What is Sales? Recommended Readings

This is a modified version of a post from the current Leanlaunch Pad session. It’s intention is to provide a set of “Introduction to Sales” readings.

Let’s talks Sales.
I cover the positioning of a Sales department in a company by Steve Blank. The “Spirit of Sales” by Malcolm Gladwell on Ronco founder Ron Popeil. Sales books for Managers and for Sales people. I also add in Geoffrey Moore’s discussion of “innovation styles” available to companies.

Positioning of Sales vs Marketing, Engineering, Finance, Legal, etc

The Sharp End of the Stick « Steve Blank

In an early stage startup, instead of sales being up front, the point departments are likely to be product development and customer development. Later on in this same company’s life, sales will become the pointy end and product development moves to a supporting role. In other companies it may be that manufacturing or finance is the sharp end of the stick. In an IP licensing business, legal and finance are the sharp end of the stick. It varies by company and changes over time. There’s no magic formula but there are always “leading” departments. And all “leading” departments have some type of “consequence-based” feedback loops that make success or failure obvious.

The “Spirit of Selling” — Gladwell covers Ronco

This story is magic. Malcolm Gladwell’s coverage of Ronco founder Ron Popeil in The Pitchman captures the essence of selling products you love. Every product developer, marketer, or sales person needs to read this. In the end you can’t fake product love and knowledge. Ron Popeil knows his products because he lives with his products.

The “shocking point” is that this story is relevant to us all and yet Ronco is the “sleazy” television sales world. Many people simple will not read this and get upset with me for recommending it to them.

Sales Books


I asked two extremely knowledgeable Sales people to recommend a sales book for me. From the VP of Sales I got Customer Centric Selling. I liked this recommendation because I had already read and liked Solution Selling by Bosworth. From the best sales person I’ve ever worked with I got ProActive Sales Management by Skip Miller

CCS Customer Centric Selling « Bosworth

I like both books, they’ll both make a difference in your work. It was very interesting the choice that each person made since each book has very similar themes. In the details each book services a different audience. So if you’re a sales guy looking for direct tips and a means for understanding corporate sales management go for ProActive. It’s feet are firmly on the ground of a sales guy. If you are a management type looking to understand sales systems go for CustomerCentric.

Personal Perspective – ProActive Sales Managment

ProActive Selling: Control the Process – Win the Sale: Amazon.ca: William “Skip” Miller: Books

Managing Perspective – Customer Centric Selling

Customer Centric Selling « Bosworth

Innovation Techniques — “Dealing With Darwin”

Geoffrey Moore’s – Dealing With Darwin does an amazing job discussing Innovation Techniques available to companies as they age. This book is recommended for “Intrapreneurial Teams”. For the rest of you it is nice to know. It provides a detailed discussion on why Product Innovation is the innovation style necessary for “young” startups.

Summary Points

  • The book is about managing innovation and overcoming inertia in established enterprises.
  • It’s major thesis is that most companies love to innovate but hate to take risk, the net result being lots of me-too innovations that lack economic impact because they do not have the force to distinctively differentiate their offers.
  • Its primary prescription is to pick a single vector of innovation and march so far down it that your competition either cannot or will not follow.
  • The book describes fourteen innovation vectors all told. Different types are privileged at different points in the category maturity life cycle, so that innovation strategy must adapt to life-cycle dynamics. The overall model is used to help management teams winnow down innovation vector choices to one or two and align the bulk of their investment behind that choice.