I strongly recommend that anyone in B2B sales read Andy Paul’s book, Amp Up Your Sales: Powerful Strategies That Move Customers to Make Fast, Favorable Decisions, but you won’t find a traditional review here, the kind in which I summarize the key points in the book.
Instead, I will focus on and develop one of his fundamental principles that I personally found to be a compelling and different angle, one which I plan to pursue in my own sales efforts.
In a nutshell, Paul’s key theme is that how you sell is more important than what you sell, and how is based on three principles:
- Make selling simple
- Be super-responsive
- Maximize selling time
I was especially intrigued by his emphasis on responsiveness; while I certainly won’t do justice to it here I will inject my own interpretation.
Nathan Bedford Forrest once said that the key to military tactics was to get there first with the most, and Andy Paul follows squarely in that tradition. Responsiveness is information + speed, and it’s important because selling is about answering the questions and providing the information the customer needs throughout their buying cycle to make their decision. The salesperson who supports the buying process by helping them make the right decision in the shortest time possible will win. This requires a prompt response to requests for information.
What does prompt mean? I personally would have thought same day would be fine, but Paul suggests within a half hour if possible. The reasoning is that customers need a certain amount of information in a certain order to make the right decision, and they have different needs depending on where they are in their buying cycle, so the best time to add value is when they ask the question or request the information. At the very least, you differentiate yourself from the overwhelming majority who won’t respond as fast as you will, and that sends a powerful message about how you will handle their business if you win it.
There’s a much more powerful yet subtle reason why responsiveness works, which Andy demonstrates through a series of graphs which depict the amount of value being delivered to the customer throughout the sales process. At each point, such as initial contact, discovery and presentation, the buyer has a need for some information which they will then digest prior to the next point in their buying process. For big B2B sales, it’s not realistic that the customer will identify a problem, gather all the information they need to solve it, evaluate alternatives and make the best decision at one time. It’s a process that takes time, and information gathered at each stage is used to shape the next set of questions and necessary information. The real power in responsiveness is that if you are the first to respond, you may have already changed the information they need by the time your competitor responds, so that they are playing catchup. By the time they respond, their response is not as valuable to the customer as it would have been; it may even be irrelevant.
Although he doesn’t call it that, Andy is describing John Boyd’s idea of the OODA loop, which was initially applied to air-to-air combat. OODA stands for Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action. The competitor who gets inside the other’s OODA loop dictates the fight, because by reacting faster the first time he’s in a better position to react even faster the second time, and the cumulative effect can be transformative.
It’s important to keep in mind that responsiveness does not mean simply reacting to customers’ requests for information—at every stage you have the option and ability to ask your own questions or provide different insights in order to reshape their buying vision. If there is a shortcoming to the book, it’s that, although he touched on it at several points, Paul could have emphasized this more.
I also would have liked to see more citations. Andy mentions several articles and studies which add credibility, but it would have been helpful to know how to find those for further reading. This is probably just me, because I study this stuff; if you simply want good solid sales advice you probably can take it at face value and not worry about it.
There’s much more to Amp Up Your Sales than what I’ve covered here, of course, but just that alone would make it worth reading the entire book. I urge you to respond quickly and read it as soon as possible—unless you’re one of my competitors.