Can old dogs teach us new tricks? Reading a 25-yr sales book

Can old dogs teach us new tricks? | Bee Talents
Kasia Michalak
Kasia Michalak
Do you know this feeling, when you have a friend who will just get a GoT or sports reference? You know you can simply use the pool of shared knowledge to convey hard ideas. That is how common culture smooths edges in communication. It is an expansion of common vocabulary. Theories from books and advice from authors we share become important helpers in understanding some problems we face.

Not to be empty-worded, I am going to show you an example – a short review of a book I read recently. We have a small, but growing and constantly updated library at Bee Talents. In kind, we also have a nice habit of sending each other informative materials – but more on that in a future blog post! Back to the review – we expanded it slightly and translated it for purposes of our English speaking customers and readers, but apart from the formatting and fancier vocabulary, it could very well be what you randomly get from a Bee Talents co-worker once every couple days.

The book itself is quite old. Written in 1993 it certainly will not wow you with recent examples of dynamic sales battles in the startup era. But it is still considered an important position in Polish sales expertise manuals. Enjoy!

sales is a game
Our office library is pretty varied – from vast IT manuals for out Tech Recruiters to simply amazing books, like “Powerful” by Patty McCord. Like on any old bookshelf – we also have artifacts from a bygone era. I mean… will anyone ever read “Excel 2003 for Beginners” again? 😉

Handlowanie to gra” (“Trade is a game”) by Wojciech Haman and Jerzy Gut

I approached this book cautiously, as times are flying fast, and sales profession changes too. I gave it a try anyway. First, the approach from the title is curious – come on, I want my business partner to play no games with me! But that is not the message exactly. It is more of an admission, that to play the sales game good, you kind of have to like playing. That somebody who detests negotiations, personal contact, the human need to balance personal empathy and cold economic reality of any deal – will usually underperform.

So it is more like a dance, a friendly back-and-forth. A thing that despite utmost professionalism, you should be free to enjoy and do with a smile on your face. But hey, let’s not stray too far. Quarterly goals are calling 😉

What I liked about the book

  • It shows and immediately contrasts both good and bad ways to act in certain situations. This makes it easier to get the point and identify if you have this issue yourself. And thanks to the good examples, you also have a clear path to improve on that thing fast. Such an example is even right in the subtitle of the book. Roughly translated from Polish it would be “…from begging and cajoling to fulfilling client needs”.
  • I’m not saying you must hear this again, but… You must hear this again. Talk less. Listen, please. Do not talk over the client with the glitter of your offer, and do not offer dozens of solutions when they have not given you enough data yet. Try to clarify as much as possible the pain points and be empathetic at every turn to the company situation.
  • The author speaks about six types of clients. I will not clutter your mind with another underdeveloped distinction, so read the book for a full picture – but I would like to note something. In general, I am a staunch opponent of client categories and types – ours simply evade such labels too often for them to be useful. Possibly – I just haven’t found one that fits my style of work yet. However, the insights into how some people may work and how to approach them nonetheless matter, so I picked a lot of nice nuggets from this part of the book.
  • Haman and Gut warn about something that fortunately does not threaten me at all – routine. But to add to their insights, I think this has become truer in recent years. After all, sales as many aspects of our professional life became more mechanic and depersonalized with modern sales software and tons, tons of email. To save our souls from the routine we do not need to be terrible salesmen though. It is proven in multiple studies that personalization and familiarity are key to business and sales success. They also, fortunately, break the routine element, as they bring a little bit more personal approach to every interaction allowing momentary breaks from professional focus. And they work 😉
  • Another advice the authors give is about the role of emotion. To give this a personal background, I found that most successful salespeople are high-achievers who hate to lose. We are also a confident and prideful bunch. This makes us prone to emotional lapses (hey, we are still only human!) and biases which authors point out to. Balancing pride is especially interesting – you need certain professional pride, but do not let it turn you into defending your position at any cost.
  • Finally, the authors write brilliantly about managing difficult relationships and rude clients. Happy to report the second class is almost non-existent in my practice! Anyway, assertiveness is key to those situations so practice it on your office friends 😉

What puzzled me

  • While the book is about the Polish market and Polish environment of sales processes, I found the examples extreme. It might be the case that the book is simply a bit dated! Nevertheless, I do not see polish business evolving that much in 25 years. At least not in terms of personal culture and weird business practices.
  • I did not find convincing one of the approaches proposed in certain situations, where you set confident conditions when making concessions. Something to the tune of “I can agree to X, but only if Y”. While you sometimes will have to actually go there, this is at best not the way I would personally like to communicate the issue or even think about it.

To sum it all up – a quarter of a century later, one of the most popular Polish books on sales through the years, has aged some. If you are just starting your sales career – probably do not spend too much time on it, as there are better early sales manuals. For more experienced salespeople, who have some notches on our belts, it is a good backgrounder on sales history. To see how sales has evolved and what basic knowledge you still need to maintain is always vital.

I am not done with reviews, dear friends! Expect one about “Act like a Leader, Think Like a Leader”, which I have just laid my hands on recently 🙂 For more stuff by me jump to our archive, and to talk to me directly – find me at LinkedIn!

Kasia Michalak

Kasia Michalak

Kasia Michalak

Kasia Michalak

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