Business Books

Can we learn “sales” through books?

It depends on the type of books.


Business Books

Is it a book by “Prof. John Smith” (or any other scholar’s name) with 30 years experience in teaching business to undergraduates, or a book by Donald Trump, the successful American real estate tycoon or Steve Jobs the iconic marketing figure who transformed Apple into a technology giant or even Sun Tzu, the Chinese strategist and philosopher who wrote “The Art of War”, the important, ancient made contemporary, guide to business men all over the world nowadays?

Because, it does make a difference.

Is it "peanuts" to sell peanuts to any and everybody?

Is it “peanuts” to sell peanuts to any and everybody?

Now, no one should intend or even attempt the belittling of scholarly and academic work on the scientific aspect of sales (whether mathematics, psychology or other disciplines), since their contribution to the field are of invaluable importance.

Business from the outset and in the end is concerned with selling things, ideas, values or needs to others. And scholarly work has contributed great insights to the business field that couldn’t have been conjured with the simple practise of it, in the absence of the devoted intervention of observation, in-depth research, analysis and publication.

But in my personal experience, books of the likes of Steve Jobs and Donald Trump carry more applicable value to the sales discipline than “philosophical sales literature”, since the lessons they teach are derived from real business life experience with all their truisms & contradictions, success and failures, moralities & immoralities.

Innovative Business Doing

And by “applicable value to the sales discipline”, I am not necessarily referring to the blind copying of previous strategies that have proven profitable or successful or to the obedient fellowship of remarkable businessmen whose results spoke authoritatively for them.

Some of us may try to go about business, selling and entrepreneurship differently, trying to invent new idea’s or innovate old ones, for having critical thoughts about present-time business conduct. But, having any moral or practical objections to how business is conducted in our world can only thrive in a useful way, if preceded by applicable knowledge of (& awareness about) what has been done already or what is being done, in order to do it it differently, more responsibly, more humane or less selfish.

learning by practice

I can also speak of own experience and say that about 75% of my sales skills (that are still in continuous development) were gained through practise and training and not exactly from books!

And no, I wasn’t “born a salesman at all”. Actually I always was more of an academic person and a book worm, whose relationship with business and sales was only limited to the demands of my choice of education and my drive to pass exams. This was so, until I started practical selling of my language services and later those of others around the world through my language services agency, from 2008 up and until 2013.

It didn’t stop me from reading. On the contrary, it ignited an even greater thirst for knowledge in me, seeking it in a different way that is defined by my own demands and those of my company, customers and freelance co-workers. It gave me more freedom to interpret and apply theoretical knowledge with more real-life “wisdom”, sound scrutiny and due creativity.

Doing things was more crucial to my grasp of sales than “knowing how it is done” was.

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Eid-ul-Fitr-Sweets-2014-1

Which industries are most booming during “Ramadan” and “Eid Al-Fitr” in the Middle East?

Ramadan and EID

  1. Food:  it’s booming shortly before Ramadan & during and after Ramadan, celebrating Eid, performing “Zakat Al Fitr” (the equivalent of Thanksgiving in the US) and the end of fasting by buying all kinds of delicious foods and sweets enough to cater for collective social gatherings designed around “enjoyment of food” and often characterized by excess (thus excessive purchase) to convey generosity and avoid “shortcoming”. Ramadan food
  2. Cloths & apparel: Only towards the end of Ramadan: mostly the very last few days, because of a general “last-minute mentality” & to enjoy possible retail discounts.
  3. The advertisement industry: through a thriving TV industry tailored around advertisement, with all kinds of religious & entertaining programs including hosted shows by big brands and more frequent commercial-break interruptions. Advertisement during Ramadan in Middle east-OpenAnswer
  4. Transportation and airways: Ramadan & Eid are social events encouraging social togetherness by nature. You could also argue that people during day-time in Ramadan reduce their transportation time as a result of preferring to stay home and avoid heat and compensate for this greatly by having a longer (transportation-heavy) social night life.
  5. Electronics: especially smart-phones and smartphone gadgets. Sales of smart-phone may show rise only towards the end of Ramadan, as a way of “changing old with new”, following the very (religiously taught) tradition of Eid that underlies the habit of the massive buying of new cloths. Or as a result of traditional buying gifts to dear ones. Smartphone-usage-Middle East-openanswer
  6. Electrical appliances: these are said to be booming too shortly before & during Ramadan, especially refrigerators to provide cooling for saved-up-for-later food, by those who need a new better one and air conditioners to provide comfort in times of abstain from eating food and drinking water (cooling effect) in mostly warm regions.
Acquisition vs Retention

What is more important “acquisition” or “retention”?

