Richard Simpson, MD of STEM-focused PR agency Six Degrees contributes this book review of Scale Up Millionaire: How to sell your way to a fast growth, high value enterprise by Gordon McAlpine.
I confess, I have never particularly enjoyed the sales side of business. I find nerves always creep in somewhere, no matter how ‘pumped’ I am, and invariably a feeling of guilt that I’m imposing on whoever I am talking to (for which I have my British upbringing very much to blame). As for being on the receiving end of a sales pitch, I have become more tolerant, but still nothing irritates me more than listening to sleazy, meaningless diatribe from a stranger on the end of a phone.
There is an ‘art’ to selling, but, as McAlpine argues, there also needs to be some ‘science’, not least using good CRM tools that can identify genuine prospects, and clearly defined methodical processes that map out your sales journey as part of any scale-up ambitions. Without smart processes in place, that ‘art’ is in danger of becoming a bit too abstract – or bullsh*t!
The book breaks the sales process down into simple to understand guides, with lots of analogies to successes in sport, as well as drawing on compelling expertise from other sales and marketing gurus. The fact that McAlpine’s background is in sales and is now, among other things, a motivational speaker comes across in the tone and language in the book. He might be guilty of using a few too many exclamation marks throughout, but it makes for a very easy and enjoyable read.
Included in the book is a comprehensive analysis of the ‘6-step scale-up process’ -proposition, passion, pipeline, people, performance and precision. He also includes a best-practice model that breaks any sales meeting down into four carefully planned quarters, helping you to ensure your time – and that of your audience – is optimised and focused on the end goal.
The advice given is largely based on McAlpine’s experience of selling tangible tech products – although at the heart of successfully selling products, as he points out, sits the need to identify the potential for your company to deliver “significant value”. That rule of thumb can be applied to services just as much as products, so there is plenty in here for any business or organisation keen to get more people to buy in to their proposition.
He also addresses some commonly held myths around selling, and its diverse practitioners. Good practice is not ‘just a numbers game’; first and foremost it needs to be about feeding quality leads into the pipeline, and using the channels and tools now available as part of the digital age. Cold-calling is a thing of the past. What is important as part of a ‘pull’ approach, is connecting with customers through social networks and emails, for example, so that when you do call them those calls don’t feel quite so cold. And, selling shouldn’t be about ‘manipulation’. As he puts it, “If you have a good product, a strong proposition and are focussing on the right prospects, making a sale is as much in their interests as it is in yours”.
If you have a good product, a strong proposition and are focussing on the right prospects, making a sale is as much in their interests as it is in yours.
My biggest takeaway from the book is a reminder of the importance of founders and CEOs to lead from the front – with no excuses. If you’re ducking out claiming you “don’t have time”, you need to make time. And fear, as he rightly explains, can be overcome with planning and practice. The reality is that many small businesses can’t afford to hire a sales team at the start of their journey, and even if you can or are already further along that growth path, any entrepreneur wanting to succeed needs to at the very least take on a player-manager role to help shape and drive the sales process. Because like or not, without sales you can’t grow.
If you’re new to sales and looking for a solid primer, this is a good book for you. If you’re a seasoned salesperson the book can provide a good refresher, but you might find your time is better spent reading something else.