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"The Book on Business"
May 2003
by the Business Librarians at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Previous Issues

The Certifiable Salesperson: The Ultimate Guide to Help Any Salesperson Go Crazy with Unprecedented Sales!
By Tom Hopkins and Laura Laaman. John Wiley & Sons, 2003.

Congratulations! You've just been hired as a salesperson! As soon as you master the information about the product or service, you'll be ready to begin. Success is sure to follow or is it? Product knowledge is essential, of course, but there are many less obvious aspects that need to be mastered as well. If you are interested in finding out what you really need to know, this book is for you.

Before you go out on your appointment, you should research the prospective customer's company and industry. (Here's where the public library can help.) Then it's time to focus on mental preparation for the upcoming meeting. Do you project enthusiasm and sincerity? Are you aware of how your voice and word choices sound to others? If you end a statement with an upward inflection, it projects uncertainty, but a downward tone projects confidence in your statements. Check this out in your day-to-day conversations; you might be surprised how you could be undermining your effectiveness without realizing it.

It has been shown that people are influenced by body language far more than by words. You'll learn how positive (or negative) actions can influence the outcome of your presentation. You will also develop the "people-reading" skills that will help you relate to the individual you are dealing with, since the same presentation style does not work with everyone.

The ancient Socratic method of asking great questions in a sequential manner encourages the customer to take an active role in arriving at possible solutions to his problem. Then you can "gently build a sense of urgency" so the customer will understand what might be lost (or not gained) by not moving ahead with your recommendations.

Unlike professions such as medicine, law and accounting, sales does not have a professional licensing or certification program. The authors, who are master sales trainers, believe that salespeople must meet a set of high standards, thus becoming "certifiable", if their profession is to get the respect it deserves.

What makes The "Certifiable Salesman" stand out from similar books available in bookstores and in the library? It is ideal for busy people because it is easy to read and gets right to the point. Every step of the sales process is dissected to "give you the specific, real-world actions a salesperson must take to move from an average performer to an exceptional sales pro." Whether you are a novice or a veteran road warrior, this guide will definitely help you improve your skills and your commissions.

Momentum: How Companies Become Unstoppable Market Forces
by Ron Ricci and John Volkmann. Harvard Business School Press, 2003.

Momentum, a principle in physics, equals mass times velocity, with velocity further defined by speed and direction. In business terms, mass is a product's value to the customer. Speed is a company's ability to keep up with the pace of technology change. Direction is knowledge of where the market is headed. And momentum is what all companies desire.

Authors Ricci and Volkmann introduce the concept of momentum as a unique business model for the digital market which includes products and services as widely varied as cell phones, Internet auctions, and word processing software. These products are all similar, however, in that their development is characterized by constant motion; unlike soft drinks and toothpaste, they are continually evolving. After sifting through the results of 20,000 interviews with customers of digital products, the authors have devised a way to craft a business strategy based on increasing those basic components of momentum: mass, speed and direction.

One way to build mass, or product value, is to solve a problem in a customer's life or work. Business customers must feel that they have gained a competitive edge if they buy from a high momentum supplier. Parents must believe that their child's future depends on having the right computer. The Japanese company NTT DoCoMo sold its instant messaging system to characteristically shy Japanese teenagers who could use it to meet each other discreetly. This product migrated very successfully to bolder American teenagers, who still find its anonymity and distancing useful.

Another way is create symbiotic partnerships, such as Adobe did with Hewlett Packard, Nokia, and Or develop a simple way for consumers to assess digital products, such as Intel did when it created the principle of megahertz, an easily understandable measurement for the processing performance of microchips.

The speed factor arises from a company's ability to convince customers that it leads the pace of change in its arena. The book explains how, in this respect, Real Networks has managed to beat the colossus Microsoft in the media-streaming business, and why AT&T keeps lagging behind its competitors.

Direction, the third important component in momentum, comes from predicting one's customer's future business model. John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, memorably made the declaration that "voice will be free," sending shock waves through Cisco's own customers, the telephone companies. The CEO's role in setting the direction for a company used to be limited to designing a vision for its employees to follow. Now these increasingly visible cultural icons, such as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, prove their worth by delivering a compelling view of the future to the outside world, and increasing their company's value in the process.

In the currently cloudy state of high tech industry, you may quake at making a decision about whose software or hardware to purchase, or whether to invest in the company itself. Momentum will give you some tools to identify the digital leaders of the future.

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Also recommended are:

A Free Nation Deep in Debt: The Financial Roots of Democracy
by James Macdonald. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.

The First National Bank of Dad: The Best Way to Teach Kids About Money
by David Owen. Simon & Schuster, 2003.

Clash of the Titans: How the Unbridled Ambition of Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch Has Created Global Empires That Control What We Read and Watch
by Richard Hack. New Milennium, 2003.

Contact the business librarians, who also answer questions about business, money, and work, at (412) 281-7141 or at

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