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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your customer wants strategic value not commodities
I really enjoyed this book on sales. It is a topic with forests of books in print. Many cover the same core principles, while others have found ways of putting swamp gas in print. This is one of those that has something good to say and does it concisely.

We have all heard and experienced the vastly increased competition, the compressed product life cycles,...
Published on January 19, 2008 by Craig Matteson

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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing New Here.
This book could have been written 10-15 years ago. In one sentence: protect margin by adding value through service. That's it. The material is so basic and repetitious that I found it very tedious to just finish reading the book in hopes of learning something.

If you want easy to read business books with current thinking, take a look at Seth Godin's collection...
Published on February 3, 2008 by Chris Reich


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your customer wants strategic value not commodities, January 19, 2008
I really enjoyed this book on sales. It is a topic with forests of books in print. Many cover the same core principles, while others have found ways of putting swamp gas in print. This is one of those that has something good to say and does it concisely.

We have all heard and experienced the vastly increased competition, the compressed product life cycles, the adoption and dismissal of business strategy fads, and much more. Here Ram Charan introduces his idea about the Value Account Plan and not trying to compete on lower prices and thinner margins.

The idea is to get to know your customer intimately. You have to use everyone in your organization and gather everything anyone knows about your customers. What does their org chart and reporting structure look like? How do they make decisions? Who are the strategic decision makers? What are their key concerns? There is obviously much more to know and the point is to gather it all, put it together and the look at it to see your customer clearly. Where there are gaps, work to fill them in.

Once you really understand your customer, you can match and tailor your resources to provide value in ways that your customer does not yet expect or understand. You can match your expertise and products to help your customers accomplish their most strategic goals and make yourself a partner in their success instead of a purveyor of commodities at the lowest prices.

I think it is a terrific book and approach. But it means organizing your sales effort through the WHOLE company rather than just beating up on the account rep and his or her boss. Are you up for it?

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Value Creation Can Transform the Selling Process, December 26, 2007
In all of his previous books (notably Execution co-authored with Larry Bossidy and then Know-How), Ram Charan focuses his attention on how to achieve and then sustain superior organizational performance. Another earlier work, What the CEO Wants You to Know, is an excellent companion for What the Customer Wants You to Know because it helps those in sales - as well as those who supervise them -- to understand the customer's business more broadly. In fact, the inspiration for the Customer book came from the CEO book. Charan explains in it why traditional sales approaches are unable to satisfy what customers want salespeople to know: How their business works and how they can make it work better. "The heart of the new approach to selling is an intense focus on the prosperity of your customers." Value Creation Selling (VCS) is the foundation of what Charan recommends.

He notes that VCS is "sweepingly different from how most companies sell today in these five ways: "First, you as a seller and your organization devote large amounts of time and energy - much more than you do today - to learning about your customers' businesses in great detail...Second, you use capabilities and tools that you've never used before to understand how your customers do business and how you can help them improve that business...Third, you're going to make it your business to know not only your customers but also your customers' customers...Fourth, you have to recognize that the execution of this new approach will require much longer cycle times to produce an order and generate revenue...Finally, top management in your company will have to reengineer its recognition and reward system to make sure that the organization as a whole is fostering the behaviors that will make the new sales approach effective."

In this volume, Charan examines these and other issues in great detail and with meticulous care. Having briefly identified the "what," he then devotes most of his attention to HOW. For example:

1. How to fix "the broken sales process"
2. How to become a customer's trusted partner
3. How to formulate the "Value Account Plan"
4. How to create a Vale Creation Sales Force
5. How to make the sale
6. How to sustain the VCS process
7. How to take VCS to the next level

Earlier I referred to Charan's somewhat more narrow focus as he explains why traditional sales approaches are unable to satisfy what customers want salespeople to know. That's true but it should be noted that Charan views the VCS process - if properly formulated and then effectively implemented - should directly or at least directly involve everyone within the given enterprise. In fact, because the VCS process is information-driven, he strongly recommends that external sources also be utilized to obtain the information needed about each customer and its business. Those sources include online and electronic business media as well as vendors and research analysts within the given marketplace. Thorough as always, Charan even suggests what kinds of questions should be asked to determine specific information needs and objectives.

