[CBR10 – 4/13] Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness

(Cannonball Read book review #4 – original post @ CBR10)

I never thought I’d be reading a sales book, let alone be on my second one this year and have three more in the queue waiting to be read. But then again, life is under no obligation to give us what we expect. It all started with a career change from being and Artistic/Programming Director for a small Event company on the East coast to selling mattresses. That was not the career move I had planned on, but it’s what presented itself and I needed money. My new job gave us a book to read that I did, in fact, read but also loathed about 90% of. Still debating reviewing that book. I shared my issues with that book with my best friend, who immediately found the sales books they respected, hunted down used copies, and had them sent to me. I started reading the Little Red Book of Selling and immediately relaxed. The last book had me agitated about sales, but Gitomer is much more accessible and down-to-Earth. It’s a little dated (copyright 2004) and the reference to a VCR was charming.

The book is laid out into three overall sections. The first section is seven micro-chapters about “Understanding Red Sales…”, then the meat of “The 12.5 Red Principles of Sales Greatness”, and finally six more micro-chapters of “More RED SALES Thinking” to wrap up.

I really liked the way the book was broken up into bite-sized pieces and how humor and cartoons were mixed in to help drive lessons home.

My favorite chapters were:

  • Chapter 1 – Kick your own ass: the principle here is simple. Get your own ass in gear. “You have a responsibility to yourself to achieve.” And he’s pretty brutally honest that “the only way this is going to happen is with self-inspiration, self-determination, and hard work that starts before everyone else gets up and after everyone else has gone to sleep. Kick your own ass is not a statement. It’s an axiom.”  He lays out some negative thinking that leads to slumps, and then follows up with prescriptions to cure said slumps. That all boils down to specific ways to work to turn things around that include studying the basics, talking to customers, hanging around successful people, visiting your mentor, and other active things you can do to invest your time and energy into improving.
  • Chapter 3 – Personal Branding is Sales: It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You: I admire Gitomer’s humor. Like the first paragraph of this section is “Personal Branding is not complicated, unless you take a course in it. Then it’s scary as hell.” That made me literally laugh out loud. He goes on to explain what personal branding it and specific ways to do it. One of his biggest suggestions throughout the book is to write and give speeches at local organizations to establish yourself as an expert. In fact, in one of the last micro-chapters, he says that if “you only choose ONE THING that I tell you: Believe that writing will take you from where you are to any place you want to go.” This spoke to me, since I love writing and have a blog already.
  • Chapter 4 – It’s All About Value, It’s All About Relationship, It’s NOT All About Price: In this chapter, he teaches you how to give value and be valuable, including, as above-mentioned, writing in journals, newspapers, e-zines, and newsletters, and giving speeches.
  • Chapter 5 – It’s Not Work, It’s NETwork: All about networking, which was awesome for me since I suck at networking. I always think I’m bothering people. The friend who got me this book keeps trying to tell me to network and reach out to my contacts and I constantly feel like I don’t want to bother them. But Gitomer gave reasons why it’s not a bother and how so many people do it. He also explains part of why I haven’t felt comfortable with it. He defines networking as “life skills and social skills combined with sales skills.” Before this current job, I had no formal sales training, nor experience in direct sales. I’ve had retail jobs, but they were things like barista and cashier. I have life and social skills but am still working to build my sales skills. However, Gitomer gives simple, concrete ways to network that make sense to me and feel much less like I’m being a bother.
  • Chapter 8 – If You Can Make Them Laugh, You Can Make Them Buy: So this chapter opens with a comic of two sales guys talking to one another. One has swirly eyes, indicating he’s high as hell. The caption is the other guy saying to him, “Getting a customer to laugh is a good thing. However, firing up a bong in his office might not be the best way…” Another LOL moment for me from this book. I appreciate the hell out of that. Gitomer himself shows that he’s learned to good-naturedly laugh at himself and gives you suggestions and tips for how to incorporate sales techniques in your sales skills. One of the best, and something my job keeps telling me, is not to tell jokes, but to tell stories. I’m working on those. He does mention to be careful of ethnicity and gender, as in his recommendation is don’t go there. He also says to keep it clean, don’t drag it out, and take small humor risks, not big ones. Safe things to use to mine for humor: children (what they did or said), traffic (what you did or saw), repeating a sit-com or television line (with acknowledgement to the source – points to him for that!), self-stuff (hair, clothes, make-up, shoes), self-abilities (golf, tennis, running, exercise), self-improvement (frustrations climbing the ladder or studying). He also has a section on how to become a student of humor with 15.5 suggestions about that.
  • Chapter 9 – Use Creativity To Differentiate & Dominate: I really liked this chapter because I’m used to being the black sheep and doing things outside of the box, so it was nice to have some validation and encouragement in that regard. Like almost all of his other chapters, learning creativity simply comes down to dedicating yourself to learning about it if you don’t feel you’re good at it and studying it more if you do feel you are good at it.  One of the things he recommends is not having a “pathetic” and boring voice mail greeting. He gives ideas on how to change your voice mail greeting to something more creative. I personally like the suggestion of having your kid record something for you. I’m very grateful for this part of this chapter specifically because I have a fairly unique voice mail message that I have chosen to keep through my latest round of looking for and finding a job. It’s a quote from a 90’s movie I really liked; it’s always gotten the best reactions and I’ve never heard anyone else use it, so it’s fun and makes people think. (Hint: if you liked the movie Reality Bites, you might know what my voice mail greeting is.)

Overall, I really liked this book. The micro-chapters in the beginning and at the end of the book helped ease you into the book and into furthering your sales education, respectively, which I appreciated. One of the last micro-chapters has a self-rating list of the 12.5 Principles of Life-long Learning to help keep you improving, including reading books, attending live seminars, joining Toastmasters, spending 30 minutes a day learning something new, and practicing what you’ve learned as soon as you’ve learned it. After finishing this book, I’m excited to move on to the other Gitomer book my best friend got me: Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Sales Answers. 

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