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Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions: A Tactical Playbook for Managers and Executives

By Keith Rosen, 2008, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ

Reviewed 31 Jul, 2014

Learning to coach (encourage) people rather than manage (push) them is a useful skill for sales manager and all managers, especially as they move up the corporate ladder. This is a good book on the subject. It has lots of good advice and stories to help us all improve our skills in that area.

Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in the Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information

By Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen, 2014, Harper Collins, New York, NY

Reviewed 31 Jul, 2014

This book is mostly B2C but has interesting insights into the declining power of branding vs. the gaining power of real performance (think VALUE). It presents interesting but somewhat dated insights into decision process and framing. The authors do a good job presenting and consolidating some new theories around decision process. For B2B, there is an excellent discussion on drivers of adoption and online ratings and how they can be manipulated.

Compete Smarter, Not Harder: A Process for Developing the Right Priorities Through Strategic Thinking

By William Putsis, 2014, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, NJ

Reviewed 26 Jun, 2014

Too many times we complete the strategic process and miss important issues. The resulting blind spot which the author calls “Rizzutoisms” causes managers to waste time, dollars and especially opportunity pursuing the wrong strategic vision. This book will help you avoid that blind spot. It has a simple model with good stories. I did have problems with their discussion on pricing but hey, this is a book on strategy. A recommended read for the strategic minded manager.

Revenue Management: A Practical Pricing Perspective

Edited by Ian Yeoman and Una McMahon-Beattie, 2011, Palgrave MacMillan, New York, NY

Reviewed 26 Jun, 2014

This book is a collection of articles from experts in the area of pricing and revenue management. While technical at times, many of the articles provide good summaries of the state of the art in revenue management in a wide range of industries. They also get credit for identifying weak areas that need further work as the industry evolves. I wish we had more of that in the mainstream pricing arena. A good read for the advanced Pricing Professional.

Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World

By John P. Kotter, 2014, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, MA

Reviewed 21 May, 2014

As consultants, we must focus on change management in many of our projects and, like others, struggle with the corporate bureaucracy. This is a good book on how to develop “back channel” relationships that get important projects done in large (and sometimes small) firms. There are some great suggestions on how to develop internal champions and speed up the process of change.

The Pricing and Profit Playbook: A Practical and Strategic Guide to Generating Superior Profits Based on DuPont’s Success

By Joanne M. Smith, 2013, Bradley Publishing, Avondale, PA

Reviewed 20 Feb, 2014

If you are tasked with building a pricing department for a large firm, especially a global one, this is a good book to read. I was a bit surprised and pleased to see how the author focused on the importance of communicating with and actually leading people. Too many pricing books seem to miss that (including ours). It may be missing in some tactical detail, but it is a good book to read.

The B2B Executive Playbook: The Ultimate Weapon for Achieving Sustainable, Predictable and Profitable Growth

By Sean Geehan, 2011 Clerisy Press, Cincinnati, OH

Reviewed 30 Jan, 2014

This book is an easy and valuable read for anyone looking for ways to better integrate and direct business activities to meet high-value customer needs. It is simple, well written, and has plenty of good examples. I like the way it gets to problems with the connections that many salespeople have with non-decision makers in customer organizations and provides solutions for really engaging customer decision makers. A very worthwhile read.

Breaking the Rules: 111 Tips for Selling Value in the Era of Procurement

By Mark Shonka & Dan Kosch, 2013 IMPAX Corp

Reviewed 30 Jan, 2014

It’s good to see that writers are finally beginning to focus on helping sales professionals deal with procurement. This book does that well in a pragmatic, no-nonsense manner. There are a lot of great qualifying questions and tactical details. The book would have benefited from a simple organizing model, but it is still a worthwhile read. Thanks to my good Friend Vishal for this recommendation.

Pricing: The Third Business Skill, Principles of Price Management

By Ernst-Jan Bouter, 2013, FirstPrice B.V., The Netherlands

Reviewed 19 Dec, 2013

This book has an interesting way of looking at pricing management in terms of organization and focus. The presentation is simplistic and easy to understand for someone who wants to understand pricing better-the discussion of prospect theory was a good one. He also has a good but maybe too high a level of discussion on setting up the pricing function. This book is interesting but not compelling, given some of the books already out there.

