SPIN Selling, a book by Neil Rackham has been on my shelf for the last 3 years. Never touched. No, actually I did. I wiped the dust off it few times. And each time I looked at it I got a feeling deep down that I needed to read it. Well that day came. This month (February 2016) actually. Ever since I improved my reading speed from 300 to 480 wpm, I have been on a mission to read more books.
SPIN Selling teaches why traditional sales models don’t work for larger sales. With real-world examples, informative cases and clear lessons learnt, the book develops on what turns into a successful SPIN strategy. This book is a must for anyone. Even for software engineers who may have no intention to sell. You don’t have to be in sales to find value in this book. The books journey takes you to a better place where you learn that selling is simply problem solving for a prospect. Instead of spending time with a machine you spend time with a human.
In the early days of a startup, entrepreneurship can be summed up into 2 words: hustling & hacking. You need to be selling and building product that fits user expectations. Selling doesn’t require a product to be ready, as you will soon find out. Selling, or Hustling begins with problem solving. Especially large sales. You need to understand existing customer situation, problems, difficulties, dissatisfactions, points of dissatisfactions with existing solutions and/or general difficulty. This will lead you to uncover their true core needs so that you can offer a better, faster and cheaper solution.
Common selling mistake
Focusing on Features and Advantages instead of Benefits.
Focusing on Features creates Price concerns. Let me repeat this again..
Don’t f**kin focus on features!
Only exception is when you are seeing something of little value. And where the customer has a disassociation between the product and you. If you mess up and the customer gets into a price discussion you will end up dropping the price to meet them. Dropping price is a path to business disaster. You are in sales to make money not loose money. Plus a bad sale creates a liability on the company’s book. It would have been far easier & smarter to learn how to sell Benefits to avoid price concerns and objections.
SPIN Selling is a nice framework any hustler should follow to close most sales. Especially a large sale. Small sales are relatively easy to close.
SaaS (Software as a Service) world
In the world of SaaS (Software as a Service) what may at 1st appear to be a small price point (eg. $5 per month) is actually a large sale when you consider the LTV (Life Time Value) could be 1-2 years and thus the actual sale is $120 x the number of seats purchased. Therefore, having the tools to close such deals could be a business changing opportunity.
To visualize the SPIN Selling Framework, I created the following 1 page chart. Read it left to right. The process starts on the left with Situation questions and ends at the Need-Payoff (far right) side. I still recommend you read the SPIN Selling book to learn how the theory works in practice.
Before you call the prospect
So now you are educated in SPIN Selling and can’t wait to hit the road. Hold on a sec there soldier. There is 1 more step in your training.
To be prepared is half the victory.
~ Miguel de Cervantes
Before you make a sales call to a client, get prepared. This means:
Write down at least 3 potential problems which the client may have
Write down some actual Problem Questions that you could ask to uncover each of the potential problems you’ve identified
Write down what difficulties might arise for each problem. This means Implication Questions that might get the prospect to see the problem as large and urgent to solve and
I started at 300 wpm (words per minute) with 80% comprehension and by the end of the book was up at 480 wpm with 80% comprehension. Outlined below is the road to faster reading and how you too can go from 300 words per minute to 480 in 10 days.
I never thought of myself as a fast reader. Yet I had no quantitative data to back my feelings. Feelings are subjective right. I think this feeling came from the fact that English was not my 1st language. Polish was. And as 2016 arrived I set a goal to be reading more books this year. Maybe like Bill Gates does, knocking over at least 1-2 books per week.
But to get there I needed to start with a small goal of at least 1 book per month and then go up from there.
So this is the way I see it:
More Books => Faster Reading == Better Comprehension => More Blogging
Then Casey Neistat reminded me of something Seneca said about time and how we use it:
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested.” ~ Seneca
I think I can do this!
BIG opportunity. Think back to what life was like only 100 years ago where only distinguished and affluent had access to knowledge. Now we all do. But today we are time poor. But there’s a way.
