Every little helped
In his 14 years as CEO of Tesco, Sir Terry Leahy turned the company into the largest retailer in the UK and established a large presence abroad. In Management in 10 words (RH Business Books, £20) he tells us how he did it.
Early on he realises that company heads “have focused on what they are selling, not whom they are selling to”. He wanted to create an “emotional bond” between Tesco and the customers so they would keep coming back.
So, for instance, came the Tesco loyalty card that allowed the company to build up a huge database on what customers liked and disliked.
Leahy warns against boosting profits in the short term by increasing prices or cutting value “but destroy customer loyalty in the long run”.
He is also a great fan of competition but accepts that retail “is one of the most brutal industries there is”. Margins are slim “and it’s a fight for survival”.
Leahy explains in detail how he took on the German discounters Aldi and Lidl with a separate range of cheaper products and talks of Tesco’s expansion abroad, eventually entering 13 new markets overseas.
This is a good manual for any enthusiastic sales professional and shows what can be done, with determination.
Sales people have always been central to business and in The Strategist by Cynthia A, Montgomery (Collins, £20) we find out why.
The book is based on classes given by the author at Harvard Business School and looks at the qualities needed in a leader and their essential purpose: why their company matters.
She gives examples of businesses that have made mistakes, sometimes fatally, and businesses that have steered a true path to success.
One example is Ingvar Kamprad, founder of flatpack furniture group IKEA. “Trading was in my blood,” he said. At about five he started selling boxes of matches and added to the range until he was able to open his first store at 25.
Also worthy of mention in the world of sales is Laura Young of Brighton Collectibles ladies’ accessories business who decided the people who sold its products were the company’s customers because “they were the ones whose dedication could most influence consumer’s purchase decisions”.
Brighton also keeps the sales associates engaged with a steady flow of creative motivational events, seminars and other opportunities to learn about the brand. Many other names are analysed, including Gucci, Ink for Less and Apple.
If you’re aiming for the top, this book is a good place to start.
The face of selling has changed in many ways since the War, yet many basic principles remain.
In Search of Congruence – and Success in Selling by Kieran Maloney (Ecademy Press, £13.99) presents us with both a brief history and a guide to salesmanship in the modern day.
Congruence is defined as the point at which the buyer and seller are aligned and a sale is made and its progression is explained through an examination of four time periods. But basic to all of them are Behaviour, Attitude, Skill and Knowledge (BASK).
We start with the Era of Consolidation, typified in the growth of customer choice following the austerity of wartime when sales people now needed a better understanding of stock at, say a grocery store.
This led to the Era of Expansion in the 1970s, which uses the example of office furniture to large organisations and which often involved joint buying decisions. Brand was also growing up.
The Era of Ambition focuses on the selling of life insurance at a time when people “lived for the day” and the salesman had to “earn his crust”.
Finally in the Era of Realism, Maloney looks at the need for heightened product in the face of the plethora of comparison websites, among others.
In conclusion, Maloney writes: “Rather than selling to people, we are more inclined to enable people to buy from us.”