Winning with Customers: Do Your Customers Make More Money Doing Business With You? A Playbook for B2B

By D. Keith Pigues and Jerry D. Alderman, 2010, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ

Reviewed 19 Dec, 2013

The key focus of this book is how to determine your DVP or differential value proposition. I like how they determine the DVP through conversations about value with customers. This is certainly one of the most complete discussions on understanding, creating, and capturing value. My problem with the book is that customers rate a supplier’s performance using percentages-yes it does provide a “usable” value proposition, but it still doesn’t get to the dollar benefit that the economic or value buyer often looks for.

Pricing Segmentation and Analytics

By Mark Ferguson and Tudor Bodea, 2012, Business Expert Press, New York, NY

Reviewed 21 Nov, 2013

This book has a great discussion about the mathematics behind price response functions for B2C markets. It includes great depth on equations and methods. I didn’t care for their B2B example on win/loss. They over complicated a simple process and missed some important issues. Also, they ignore the emotional component of the decision process, but I believe they didn’t have that on their writing agenda.

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t

By Nate Silver, 2012, The Penguin Press, New York, NY

Reviewed 21 Nov, 2013

A few years ago, I was working with a well-known high-tech company and got into a discussion about their forecasting methods. They kept getting overloaded with inventory and used dramatic price discounts to unload product. I asked their VP of pricing about their forecasting method. Bottom line: he didn’t have a clue what it was, how it worked, or why it gave them the numbers it did – he just used them religiously. Big mistake and the company is now a shadow of its former self. I tell that story because they should have read this book. While a bit technical, Silver has some great stories and links them to important points about forecasting. He talks about everything from baseball to terrorism in a way that simplifies a very difficult subject.

Number Sense: How to Use Big Data to Your Advantage

By Kaiser Fung, 2013, McGraw Hill, New York, NY

Reviewed 17 Oct, 2013

I honestly don’t know how to describe this book. Some parts are a bit cumbersome and boring but others are quite insightful and helpful. Here’s my bottom line: if you’re thinking of doing a Big Data project, you should probably read this book. Maybe the pieces about medical and government data games won’t help, but the few chapters on business use will be quite insightful. For the rest of you who want a few tidbits, here are a few:

  • “Measuring anything subjective always prompts perverse behavior.” No kidding, the law of unintended consequences hits us all. Measure sales volume and you get more discounting.
  • “The urge to tinker with a formula is a hunger that keeps coming back. Tinkering almost always leads to more complexity. The more complicated the metric, the harder it is for users to learn how to affect the metric.” Amen, my rule: KISS. I’ve seen more companies have trouble managing to metrics that no one understood–just a big waste of time, except for the consultants who get to charge for all that tinkering.
  • “It’s a mistake to confuse the how (what the Big Data shows) with the why.” I wrote about this in my last post. Try focusing on the why. If you don’t know, slow down and start again.
  • “A model that ignores cause-effect relationships cannot attain the status of a model in the physical sciences. This is a structural limitation that no amount of data – not even Big Data – can surmount.” Sorry guys, that’s a fact.

Big Data is great, but there are a lot of traps that too many people fall into along the way. A good rule is to really understand what you are doing and why the relationship is what it is. If you can’t, go back to the drawing board or have your consultants explain it better. If they can’t, that tells you something.

Risky Is the New Safe: The Rules Have Changed

By Randy Gage, 2013, Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey

Reviewed 26 Sep, 2013

I have to admit that I both loved and hated this book. As a certified T Rex, I have trouble adjusting to the new mantra of promoting self. Too many people do it and end up boring the crap out of me. They also miss the most important point: you promote yourself to be successful, but in the end, you have to help the team and others. But as I read the book, I began to recognize that this guy has enough important insights to put him in the league of Stephen Covey’s very important 7 Habits. Just as they did a lot for me as a young executive–or maybe want-to-be executive. This book can do a lot for you, if you really understand what he’s saying, the process, and the end game. I don’t agree with everything he says. In fact, some of the things are poorly-informed fringe thinking. But the big picture makes this book a worthwhile read. A very worthwhile read.

Pricing Strategies: A Marketing Approach

By Robert MN. Schindler, 2012, age Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA

Reviewed 25 Jul, 2013

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit that we now have a lot of technical pricing books available. Fortunately, each one is a little different. This book primarily focuses on B2C but has a few examples around B2B analytics that were good. The examples are a bit dated, and I thought the pricing strategy discussion was thin. There is a good focus on how customers think about price–the psychology of pricing. Also, there was a good, simple discussion on pricing mathematics. Because of that, this is a recommended read.