Organic growth is at the top of every company's agenda. Many growth strategies do not get the right mileage because the sales function remains in the previous age. This book proposes value creation selling as a way to differentiate any business from its competitors. It enables the sales forces to break out from what Charan considers "commoditization hell." Here's a key point: When a customer sees that the selling company is creating value on a consistent basis better than anyone else's offering, the sales force has a better chance to sustain more profitable pricing.

Near the conclusion of the book he observes: "Transforming a sales force from transactional selling to one that creates value for the customer is a long journey...Every part of the company has to put the customer first...Virtually every company will have among its customers some who are progressive and fully understand the value of collaborating with their suppliers to the mutual benefit of both. Start there, and don't turn back...Above all, value creation selling will spur your company to come up with new ideas and innovations that will continually differentiate it in the highly competitive business environment of the twenty-first century. It is the pathway to a prosperous future."

Charan then offers an appendix that can help each reader to diagnose the state of value creation selling in her or his own company, once the VCS process is underway. He recommends that this self-audit of 15 key components be evaluated using a scale of 1 to 10 (from "definitely not" to "definitely yes") and that it be completed four times a year. This same self-audit can also be used to assess the company in relation to its competition.

After I read this book and then began to organize my thoughts about it before composing this review, it occurred to me that everything Charan recommends is also relevant to business development initiatives because prospects as well as current customers favor those who have obviously made a great effort to know how their business works and how they can make it work better. Granted, current customers are generally more inclined to share information than are prospective customers. Nonetheless, in my opinion, those in sales who do their homework gain a decisive competitive advantage because of their "an intense focus on the [prospect's] prosperity."

If you share my high regard for this book, I urge you to check out the aforementioned What the CEO Wants You to Know, Execution and Know-How as well as If Only We Knew What We Know co-authored by Carla O'Dell and C. Jackson Grayson, Patrick Lencioni's Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, and Creating New Wealth from IP Assets co-authored by Robert Shearer and other members of the National Knowledge & Intellectual Property Management Taskforce.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing New Here., February 3, 2008
This book could have been written 10-15 years ago. In one sentence: protect margin by adding value through service. That's it. The material is so basic and repetitious that I found it very tedious to just finish reading the book in hopes of learning something.

If you want easy to read business books with current thinking, take a look at Seth Godin's collection of offerings.

Regrettably, many books are now being hyped by a "system". Authors have a few friends post rave reviews to pump duds. This is one of them.

Chris Reich
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Sales 101 but Basic Sales 100, February 25, 2010
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This book has taken a basic Sales Class and provided new terminology to old techniques with really nothing new at all. To go out and find a few companies that were using the wrong tactics and then turned it around using the right tactics is not a new miracle cure for the industry. Their main theme called "Value Creation Selling" has been around for many decades. The book is not wrong in what it is teaching but it is stuff that I learned under a different title many years ago. Not quite up to Dale Carnegie standards. Your money would be better spent on a book called "How to Win Friends and Influence People". This is not a waste of time but is really nothing new.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yesterday's News, February 18, 2008
Ram Charan has authored some excellent books - this isn't one of them. It's basically a reminder of something fundamental that should have been undertaken long ago.

The basic message is that instead of focusing on your product and the customer's typical price fixation, get to understand the customer's situation - his problems, goals, and how you and your company can help improve their margins and revenue growth. To achieve this, one also should get to know one's customers' customers.

Follow-up to insure this is taking place is important - Charan suggests doing so in sales review meetings. The bad news, however, is that more and more products have become commodities - thus, price will remain the focus, no matter how much you'd like to do more for the customer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Insights on Account Driven Sales, May 30, 2008
I have not read all books written by Ram Charan, but picked up this one since it was show-cased as "New Arrivals" in my neighborhood bookshop. I started with the expectation on relationship management, but found it is intended to be different. Nevertheless, the topic is very much relevant, and should be read by everybody concerned with some kind of sales (direct or indirect).