“The road to knowledge begins with the turn of a page.”
We all know foundational skills are important. A house without foundation is a sitting duck. What if what I learnt at school was wrong. Or out of date with modern times. Or not enough. It was time to go back to basics of reading and find out what I could do better when reading. So I picked up a book by The Princeton Language Institute and Abby Marks Beale called 10 Days to Faster Reading. Fitting title for what I wanted to achieve. The book starts crushing school fallacies. They include “you have to read every word”, “hear the sound out words in your head”, “don’t skim, that’s cheating”, “you need to completely understand everything you read”. Ok book, you have my attention.
The basic foundations
What does an average reader actually look like? They read at 200-300 words per minute. Take a look here.
Slow reader – move their lips and probably read to themselves
Average reader – whisper when they read
Good reader – may talk a little when they read but not as much as average reader
Above average reader
Humans talk at 100-150 words per minute.
Humans THINK upwards of 400 words per minute.
What happens to the delta between talking and thinking? Well, that’s your wondering brain as you read. Hence, why slow readers sometimes fall asleep while reading.
Reading speed alone isn’t enough. Good comprehension is also required. Good comprehension falls between 70-90%. If your comprehension is below the 70% then you need to work on your vocabulary.
Your comprehension is better than you think. We underestimate our abilities. The brain works in mysterious ways. Thus, you should TRUST your brain more and believe that you are capable of better comprehension.
The 3 most common passive reading habits:
It is impossible to eliminate them. But you can reduce them. First by becoming aware of their presence and then by learning to read fast while trusting your comprehension. 1 & 3 can be reduced by using techniques to read fast. Remember that you brain works at a faster pace. Don’t give it the delta to wander around (ie. day dreaming). And 2 trust your mind that it understood the context of the message. Contrary to what you were taught, you don’t need to read word by word.
Techniques to Faster Reading
What I found useful throughout the book is the end of chapter tests. Each chapter introduces you to a technique with wisdom followed by a reading test. You should do the reading test. It gives you quantitive data on you reading speed and comprehension using a lookup table in the appendix. This played a role in giving me confidence I could do this. Goodbye old school fallacies.
“Your brain is prewired to learn language. But not reading. Learning to read faster is like understanding how to decode words in a more efficient way.”
Technique 1: Pacers
Use your hand, a pen or a blank white card to increase your reading speed. These are called Pacers. Think of a pacer as a stick shift. Pacers force the eyes to move in a directed pattern down the page to help you get up to speed. Pacers function like a pace car in a race. You know, that 1st car which guides the rest around the track to a certain speed before moving out of the way.
The general rules for any pacer is: Keep your pacer moving down the page not across and Do not stop or go back.
PS: a finger as a pacer is also ok.
Technique 2: Widen your Track
To read fast you need to see more words. Access your peripheral vision. You don’t need to be focused on 1 word at a time. Phase Flashing is a means of grouping words together into thoughts. The book has a technique there to teach you this called The Eye Span Pyramid. Give it a shot. Even if its just to see how wife your peripheral vision is.
Technique 3: Concentrate, Focus!
Focus. Find a quiet place where you can concentrate. Reading in bed won’t work. You sleep in bed. You will quickly drift away there. Anything lying down is going to put you to sleep. Cut off all distractions like background music. You also need to be sitting up to stay awake. Ever tried to meditate while laying in bed? Yeah you fall asleep pretty fast.
I found the library is a perfect place to concentrate. It is quiet and has a purpose for studying/reading. It has that energy around it that it’s what people do there and forces you to concentrate and read while sitting up. If you need a tool to help you focus on 1 thing at a time then take a peek at GSDfaster’s Pomodoro Technique. It uses a timer to help you focus on 1 thing for a period of time. Sitting down for hours often breaks your focus. This way you group your reading into periods of 30 minute intervals with breaks between. No burnouts.
