Rework is a book by the founders of 37Signals, a company based in Chicago. I’m constantly reading books, blog posts, and articles about how to be more productive and efficient. There’s no shortage of books on personal productivity but I felt compelled to pick up Rework after seeing the authors speak in person and in online interviews several times (and it makes sense that a company that makes collaboration tools for teams would be the people to write a book on the subject.)
There’s always a handful of reasons why I pick up a certain book over another. My goal when reading Rework was to think about it in a sales context. For example, how would I, as a salesperson, benefit from some of the advice within its pages? I knew that some of the book’s lessons would focus more on product development, management, and culture. But I wanted to know how I could apply these concepts to my daily work.
These are Rework’s nuggets of wisdom as it relates to sales:
Interruption is the enemy of productivity.
“Interruptions break your workday into a series of work moments”. It’s really easy to let this happen on a weekly basis. Without even realizing it, you’ve scheduled meeting after meeting and haven’t allowed time in your schedule to get any substantial work done. This is the tough part about being a salesperson: meetings are a necessary evil. So if you’re going to spend your week in meetings with prospects and current clients, at least make sure those meetings are productive. But, when you have time to work alone, take advantage of it. You might get more done in an hour of ‘quiet time’ than you ever thought you’d achieve in a half day’s work filled with meetings.
Out-teach your competition.
If you read sales blogs or articles often, you have probably noticed that there’s a storytelling theme these days. Customers don’t want to be sold. They want to be taught. And the easiest way to do that is to tell a story or to teach them something new —without directly selling your product or service. Fried and Hansson put it simply: “Earning their loyalty by teaching them forms a whole different connection. They’ll trust you more. They’ll respect you more. Even if they don’t use your product, they can still be your fans”. Be generous with information and advice as a salesperson.
Years of irrelevance. Hire managers of one.
Here are two lessons that go well together. “There’s surprisingly little difference between a candidate with six months of experience and one with six years”. From a sales management perspective, I tend to agree. A veteran salesperson can be just as lazy and unmotivated as a rookie salesperson. Instead of requiring 5 years of experience in order to apply for a sales position, think about how well he or she does their work (not how long he or she has been doing it). Successful salespeople are disciplined and committed, no matter how much experience they have listed on their resume. Hire people that “come up with their own goals and execute them”. If they manage their own work, you will be surprised at how much they can accomplish.
Own your bad news.
Everyone makes mistakes. We all have stories to tell about times that we have failed. As a salesperson, you better be ready to be honest with your customers if (i.e. when) your product fails or you fail to deliver. If you don’t own your bad news, someone else will. Be responsive and and timely about communicating with your customers when something goes wrong. They will be relieved that you are aware of the problem and doing your best to fix it.
Speed changes everything.
We’ve observed the breakdown between sales and customer service plenty of times (everyone, unfortunately, has had to endure this). When a feedback loop exists between the two, both the salesperson and the account manager or customer service rep should do everything to respond as soon as physically possible. It’s easy to see why this is important, especially if you’ve ever sent an email and it took days for that company to get back to you in a timely manner. Speed really does change everything, whether you’re in sales or account management.
Have you read Rework? What types of lessons in productivity have helped you become more efficient as a salesperson?
If you have read the book, along with the countless other articles Jason Fried has written, you might find this Technori article interesting: “Everything You Didn’t Know About the 37Signals Co-founder“.