In writing Seven Steps to Success for Sales Managers, author Max Cates drew on his 30+ years of sales and sales management experience. Named a Top Sales Book of the Week by Top Sales World Magazine, the book covers everything a sales leader needs to build management skills, including rep hiring dos and don’ts, onboarding best practices, and strengthening team collaboration. I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Max to learn more about his book for “The Scribe: Sales Leadership Book of the Month.”

Q: Why did you write Seven Steps to Success for Sales Managers?

Max: To put it simply, the book was written as a solution to a problem.

It’s surprising, but a lot of companies – even those which are technologically advanced and strategically sophisticated – offer little or no sales management training. That means many sales forces are being led with “old school” sales management techniques which are sapping the strength, energy and passion from sales reps. From what I’ve seen around the country, the biggest problem with sales management is too much emphasis on “sales” rather than “management.” I wrote the book to offer today’s sales manager a set of skills to build winning sales teams, to ignite the joy of selling, and to provide updated approaches to modern sales forces.

Q: Did the idea behind the book or the message that you wanted to convey change as you began to write it? Did your final book match your initial vision?

Max: It’s funny, but the more I wrote, the more I wrote – I kept running across research and articles from psychologists, scientists and researchers that applied directly to effective sales management. My original idea was based on my personal experience in creating successful sales teams; the final book includes an expanded vision which includes case studies, scholarly research and recent scientific findings on sales success.

In writing this book, I asked myself, “As a sales person and as a sales manager’s boss, what would you want the sales manager to know?” Using this as a litmus test, yes, I think sales leaders will be interested in the book.

Q: What are your one or two key takeaways from your book that you’d like to share with sales leaders?

Max: One key idea is that you, as a sales manager, are surrounded by a huge source of sales energy and expertise – your sales reps. The book shows how to harness this power, step by step, to surpass sales objectives on a continuous basis. A lot of the book is based on encouraging reps to own their jobs and to take an active role in the success of the company.

Second, it all begins with good hiring. The book provides dozens of hiring tips on proactive – not reactive – recruiting, selecting and onboarding; how to get and keep top sales reps, and how to avoid hiring mediocre reps.

Q: What message from your book do you think will be most shocking to sales leaders?

Max: Sales managers don’t have to do all the heavy lifting. They don’t have to create, execute and monitor plans and procedures by themselves. By collaborating with their sales reps, they create plans that are better, more effectively implemented and, most importantly, that have reps’ “buy-in.”

Q: What was the worst/best part about writing this book?

Max: Writing is hard work – going over each sentence, choosing the right word, searching for the best analogy. The only thing tougher was re-reading and re-writing for the 15th time. The best part is seeing it in print and knowing that you’re offering something unique that will have a positive impact on people and the industry.

Q: How long did it take you to write it? Any funny story your can share about the process? Did it go as expected?

Max: It took about two years to finish the completed version. After finishing the original draft, I ran across a quote from Mark Twain who said “I would have written a shorter book if I had more time.”

I found it amusing how we as authors can get so enamored with our words that we just say too much – too many words, duplicate thoughts, unnecessary metaphors. I took Twain’s words to heart and put the first draft on a diet – it was amazing how many pages disappeared just by saying only what needs to be said. In writing, you don’t want to be the guy at the party who just drones on and on till people roll their eyes and walk away.

The process didn’t go as expected. A lot happened in the two years of writing – technology advances, changes in the market, new research… I found myself going back to the manuscript time and time again to make updates.

Q: Did you learn anything about yourself through writing this?

Max: Yes. I learned I had more patience than I thought. In research alone, you run into a lot of dead-ends, and collect twice the information that you actually use. I filled nearly a whole file cabinet with research papers and articles.

Q: Can you describe your book’s style? How does it differ/compare with other sales and business books?

Max: I intentionally kept the book conversational in style, using bullets, bold face type and short paragraphs to make the key concepts easy to digest. I know how busy sales managers are, and tried to keep the style brief and to the point. That is one feature of the book that differentiates it from others – the simplicity and directness; no complex formulas or hard-to-implement concepts.

I’ve read a lot of sales management books, and there is one basic difference between my book and others:

Mine is written from the trenches, based on real-life sales management experiences. It’s not the product of a sales consultant or management theorist. Rather it’s written from the perspective of someone who has been a sales person and a sales manager and a manager’s manager; from someone who has made nearly every possible mistake in sales management but finally arrived at a process that works.

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