Technique 4: Have a Purpose
This is more powerful than you might realize at first. Ask yourself: “WHY am I reading this?” and “WHAT might I need this information for?”
This is a powerful motivator. It helps you uncover your purpose and responsibility. It literally says: this is important. It must be done. It’s like a personal trainer. If something isn’t important then it can be done at any pace and at any time. The WHY and WHAT set a level of importance and urgency.
Technique 5: Reading Between the Lines
Speed up your reading and comprehension by stopping on the white space just above each line. Not on the line of print. Example – see pic below; which is easier to read?
“Faster reading then becomes a tool to help you get the comprehension you want.”
There are other techniques in the book you might want to explore. The ones I mentioned above resonated with me.
Turbo Comprehension: Getting to the Gist
It’s no use reading fast if you cannot understand what you just read. The context. The score in the book states that anyone with <70% comprehension lacks vocabulary. Better comprehension is proportional to the breath of your English vocabulary.
Here are 2 useful techniques:
Use the 5Ws and H: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Pre-View or read looking for these to give you context. These clues will give you about 40% of the key information. The remaining 60% is filler, fluff or explanation.
Expand your Vocabulary. The more words you know the better. When you come across a word you don’t understand reach for the dictionary and learn it. A Dictionary is a great tool to learn new vocabulary. Especially if English is not your 1st language. The more words you know the easier it is to not only read faster but also with great comprehension. Comprehension takes 3 forms – Literally, Interpretively and Applied. Make sure your comprehension spans all 3. The book has great examples on these.
“It takes time to save time.”
End of Chapter: Time Trial
The book has time trials at the end of each chapter to test your words per minute (wpm) and comprehension. At first, I was resistant but soon I became a convert and found this section super useful. There is nothing like tracking and comparing progress. Especially if it improves and you start seeing the value in what you are learning. So how did I perform? Better than I imagined. I started at 300 words per minute (wpm) at 80% comprehension and finished up on 480 wpm.
Pg8. All About Reading
300 wpm (1:18s -> 1:20)
Pg26. Battling the Worry Bug
265 wpm (1:28s -> 1:30)
Pg50. A True Athlete
345 wpm (1:08s -> 1:10)
Pg69. The History of Speed Reading
Pg122. It’s All Relative
345 wpm (1:03s -> 1:10)
Pg131. The Ties That Bind
400 wpm (56s -> 1.00)
Pg159. Books Join the Electronic Wave
400 wpm (56s -> 1.00)
Pg177. A Few Words
480 wpm (47s -> 50)
Pg192. April Fool’s Day: A Real Kick in the Pants
480 wpm (49s -> 50)
Now that I have quantitive data, I can make better decisions. This changes how I felt about my reading ability, speed, and comprehension. I feel more positive about myself than I did before. This is a huge win!
My top 3 takeaways
Trust my brain that it will understand (comprehend) what I read.
Use a pacer to keep my eyes and mind focused on content.
It is ok to skim. Ref point #1.
Final note. Reading this book alone is not enough. You need to do the end of chapter exercises and then practice. The book is a wealth of knowledge breaking down old barriers and giving you tools you wish you had earlier in life. Now that you know, you need to program your brain through repetition of movement and activity. Apply these techniques and thought patterns daily to get faster!
I just finished reading a New York Times business best seller which geeked me out big time. It’s called Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most. The book is based on 15 years of research at the Harvard Negotiation Project. The content walks the reader through a step-by-step approach with examples demonstrating how to have approach and handle these conversations with less stress and more success. Let’s face it, no matter how competent we are, we all have conversations that cause anxiety and frustrations. This book is the golden goose that helps us tackle these issues at home, on the job, or out in the world.
The core of difficult conversations
Difficult conversations are almost never about getting the facts right. They are about conflicting perceptions, interpretations, and values. They are not about what a contract states, they are about what a contract means. They are not about being hurt by an action or word they are about how that action or word was interpreted and the impact on our values, what it meant to me. These are not question of right or wrong, but questions of interpretation and judgement.
