a close. But if you don’t prospect for enough new business, the smaller your sales potential will be all the way through the process. So — I applaud you for recognizing that you have to prospect more.
    – Anita

  3. Anita: As a “love cat” and book lover, I search out to find something valuable in most business books. If you get one great advice, that is worth the price of the book and the time to read it.

    I think you are right about the numbers game, but in the future I don’t want to “attack” a big “grey mass” of people and companies that are not really seriously interested in using new media to market their products and services. I am more inclined to the thinking of ideas coming from “Flip the Funnel” by Joseph Jaffe and “The Referral Engine” by John Jantsch.

    I know that I have to prospect more and become better at following up leads, but I don’t want to fall down in a big black hole of cold calling day after day… ;)

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