I am not a full time sales person, I am a software engineer and researcher who gets involved in some pre-sales consulting. I bought this book to become more educated on the Miller Heiman sales approach that is now standard for all of our sales people. I found this book very helpful and feel as though I now have a basic working knowledge of the sales system we use.The Miller Heiman training is rather expensive so I did not attend the actual classes with our regular sales staff.
The approach of this book came naturally to me. This sales strategy is much like engineering decisions in using continual review of risks and generating ideas to mitigate those risks while simultaneously advancing toward the closing of the project (a sales deal). There are many lists and sublists within the method that are pretty well known by now so I won't try to list many of them here. The terminology is important and very memorable - "Coach", "Economic Buyer", "Funnel", "Best Few", etc.
The book is clear about what it is not and I appreciate that too since sales is not my background. It is not a book of sales tactics, that is, how to literally sell someone something face to face in the "sales event" as the book calls it. The book assumes the reader is an experienced sales person and is already perfecting this skill (a fair assumption). It also does not try to teach skills in deal closure/contracting since that subject is already covered by many other books and is another assumed skill.
What the book does talk about at length is approaching each deal as a unique project that has its own risks, dynamics and yet can be managed within a systematic framework for success. "This entire book can be seen as an analytical machine designed to produce one meticulously tested product - your Alternate Positions list." (p171) The Alternate Positions list is essentially a list of ideas of what things you might try next along with the accompanying rationale for each idea. The ideas are very specific so they can be tested for pass/fail, they are not vague notions. Updated "Alternate Positions" are continuously needed because your current position is assumed to be in need of constant improvement until you win the sale, from beginning to end. When applied to an actual case, the strategy means to shake-out undue sales optimism with realism on specific important aspects of getting THIS deal, not just any deal generally, this one deal specifically.
There are plenty of real life sales examples throughout the book that put flesh on the theoretical framework. I relate to the systematic, risk mitigating approach, but I was reminded of my own shortcomings in reading and managing the dynamics of people who can be fluid, dynamic, fickle, irrational, etc. yet very important to winning the account. This is the sales persons' chosen medium (people skills) and it is more tricky and unfair than dealing with things. However, the engineering, project oriented, framework makes sense in both of these worlds and the book does a great job of prompting sales people to think a bit more like engineers. Relentless information gathering (and analysis for adding to actual knowledge) is the bottom line to succesfully navigating through a complex project of any type.
I particularly like the way the book views competition as those who run the race against you trying to get to the sale first, instead of being the ones standing in front of you who must be defeated to surely win the customers business (definitely not a sure approach). Miller Heiman stresses focusing on the prospect from first to last, not the competitor. Competitors and the risks they entail must be managed, but not become the focus. The message is, carry out the Miller Heiman system (run the race) better than they do and you will typically win the business over them.
This is an easy read and really a nice page-turner especially if you're new to sales reading like I am. It's good it's a page turner though because the book is a bit too long and redundant for the ground it covers. It is all useful info but I think at least 15% of the book could be eliminated since it is driving home the same fundamentals over and over again from slightly different perspectives like you were sitting in the classroom. I understand the merits, but my reading time is valuable to me so I subtracted a rating point for failure to streamline the book a bit more. I expect successful complex sales professionals will recognize many of the ideas here, but the information is very well organized and probably a good purchase for anyone connected with sales, especially uninitiated tech types like me.