Book Review “Buyer Centered Selling” by Thomas Williams & Thomas Saine
While many sales books focus on the activities of sellers or sales managers, this book is centered around the buyers — without them nothing will ever be bought or sold. Thomas Williams and Thomas Saine published it as an addition to their earlier work “The Seller’s Challenge” to include the buyer’s dilemmas into the picture. The authors didn’t want to create another sales methodology or a process-driven step-by-step program to follow. Instead they rather provide a mindset shift to take the buyer into the centre of all related sales activities. It is up to the reader to transition this philosophical approach into daily practice.
Thomas Williams founded his advisory firm Strategic Dynamics to consult clients with his 35+ years in sales, marketing and operations which he spent mostly on the medical device and service industry. Adding his science background explains his experience in selling to the healthcare sector. Thomas Saine adds sales management expertise out of his sales leadership roles and his teaching roles at universities. As a result, both authors adopted their knowledge in a combined way to the challenges of the sales profession.
The subtitle “How modern sellers engage and collaborate with buyers” represents the completed and applied book which spans over eleven chapters. The story flow introduces the two roles buyer and seller before adapting a customer’s buying journeys. The chapters offer a lot of practical advice, e.g. executing a buyer-centered discovery or learn adopting to the behavioural styles of the buyers in a Jekyll to Hyde transition mode. A key chapter covers the risk averse buyer with 12 different risk types to consider (and recommended actions for each of them). Every non-transactional B2B sales leads to a transformation associated with risk which sellers can now see from the buyer side. The remaining chapters range from selling to executive levels further to closing secrets with the buyer in mind.
This book provides a range of wake-up moments with some sentences quickly jumping out of the context as transferable quotes. As a trained musician I like this example: “The challenge for the seller is to bring unity to a chorus of different voices singing in a different key.” Tom and Tom described the reflection mindset well: “Buyers see sellers as solution architects, not as product purveyors.” I wish all sellers would see themselves in the same way, then the next quote would be valid: “It’s about becoming a valued consultant, a change specialist, or a team member — depending on the skill set and advice your buyer needs.”
Despite the earlier mentioned philosophical mindset, this book is highly relevant for practical usage as a toolkit full of strategies. The vast amount of questions to ask the buyer is not coming out of classic sales training which we all attended. In the contrary, many pages provide a feeling of “Good idea, I can implement this right now”. It is thus more of a workbook than a theoretical encyclopaedia. The authors use clarity and precision in their language to achieve this relevance in the view of the reader.
This book is special to me as it is one of the very few to take buyers into the centre. Their role is often covered with concrete examples to illustrate the buyer’s dilemma: “I feel like a patient in a hospital. After becoming acquainted with the various diagnostic equipment, I’m expected to diagnose and treat my own illness.” This approach turns the reader into reflection of their own habits resulting in the immediate desire to adapt accordingly.
The future book writer will find a lot of inspiration in this oeuvre from Thomas & Thomas. The chapters include several guidelines, questions, lists like objections or mistakes to avoid and a range of case studies. The summaries at the end of each section provide key points to remember and a skill challenge where readers state their chosen direction to apply in daily life. Especially the ongoing mirror of the buyer’s view adds a psychological element to allow the readers applying the learning onto concrete situations they are facing with their clients.
Q&A with Thomas Williams
1. What was the deciding moment to write this book?
Tom and I had lunch one day and talked about the types of questions we were receiving during meals or drinks when we facilitated various sales methodology courses. Many of the questions we received weren’t about the methodology programs we were facilitating. Instead they were about specific sales challenges that the sales representative was experiencing and that were frustrating them. As an example, how do I understand and align to my customers buying process? How do I resuscitate a stalled sales opportunity? How do I sell to risk adverse buyers? We decided to write a book about these types of sales challenges that are encountered daily by sales professionals. Between this book “Buyer Cantered Selling” and our first book “The Sellers Challenge” we have covered the majority of challenges or obstacles that frustrate sales professionals.
2. How long did it take from concept to launch?
About three years total. We wrote “Buyer Centered Selling” and “The Sellers Challenge” simultaneously. We published them a year apart and separately.
3. How did you perform the research to create the practical content?
Before we wrote each chapter, we researched everything that we could find on the topic. We read most of the sales books, a plethora of blogs and watched a lot of YouTube videos.
4. What was the biggest challenge along the process (and how did you overcome it)?
It was tough to stop writing and say “This is the finished product, let’s publish it”. We were learning something new every day so there was a tendency to continually want to revise a chapter and add more information or add an additional table, Addendum etc.
5. What was your own reflection along the journey?
Writing is invigorating but hard work. It takes time and effort. I would also add that Marketing the book has been harder and taken more time than writing the book.
6. What is the outcome in having this book available?
It’s allowed us to be invited on podcasts, meet the authors who have been our mentors and who provide us with inspiration, and it’s created a nice spike to our business. We still prospect aggressively but with this book and our first book “The Sellers Challenge” being available more people know about us and contact us by phone and E-Mail. It’s a great feeling when prospects contact you.
7. What would you advise others about writing their book?
My advice would be to do it. Don’t procrastinate. I talk to people every day who say I’d like to write a book, or I have been writing a book for “X” years but still have a lot of work to do to complete it. Start with an outline and commit to writing for a certain amount of time each day. Make it a discipline and get your thoughts on paper. Don’t worry about making it perfect. You will go through several revisions and will have time later to polish it.
Thomas Williams & Thomas Saine: “Buyer Centered Selling”, Scottsdale AR: Strategic Dynamics, August 2019, 978–1–948974–04–2 (Hardcover), ISBN 978–1–948974–05–9 (Paperback), ISBN 978–1–948974–06–6 (eBook) or Kindle
More about the authors: www.strategicdynamicsfirm.com
About the reviewer: Gunnar Habitz helps organisations to advance social as highest performing customer engagement channel. Turning his passion for Social Selling into a profession, he enjoys providing value and insight as Senior Partner & Alliance Manager at Hootsuite along the mission to champion the power of human connection. As a Chartered Manager at the Institute of Managers and Leaders (IML), he mentors the next generation of leaders. Find more content about leadership, networking and #socialselling on www.gunnarhabitz.com.au.