By Richard Monaghan, CCIM, broker with Tulsa Properties Inc., Tulsa, OK
The Greatest Sales Stories Ever Told: From the World’s Best Salespeople. Compiled by Robert L. Shook. 247 pages. McGraw-Hill Inc., 1995. $18.95.
Author and insurance salesperson Robert L. Shook has compiled a who’s who of salespeople in an easily digestible format. You’ll read about the sales techniques that made renowned salespeople, such as Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics; Tom Hopkins, real estate trainer and salesperson; Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker; and H. Ross Perot, of political fame, very wealthy.
The 52 short stories are grouped in sections, each of which represents an aspect of the sales process—mental attitude, the initial approach, selling yourself, innovation, selling solutions, creating a sense of urgency, closing the sale, and servicing the customer. At the beginning of each section, Shook tells you what you should expect to learn from the stories that follow.
Although only some of the stories relate to real estate sales, you can apply most of the information to your residential or commercial practice. In fact, the book is a good reminder that, fundamentally, selling is selling regardless of the product or service you represent.
Several well-known real estate professionals are included, and it’s easy to understand why they’re so successful. They possess great people skills—empathy for and commitment to their clients and customers. Take broker Ebby Halliday. She tells how a couple who looked as if they couldn’t buy lunch came to her looking for a home. She treated them like any other buyers. When the time came to purchase, they handed her an envelope filled with a hefty amount of cash for the property.
Some profiles are downright inspiring. Mary Kay Ash was a housewife before she founded the famous cosmetics company. Her career started when a salesperson tried to sell her a set of children’s books for $50. She couldn’t afford them, but the salesperson said if she sold 10 sets, he would give her a set in lieu of a commission. Ash picked up the phone and sold all 10.
Beware, however, of the stories that seem a little too good to be true. Shook tells how he made a presentation to a group of executives at a Fortune 500 company to get their permission to write a book about the company. They gave him the go-ahead in 10 minutes even though they were supposedly notorious for taking their time making decisions. It sounds too simple. Sales don’t usually happen that way.
I also had to put some of the stories in proper perspective. Several sales situations could have been handled only by a veteran salesperson. But the book makes it sound as if less experienced salespeople could apply the principles described and have the same results as the storytellers. I say there’s no substitute for experience.
One inappropriate selling method can only be described—and perceived—as manipulative. A photocopier salesperson used hard-sell tactics, telling prospects that if they didn’t buy that very day, someone else would. That approach can actually alienate you from customers. Honesty and integrity are two qualities that no salesperson can jeopardize and still expect to be successful.
Overall, the book is enjoyable and easy to read. The stories are concise and, for the most part, believable. If you discover only one innovative way to improve your selling skills, you justify the cost of the book and the time you invest reading it. This book easily lives up to that criterion, given the variety of selling situations and the number and caliber of the storytellers.