Mr. Charan brought out one very crucial point that reflects the change in sales process: The sale is not a pure bid game anymore. The sales person needs to graduate himself/herself to the level of a consultant where he/she should be able to understand what the customer desires. In case when the customer is also a seller (Ram picked up the example of retail stores as customers of the manufacturers), it's important to understand the customer of the customers and align the products accordingly.

One aspect of sales I thought missing in this book was the sales through the vertically integrated organizations. Let's take an example of textile fiber manufacturer. It takes polyester as input. The polyester in turn takes ethylene glycol as input. Ethylene Glycol is the byproduct of petroleum refine process. Technically speaking, all these are to be separately run factories and hence can be run as separate companies. How these companies will sell to its downstream counter parts? The situation may get a little simplified if a conglomerate starts owning the entire vertical chain, but still capacity balance issues may pose some interesting challenges.

However, the book has been a good reading. I have already purchased the next book of Ram Charan (The Game Changer). Hopefully, I will learn more about innovation this time, and will return back to let you know how it feels!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On Value Creation Selling, March 3, 2008
In this short and instructive text on how to move away from commoditization and low price selling, author and respected business advisor Ram Charan uses storytelling, real business situations, and instructional examples to explain Value Creation Selling (VCS).

Charan starts by declaring the traditional sales method - representative calling on purchasing agent - a broken process; it relies to heavily on a single point relationship and only considers the cost side of the customer equation. The fix is VCS, which requires that you become a partner with your customer. To become a partner you need to know the following:
1) The customer's set of opportunities and the anatomy of the competitive dynamics
2) The customer's customers and the customers competitors
3) How decisions are made in the customer's organization
4) The customer's company culture, its dominant psychology and values
5) The customer's goals and priorities, both short-term and long-term, clearly and specifically
Thus, it is the quality and breath of understanding and not just the quantity of customer data that is needed in order to present your value proposition and its business benefits for the customer.

In explaining the how-to for moving toward a partnering approach, Charan addresses both the change management aspects of this paradigm shift and the mechanics for involving the broader organization in preparing a customer Value Account Plan for making the sale. By doing so, Charan demonstrates his grasp of practical business management issues and makes this book worth the read. If your business is pursuing something more than a low-price strategy, but still using sales approaches that rely on the your rep `winning' the business, this book is for you.

Dennis DeWilde, author of "The Performance Connection"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Sales-Force Led Approach to Helping Customers Succeed, February 18, 2008
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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Peter Drucker first described the importance of helping customers be more successful in serving their customers as a strategic issue. As such, most students of business leadership and management have favored analyzing what you as a supplier can do to help customers succeed, adding new capabilities that fit those customer needs, and focusing on customers where you can add the most value. More recently, Michael Porter has developed quite a reputation for spelling out some of the sources of potential advantage to pass along to customers in serving their customers.

The principles behind this book have been employed for over a century by many consumer products companies (such as Procter & Gamble) who knew that retailers wouldn't succeed if consumers and users didn't gain demonstrable advantages from their offerings. Industrial products companies have often been slower to adopt that perspective. Why? Many times their customers felt like they knew more than any supplier and didn't want to be bothered to hear suggestions.

Ram Charan argues that customers are more open than ever to letting you propose and implement valuable improvements to their operations that accelerate sales, increase profit margins, reduce capital needs, and lock out their competitors. He offers no proof for that proposition other than a few case examples of companies that have implemented his approach. My own experience is that it is difficult to get customers to tell you enough about their needs to propose what they actually need. My clients tell the same story.

Curiously, he ignores the whole question of learning more about customers' needs to serve customers to set a corporate vision and strategy. Indeed, his approach seems to assume that you stick with the same customers. Now, in most industries there are more unserved potential customers than actual customers for a given company so I don't know why he assumed that.