If your time poor then you can now stop reading because I just told you the holy grail of difficult conversations. If you want to learn more, keep on reading.
Don’t assume their intentions
It’s important to never assume the intentions of the person you are dealing with because your thinking how you feel about them will be affected by it and ultimately, how the conversation goes. So never assume we know the intentions of others when we don’t. The truth is, intentions are invisible. We assume them from other people’s behavior. In other words, we make them up, we invent them.
Because our view of others’ intentions (and their views of ours) are so important in difficult conversations, leaping to unfounded assumptions can be a disaster.
This shadows what I learnt back in May 2010 at Jeff Slayter’s seminar on the best kept secrets of modern day heroes and leaders. Jeff shared with us this same concept to never judge a person without first separating their “Behavior” from their “Intentions”. Separating these two allows you to delve open-minded and find that their intentions are not as bad as their behavior may be making us think. This is also the trait of a successful leader to be able to see past the behavior of their followers and understand their true intentions – only then is a leader capable of truly understanding their followers.
Best approach to take when communicating
If you need to deal with faults in your difficult conversation, instead of talking about those faults which automatically put people into defense & denial mode, figure out:
1. What kept them from seeing it coming and
2. How to prevent the problem from happening again.
What we are trying to do here is explore why things went wrong and how we might correct them going forward since talking about blame distracts us from a resolution.
So, instead of trying to persuade and get your way, you want to understand what has happened from the other person’s point of view, explain your viewpoint of view, share and understand feelings, and work together to figure out a way to manage the problem going forward.
“Life is just one damn thing after another.” ~ Stone, Patton, and Heen
A difficult conversations checklist
Here is a checklist to follow when having a difficult discussion:
Where does your story come from (information, past experiences, rules)? Theirs?
What impact has this situation had on you?
What might their intentions have been
2. Understand Emotions
Explore your emotional footprint, and the bundle of emotions you experience
3. Ground Your Identity
What’s at stake for you about you? What do you need to accept to be better grounded?
Step 2: Check your purposes and Decide Whether to Raise the Issue
Purposes: What do you hope to accomplish by having this conversation? Shift your stance to support learning, sharing, and problem-solving.
Is this the best way to address the issue and achieve your purposes?
Is the issue really embedded in your Identity Conversation?
Can you affect the problem by changing your contributions?
If you don’t raise it, what can you do to help yourself let go?
Step 3: Start from the Third Story
1. Describe the problem as the difference between your stories.
Include both viewpoints as a legitimate part of the discussion.
2. Share your purposes.
3. Invite them to join you as a partner in sorting out the situation together.
Step 4: Explore Their Story and Yours
Listen to understand their perspective on what happened.
Acknowledge the feelings behind the arguments and accusations.
Paraphrase to see if you’ve got it.
Try to unravel how the two of you got to this place.
Share your own viewpoint, your past experiences, intentions, feelings.
Reframe, reframe, reframe to keep on track. [cf. page 204]
From truth to perceptions
From accusations to Intentions and impact
From blame to contribution
From Judgments, Characterizations to feelings
From “What’s wrong with you” to “What’s going on for them”
Step 5: Problem-Solving
Invent options that meet each side’s most important concerns and interests.
Look to standards for what should happen.
Keep in mind the standard of mutual care-taking; relationships that always go one way rarely last.
Talk about how to keep communication open as you go forward
Use the following with the checklist above in Step 1: Prepare by Walking Through the Three Conversations.
The “What Happened?” conversation.Challenge: The situation is more complex than either person can see
Assumption: I know all I need to know to understand what happened
Goal: persuade them I’m right
Assumption: Each of us is bringing different information and perceptions to the table; there are likely to be important things that each of us doesn’t know
Goal: Explore each other’s stories: how we understand the situation and why.
Assumption: I know what they intended
Goal: Let them know what they did was wrong
Assumption: I know what I intended, and the impact their actions had on me. I don’t and can’t know what’s in their head.
