In his latest book, “A Seat at the Table,” Marc Miller proposes nothing less than a totally different approach to selling; an approach based on a very simple concept; namely, that the only thing customers care about these days is value.  Not price, not product performance, but value.  For many sales professionals, especially those from the old “hard sell” school, this is a concept that borders on heresy.  For them, the name of the game is outmaneuvering the competition by selling the product at a competitive price.  It’s as simple as that.

If you accept the premise that customers only care about value, then the next question is; what does the word “value” mean when used in the context of Miller’s approach to selling?  As it turns out, it could mean many different things, depending on the customer’s needs. Value could mean knowledge help; brainstorming help; idea help; analytic help; creativity help; collaborative help; or strategic help.  This list suggests that the operative word in describing a customer’s definition of value is “help.” 

But as you read further in Miller’s book you quickly conclude that there is a second, operative word; and that word is “strategic.”  So in a nutshell, it appears that when he discusses a customer’s need for value he is really describing a need for “strategic help.” If the key to successful sales is to stop selling and start helping the customers, how qualified are today’s sales personnel to provide strategic help?  In a section of the book titled “A New Enemy,” Miller described a survey conducted   among the customers of a large Fortune 500 company.  When asked to rate the company’s sales force on their ability to provide strategic help, the customers gave it a rating of 4.1 on a scale of 10.  When asked the same question, the sales force gave itself a rating of 9.9!  This disconnect in perception calls to mind an old line from Walt Kelley’s cartoon strip Pogo; namely “we have met the enemy and they are us.”

Miller believes that the only proven way to increase sales productivity is to deliver new and different forms of value. To do that, salespeople must become experts in their customers’ businesses and help them generate better results. Furthermore, those who learn to evolve from “salespeople” to “businesspeople who sell” will earn them a seat at the table–the place reserved for those select people who guide the strategic direction of an enterprise.  Hence, the title of the book.

A few months ago I reviewed a book entitled “The Hard Truth About Soft Selling.”  The selling principles outlined in that book are diametrically opposed to those described in “A Place at the Table.”  This tells me that the Hard Sell vs. Soft Sell controversy is still alive and well. 

Nevertheless, Marc Miller’s latest book is extremely well written and very persuasive.  It is a must read for all sales professionals regardless of which side of the issue they come down on.  I strongly recommend it.

Title:  A Seat at the Table Author:  Marc Miller 

Publisher:  Greenleaf Book Group Press 

Publisher Address:  PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709 

Publisher Phone Number and URL:  512-891-6100, www.greenleafbookgroup.com

ISBN, Price, Publication Date:  978-1-929774-69-2, $19.95, 2009 

Four Stars Reviewed by: Ron Standerfer for Reader Views (April/2009)

Ron Standerfer is a freelance writer and photographer who is a frequent contributor Blogger News Network as well as numerous other online news sites. His latest novel, The Eagle’s Last Flight chronicles the life of an Air Force fighter pilot during the Cold War and Vietnam years. Details of his book can be found at http://www.ronstanderfer.com. 

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