In most companies that take such strategic stances, the data gathering and strategy setting occur at the senior level. Then, the sales process is adjusted to reflect the new realities.

Mr. Charan, by contrast, feels that the senior people can train the sales people to find out what customer needs are in serving their customers and to coordinate responses to meet those needs. My own sense is that it depends on the capacity of the salespeople and the relationships they have with their customers.

But if you are convinced that salespeople should drive your strategy, this book is a pretty good resource for spelling that out and telling you what to do. The book combines a fable with case histories and process suggestions.

The book is completely silent on the following subjects:

1. How to use the sales force to check out what can be done to make customers more successful by making their customers' customers more successful.

2. How to select the customers where you can have the greatest advantage over competitors in serving with this approach.

3. Using feedback from customers to direct development activities.

In a sense, it's as though Mr. Charan tried to write the equivalent of The Balanced Scorecard and The Strategy-Focused Organization . . . but by putting sales people at the center. I think the title was mainly chosen to follow along with his book about CEOs, rather than reflecting the topic suggested by the title.

Unless you are committed to this approach, you can skip this book.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Radically New Selling Solution For Today's Hyper-Competition, December 27, 2007
Best selling author, Ram Charan, has trained his sights on the selling process in "What the Customer Wants You to Know." A process, according to Charan, that has dates back one hundred years and is in dire need of a makeover.

He begins with historical review of the selling process:
* The early 1900s - supplies were tight, suppliers held the cards, and salesmen were order takers.
* The 40s, 50s, 60s and continuing well into the 70s - the traditional, product oriented sales approach, where the salesperson was a presenter of information and the product was more important than the client.
* The 60s and 70s - the concept of needs-benefit selling developed. Salespeople worked to find client needs, then showed how their products or services filled those needs.
* The 70s until today - consultative selling in which the salesperson conducts a needs analysis, investing time to listen to the potential buyer and asking questions to uncover financial ability to buy as well as primary needs and wants, attitudes and concerns.

But today we have a different world, one in which we have a glut of supplies and suppliers and an Internet which corrects an imbalance of information making access easier and pricing more competitive. There is need for a radical change in the sales process, one that can free the supplier from today's commoditization and low prices.

The radical change Charan proposes and outlines in "What Your Customer Wants You to Know" is centered an intense focus on the prosperity of the customer; what the customer is focused on - accelerating growth and cash flow to fuel growth. Today, the measure of success should be measured by how well the customer is doing.

To accomplish this, Charan details Value Creation Selling, the Value Account Plan, and a Sales Apprenticeship program. Value Creation Selling focuses on what the selling organization must know, the capabilities and tools required, and how success should be tracked to make it effective. The Value Account Plan provides an organizational framework to insure information is communicated consistently and that the value proposition attached to each account is front and center. And the Apprenticeship Program provides a structure for successful implementation. Examples (Mead Westvaco, Anheuser-Busch, General Mills, Thomson Financial, and EDS) of successful adoption of are included.

Charan's plan while radical, leads to differentiation, better pricing, better margins and higher revenue growth. The program builds on what customers want us to know today - a desire to have suppliers help them accomplish their objectives by acting as partners, not as one-time transactors.

"What Your Customer Wants You To Know" is organized around the following eight headings:

* The problem with sales
* Fixing the broken sales process.
* How to become your customer's true partner.
* The Value Proposition Account Plan
* Developing the Value Creation Sales Force.
* Making the sale
* Sustaining the process: Top management's imperative.
* Taking Valuation Creation Selling to the Next level.

Charan's must read "What The Customer Wants You To Know" provides a much needed look at a new selling solution for the hyper-competition most companies are experiencing today. One that requires a new focus - on the customer's accelerating growth and cash flow to fuel growth.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative -- his book transforms how we need to re-think how we go to market with our customers., March 25, 2014
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Book is an easy read -- very informative -- it is easy to understand and the recommendations are very practical and make great sense.
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What the Customer Wants You to Know: How Everybody Needs to Think Differently about Sales
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