Thursday, November 8, 2012

Selling the WHEEL

Selling the WHEEL By Jeff Cox and Howard Stevens

This book is about SELLING. It is written to read like a novel. Authors have distilled the essence into an eminently readable and enjoyable form.

Let me try to briefly summarize part of the story.  Max invents a device what we now know as “Wheel”. He thinks it would change the world for the better. Incidentally, he also names that device as Wheel . He makes a few samples and then borrows money from in-laws and makes more Wheels. Max thinks if technology is path breaking people line up and pick it up. Alas, he was in for utter disappointment. He and his wife Minnie, driven to the corner, think of oracle. 

They would have to undergo a grueling journey to the forests-of-nowhere to meet him – they endure it and end up meeting him. By the way, in those days, meeting the local oracle when you are struck is a very approved process. Oracle asks a few bed rock questions which sets the pace. He points out while Max knows a lot about new technology, he has no clue on sales and hence they would do better if they hire some sales anchor. They hire a first sales person called Ben the builder who turns out to be a flop. Next one who is a certified wizard also fails. Having used up the entire loan amount and nearly nothing to lose, they again make “oracle” trip. He points out that the type of sales person they choose was wrong and recommends a person called Cassius – the closer.When they ask him if he was any good, Oracle replies, "Who do you think sold me this cave!".  From then on,business picks up. Cassius makes a huge impact - selling to people at a very high margin. After the initial aura surrounding the new technology wanes, Cassius calls it a day very gracefully by closing it with the biggest sale ever. Soon Ben is back and he builds the business empire and by now technology becomes a commodity and many competitors come up all over the place. Prices start plummeting as it gets produced cheaply from China. Imum Wheels one of the arch rivals starts flirting with bankruptcy. They finally merge creating a behemoth MaxImum . All of a sudden Max is run over by a speeding chariot and goes to coma state, but don’t worry - he recovers after two years.

Let me leave the last part of the story. The story takes the reader all through cycles of business. In the end, we also get to meet Archimedes (of Eureka fame).

1. Minnie takes notes during various stages in the story. Most of them are worth reading many times over.
2. End of the book contains a neat appendix which summarizes the cycles of Technology, Customers, Sales people, Strategy, Selling approach, Marketing, Getting the sale and Service - perhaps 90% of the value of the book resides here.
3. There is no such species called universal sales person. Make sure you hire the right person based on the company offerings.

Peter F Drucker wearing the management consultant hat once remarked:  If a client leaves my room with a feeling that he has learnt a lot that was not known to him before, he is either a stupid client or I have done a poor job. He should leave the room saying:  “I know all this – why I have not done anything about it?”
This story is likely to leave you with a latter type of question.

Thanks for reading this far.

PS: Please feel free to share your "sales" episodes.


Mukund Srinivasan said...

I am not sure if intentional, but it looked like you were building up to a climax, which then got pushed to a sequel!! I cannot wait to read Minnie's notes as it looks like the crux exists there...
An accomplished Sales executive once told me that his goal is to leave a client with the thought: "what exactly did he sell to me now?" even after a sale that improved the overall user experience and leaves him/her better for the investment. It has a poor connotation as well, as its very close to swindling! So, to clarify - the idea of a perfect sale is to leave the customer better than you found them, yet not make them feel like you literally did a "sale".

Mohanakrishnan said...

Mukund's observation is on the dot. But I think by this bait Madhu is trying to make us read the book :-) I am definitely going to read it. The 'value sale' and 'volume sale' models are old, but would love to know how each one works.
On an aside, many organisations look at this transition of value to volume as a given. But there are some who continue to invent and innovate to make differentiated revenues. And some of them even manage to hit high volume while making differentiated margins.

P.Varadarajan (Varad) said...

It is interesting to note that the author has used the age-old device of allegory to tell the story. Something I have not come across frequently in the recent past. As regards selling practices, it is well known that the incentive-based compensation programmes drive the sales guys to sell at any cost, even when they know the customer does not need the product (Misselling). Such misselling has been rampant even in the case of banks with reference to somewhat esoteric derivative products, which many customers did not need and probably could not fully comprehend. Still they were sold and I know of a slew of court cases filed by the buyers who burnt not only their fingers but various parts of the body. What drives the deals in such cases is just plain old avarice. Like a tyre manufacturing company getting into complex derivatives to make more money under the head of `other earnings' than from sale of tyres. When such deals backfired, unfortunately the money made on selling tyres got wiped out by the losses on the derivatives. And the banks were promptly blamed for misselling; the fact was that the concept of `caveat emptore' is universally good for all times and one should never forget that because all sales guys, barring a few exceptions, are made of the same stuff!!