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Reviews and tidbits about biz books

What the Customer Wants You To Know: How Everybody Needs to Think Differently About Sales

By Ram Charan

Portfolio, 192 pages, $21.95

Far be it from me to assume that I know better than legendary strategic marketing consultant Ram Charan; few giant corporations seek my advice, other than those I do business with as a customer. But what he says here is that relationship selling is dead and consultative selling is where it's at. Uh, yeah. Fifteen years ago, a sagacious boss named Len Scaffidi told me to read Soft Selling in a Hard World, and it's still the best sales book I've encountered. The author, Jerry Vass, counseled that becoming a reliable and honest source of information, analysis and solutions for a prospective customer was the best way to become a trusted and valued vendor. Echoing Vass, Charan provides specific examples and offers numerous reasons for this manner, but essentially, it's what Vass wrote 15 years ago - and I doubt that he was the first. Nonetheless, it's advice well worth repeating as the increasing commoditization of nearly everything requires sales people to be experts in their chosen fields. Order takers rarely succeed, let alone excel.

Leaders at All Levels: Deepening Your Talent Pool to Solve the Succession Crisis

By Ram Charan

Jossey-Bass, 192 pages, $27.95

For many companies, the issue of leadership succession is a critical one. Considering that many firms are preoccupied with the question of survival, leadership succession is not a bad problem to have, though it's often deferred to the last possible moment. Charan advises a system of apprenticeship, though not exactly as we've come to understand it. Essentially, it's the identification and development of appropriate internal candidates for future leadership roles, exposing them to challenges in order to develop and test the requisite skills. Charan conveys his worthwhile ideas with typical clarity, insight and occasional humor.

Richard Pachter, Miami Herald

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