None of the two yet, as the definitive answer depends mainly on the phase of business life cycle the company finds itself in and as a derivative thereof, the customer life cycle. In any event, it is a rule of thumb, that you should not be a business that loses clients “carelessly”. 


customer-lifecycle-online

Determining whether “acquisition” or “retention” is better at any given phase, depends on many factors that need to be calculated carefully, like:

  1. The phase of business life cycle the company is in. A start-up will have a different strategy than a mature business geared towards more acquisition.
  2. Is it B2C or B2B?
  3. Are you selling products or services?
  4. Service or product life time: once per month or once per 5 years?
  5. Market competition: how fiercely do you have to fight for customers?
  6. Necessity of acquisition; do you actually have to acquire customers intensively or do they choose you willingly?
  7. Necessity of retention; Do you have to retain customers or do they come back every time “voluntarily”?
  8. The type of product or service you’re selling in terms of high-loyalty products, luxury products, basic products, FMCG etc.
  9. Market micro-economics: like purchase-power & competition.
  10. Business sector: a B2C translation agency for only certified translations of official papers (diploma’s and ID’s) may choose to concentrate on acquisition and word-of-mouth marketing, since repeat purchase is unchangeably low for this specific service.

Most experts would put retention higher on the importance-list than acquisition, taking all pro’s and con’s into consideration, for reasons related to the researched fact that the cost of acquisition is 2,5 times the cost of client retention in relation to ROI. Although this percentage fluctuates regularly, sometimes claiming that retention’s ROI is 3 times that of acquisition, it has always had a non-variable & consistent advantage in favour of retention.

ROI Marketing

It basically means that it costs much more to attract new customers (without necessarily converting them into buyers) than to actually invest in current customers who already performed a first purchase. Furthermore, your existent client base is the livelihood of your business at less cost, while acquisition is like taking a wild guess in terms of expected ROI, but a certain loss in terms expenditure.

retention-versus-acquisition

Others would argue that no retention is possible without acquisition preceding it, in the first place. How could you retain a “client” that you haven’t acquired yet? That client is non-existent and you should acquire him/her first.

It’s your say based on a more detailed and subjective approach, that leaved little space to philosophy and more to factual data and market research findings.

Social-Media-Equals-Modern-Day-Customer-Service

Does social media customer service have any effect on sales?

Yes, not only “any”, but “many” effects, good ones and bad ones.

You go smartly & carefully about providing customer service through social media, and your overall customer satisfaction will rise substantially in a transparent, easily accessible way to potential customer, brand influencers & other brand promoters. Customer satisfaction, naturally, will eventually lead to increased sales.

social-media-customer-service

Approval rates of social media customer service.

To achieve this, don’t move your whole customer service activities to social media! Dedicate your Facebook page and Twitter account to general inquiries, the type of which you want the given answers to go online, stay online and go viral to promote your brand.

impactofsocialcustomerservice

Impact of Social Customer Service, according to businesses. 

Don’t discuss customer-specific or order-specific info online (respect the privacy of your customers and you own company). Also, don’t solve a dispute online to avoid reputation damage predators from “smelling blood”! Use positive customer feedback on social media to frequently unleash direct sales messages (links, coupons, special offers, discounts, free delivery). Be patient.

Reading about military strategies and tactics seems similar to reading about marketing and sales strategies, do you feel the same? Why?

Yes, I feel the same.

Sun-Tzu-The-Art-of-War-for-ManagersWhy? Well, without pretence of management genius, because I simply read one of the greatest books of all times which demonstrates the astonishingly close relationship between “business” and “warfare”: The Art of War by Sun Tzu, the famed Chinese military general/philosopher.

It’s no wonder that modern management theory willingly embraces the book as a “must read” and in many cases “a must teach” and “a must follow”.

On a more philosophical note, off course, it remains a disturbing, paradoxical & thoughts-stirring idea to compare a daily activity & an inextricable element of our modern lives such as “business” to war. Cause who is the enemy and who’s the good guy in business? Who is the loser and who is the victor?

 

Quotes from “The Art of War”:

  1. sun tzu business“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”  Isn’t this the same as SWOT Internal vs External Analysis?
  2. “Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.” Isn’t this the same foundation marketing and PR were built upon two thousand years later?