Goal: Share the impact on me, and find out what they were thinking. Also find out what impact I’m having on them.
Assumption: It’s all their fault. (Or it’s all my fault.)
Goal: Get them to admit blame and take responsibility for making amends.
Assumption: We have probably both contributed to this mess.
Goal: Understand the contribution system; how our actions interact to produce this result.
The Feeling Conversation.Challenge: The situation is emotionally charged.
Assumption: Feelings are irrelevant and wouldn’t be helpful to share. (Or, my feelings are their fault and they need to hear about them.)
Goal: Avoid talking about feelings. (Or let ’em have it!)
Assumption: Feelings are the heart of the situation. Feelings are usually complex. I may have to dig a bit to understand my feelings.
Goal: Address feelings (mine and theirs) without judgments or attributions. Acknowledge feelings before problem solving.
The Identity ConversationChallenge: The situation threatens our identity.
Assumption: I’m competent or incompetent, good or bad, lovable or unlovable. There is no in-between.
Goal: Protect my all-or-nothing self-image.
Assumption: There may be a lot at stake psychologically for both of us. Each of us is complex, neither of us is perfect.
Goal: Understand the identity issues on the line for each of us. Build a more complex self-image to maintain my balance better.
It’s always best to assume that you will encounter difficult discussions, even when you have mastered the ins and our of discussing what matters most. The difference now is that having this knowledge on how to handle difficult discussions allows you to know that it’s okay to talk about them, so the misunderstandings may not be as emotionally draining and are less likely to threaten the relationship.
“Things are always created twice: first in the workshop of the mind and then, only then, in reality” – Robin Sharma
I had the pleasure of reading Robin Sharma’s The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny. Robin is one of the world’s top leadership experts and has published few other books in this field but this one is his all time classic.
The book is full of Big Ideas. A truley inspiriting and mind opening story with powerful teachings about unlocking who you truley are.
Everyone loves a good fable, and this is certainly one. The protagonist is Julian Mantle, a high-profile attorney with a whacked-out schedule and a shameful set of spiritual priorities. Of course it takes a crisis (heart attack) to give Mantle pause. And pause he does–suddenly selling all his beloved possessions to trek India in pursuit of a meaningful existence. The Himalayan gurus along the way give simple advice, such as, “What lies behind you and what lies before you is nothing compared to what lies within you.” – Amazon
Sharma goes into detail about the “Seven Virtues of Enlightened Learning”, the habits and how to develop them.
1. Master your mind.
2. Follow your purpose.
3. Practice Kaizen. Japanese for “improvement”.
4. Live with discipline
5. Respect your time
6. Selflessly serve others
7. Embrace the present
Anyone can practice these habits. All it takes is action.
Some great quotes from the book
One of the best pieces of advice I learned in that far-off oasis of Sivana was to rise with the sun and to start the day off well…
The ten-minute period before you sleep and the ten-minute period after you wake up are profoundly influential on your subconscious mind. Only the most inspiring and serene thoughts should be programmed into your mind at those times…
What you put in is what you get out… By determining the thoughts that go in, you also are determining precisely what will come out. So, before you go to sleep, don’t watch the news or argue with anyone or even go over the day’s events in your mind’s eye. Relax. Drink a cup of herbal tea, if you like. Listen to some soft classical music and prepare yourself to drift off into a rich, renewing slumber…
Once you are up, there are many things you can do. The fundamental principle to keep in mind is the importance of starting your day off well. As I’ve suggested, the thoughts you think and the actions you take in the first ten minutes after you wake up have a very marked effect on the rest of your day…
Think positive thoughts. Give a prayer of thanks for all you have. Work on your gratitude list. Listen to some great music. Watch the sun come up, or perhaps go for a quick walk in natural surroundings if you feel up to it. The sages would actually make themselves laugh whether they felt like it or not, just to get the ‘happiness juices’ flowing early in the morning…
I encourage you to listen to this short but powerful interview to understand Sharma’s approach.
