Jo Van Crombruggen, Associate at Minds&More, is an expert in capturing value and growth by creating sustainable turnaround for companies through marketing, sales and transformation. In this article, Jo shares with us his selection of the most inspiring business books to read during the summer break.

1. Aligning Strategy and Sales. The Choices, Systems and Behaviors That Drive Effective Selling by Frank V. Cespedes

WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?

This book offers a broader perspective on sales, marketing and strategy alignment, revealing a set of linkages between these different fields such as explained in the following cases:

  • A combination of corporate strategy and market and customer characteristics dictates the Sales tasks. A generic sales process will be highly unlikely to be optimal for a company—unless your strategy is also generic, in which case you’ve got a different kind of problem.
  • Sales tasks dictate selling behaviors. You need to know what you are trying to accomplish before you can determine how to accomplish it.
  • Sales behaviors dictate sales hiring, sales systems, and the sales environment. These three elements are the levers that will enable you to get the behaviors you need to execute the sales tasks to apply your strategy on the market.

The author knows that achieving success in sales isn’t simple. Executives are adjusting their strategies in response to a host of variables. Salespeople are changing their processes and adjusting their behaviors to the ever-changing conditions in the field. Sales managers are coming and going. Sales incentives are constantly changed based on inventory levels and margins and demand. “In any situation where you have interacting variables like this, you must confront the interactions and diagnose the problem,” he says. “That’s what’s needed to improve selling and strategy.”

Chapter by chapter, the author deconstructs the big picture, explaining how to tell where there are disconnects in linkages and how to approach the job of repairing them. It is no rocket science—but in a business world where sales is often seen as a black box and sales misses are addressed by firing underperformers, giving big signing bonuses to new managers and salespeople, and chucking money at motivational speakers, this book is well worth a profound reading by sales managers, sales directors, CEO’s and CCO’s.

Why Is It Worth Reading?

Most sales books are only focusing on sales processes or sales skills. In Aligning Strategy and Sales, Cespedes enlarges the frame in order to show us the big picture.

2. What’s The Future Of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences by Brian Solis

WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?

The volume of emerging technologies can overwhelm even the best of us. Yet, it’s impacting business and society alike. In recent years, many top 500 Fortune companies have slipped out of contention as their business models failed to keep up in these turbulent times. Survival requires constantly adapting as your customers’ behavior changes. You need to put new systems, processes, and intentions in place to recognize disruption as it happens, assess new opportunities, and quickly test new ideas. The main question remains: is your company equipped to change with your customers? Is it ready and able to create meaningful experiences that keep them hooked? If not, it’s time to understand not only how customers are changing but also how they’re sharing experiences about your company and the competition. This is where real transformation begins. So prepare and become futureproof by adapting your company’s structure and your business model.

Why is it worth reading?

If we’re not in the business of creating amazing experiences for our customers, what business are we really in? Brian Solis enables us to take a break and reflect on ourselves in this great reading.

 3. Made To Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?

This well-structured and inspiring book builds itself around six concepts:

  • Simplicity – sticky ideas are inherently simple
  • Unexpectedness – this is how you capture people’s attention and hold it
  • Concreteness – helping people understand and remember your idea later
  • Credibility – ensuring your idea is believable is paramount to it sticking
  • Emotional – tapping into emotions is how you get people to care
  • Stories – get people to act on your idea by telling stories

Why is it worth reading?

Because this is one of the most thought-provoking books on marketing published within the latest decade. After reading this book, my thinking about what makes an idea “stick” has completely changed.

4. Customer Innovation by Marion Debruyne

WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?

A new set of organisations has discovered a new formula. They combine customer centricity with innovative power.  These organisations have created a completely outside-in approach to the market.

They are not driven by what they’re good at.

They start with the market and design their own strategy around it. They replace the practices of the past with a new set of capabilities, which enable them to beahead of the curve in discovering new market opportunities. This allows them to develop new products and services faster than ever before. Whereas the traditional value chain model regards the market as the end-outcome of the efforts of the organisation, the reversed value chain model starts there.

The customer is the starting point and the value chain is the result of understanding customer needs and requirements. This book offers a great overview packed with real world examples from a range of leading   global companies including Disney, Coca-Cola Company.

Why is it worth reading?

Must-read book on innovation. Offers insights and a toolkit to become futureproof as an organization using innovation and customer-centricity.

5. Gamechangers by Peter Fisk

WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?

It’s about focus, growth and change. It offers cases and insights on finding new revenue streams. Strategy is not a buzz word. It’s fundamental for any possible sustainable growth. Strategic implementation is a journey, with many horizons. Whilst defining a new direction and potential destination is relatively easy, getting there is harder. It takes time and resources. It requires a migration from old to new worlds, changing people and actions inside and outside.

Horizon-based planning is a more effective way to plan the phases of implementation in such a way that they are progressive, reducing time and risk, but also have more impact in each phase, not just at the end. The horizons are progressive, in the sense that they build towards the completion of the strategy. They are similar to ‘S-curves’ in some models. However, the coherence of the progression is mostly external;finding a narrative that builds over time offers more to the customer at each phase, with specific ‘icons’ that capture attention and imagination.

Why is it worth reading?

Very inspiring book that helps to achieve sustainable growth.

These icons might be new product releases, additional parts to a bigger solution, or additional ‘gestures’ in terms of service or relationship. At the same time, there is an internal coherence to get right.

This book is about building and evolving platforms, establishing the base for a new business or experience, and then building on it over time. It also requires time-based thinking. Some developments, particularly complex technology-based innovations, will take more time. Being able to develop future horizons in parallel with delivering initial horizons is important. The outside-in sequencing of horizons also drives new revenue streams that can either fund, or reduce the risk of later horizons.