Sharma’s message is simple – ”I am a simple man with a very simple message… my mission is to help people in organization around the world lead without titles…”
I believe this is a very powerful message. On a daily basis we and our actions are influenced by the titles people give us. And even more damaging, the titles we give ourself. We forget who we truly are and loose touch with our true self. Have a listen to Sharma’s interview with Robbins and awaken!
Ekhart Tolle’s message is simple: living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment. And while this message may not seem stunningly original or fresh, Tolle’s clear writing, supportive voice, and enthusiasm make this an excellent manual for anyone who’s ever wondered what exactly “living in the now” means. Foremost, Tolle is a world-class teacher, able to explain complicated concepts in concrete language. More importantly, within a chapter of reading this book, readers are already holding the world in a different container–more conscious of how thoughts and emotions get in the way of their ability to live in genuine peace and happiness.
The association of one self to something which is not you may be caused by the ego mind holding onto false self (false identity). Fearing to let go due to loss of its identity. Finding one’s true self is achieved by letting go all that is not you.
Eckhart Tolle said something very powerful on this topic… “Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to “die before you die” — and find that there is no death“.
This is a fable about the importance of seeking a higher purpose in life, even if your flock, tribe, or neighborhood finds your ambition threatening.
"To go anywhere you want you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived." - Jonathan Livingston
“Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight–how to get from shore to food and back again,” … “For most gulls it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight.” Flight is indeed the metaphor that makes the story soar.
The book follows a unique bird named Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Jonathan gets the ultimate payoff: transcendence. Ultimately, he learns the meaning of love and kindness. This is a spirituality classic, and an especially engaging parable for adolescents.
Watch it on Netflix
Inspired by Richard Bach’s best-selling novella Jonathan Livingston Seagull, this live-action family drama follows the quest of a young seagull to transcend the boundaries of his flock.
Malcolm Gladwell delves into the viral life of ideas and the power of gut reactions. Malcolm Gladwell poses a more provocative question in Outliers: why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential?
Superstars don’t arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: “they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.”
Successful people rise on a tide of advantages!
From Mozart to Bill Gates, Malcolm Gladwell builds a convincing case.. “some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky.”
Bits of trivia from the book, Outliers:
Why most pro hockey players were born in January,
how many hours of practice it takes to master a skill – 10,000 Hours – Magic Number for Success?
why the descendants of Jewish immigrant garment workers became the most powerful lawyers in New York,
how a pilots’ culture impacts their crash record,
how a centuries-old culture of rice farming helps Asian kids master math.
Anthony Robbins – Unleash The Power Within – Story
Outliers: The Story of Success book reminded me of Anthony Robbins – Unleash The Power Within, 2mm experience in golfing. How 2mm difference at the put makes a yards difference once the ball is in the air.
Jim Collins explores what makes a great company but looking at a list of 1,435 companies that made the leap and some that did now. Settling on 11–including Fannie Mae, Gillette, Walgreens, and Wells Fargo — and discovered common traits that challenged many of the conventional notions of corporate success.
Making the transition from good to great doesn’t require a high-profile CEO, the latest technology, innovative change management, or even a fine-tuned business strategy.At the heart was a corporate culture that rigorously found and promoted disciplined people to think and act in a disciplined manner.
The book offers a well-reasoned road map to excellence that any organization would do well to consider.
Nuggets of insights
Managing your problems can only make you good, whereas building your opportunities is the only way to become great.
“Stop To-Do list” is more important then the To-Do list.
Greatness is a conscious choice.
Your people aren’t the most important asset, the “right” people are. These people are selected by character attributes and not on specific educational background.
It’s “who you pay” not how you pay. “Hire 5, work them like 10 and pay them like 8”.
Best people do not need to be managed.
Strong people are motivated by performance.
Put your best people on your best opportunities not problems.