From the March 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

The fourth in the Gallup Organization's groundbreaking series of management books takes on the critical topic of selling in Discover Your Sales Strengths (Warner, $26.95), by Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano. As with the others, it's based on deep research. Gallup questioned 250,000 sales representatives and 25,000 sales managers and a million customers over decades to find how the best salespeople sell, and how the rest can sell better. How much better? The authors say it's not unusual for the best salespeople in any organization to outsell average reps by a factor of 10. Even mentioning the possibility of that kind of improvement makes a big promise. Fortunately, they deliver in a big way.

A few key findings stand out: The best salespeople are actively engaged in their jobs, know where their strengths lie, find the right fit and work for the right manager. While passing on new ideas, the authors also undermine traditional sales truisms, such as "A good salesperson can sell anything." In place of these hoary shibboleths, they provide counterintuitive but generally well-explained and -illustrated methods for putting the right salespeople and managers in place, finding out what they're good at and getting them engaged. Self-assessment tools based on Gallup's StrengthFinders approach to identifying individual talents round out a book remarkable for its insight and utility.

Fire Up?

David E. Gumpert has told us in two books how to write a business plan. Now in Burn Your Business Plan! (Lauson Publishing, $19.95), he contends that the best plan is no plan. Today, he says, a traditional business plan provides only moderate value. Investors increasingly rely instead on Web sites, white papers, Power Point shows and other sources to identify investment opportunities. And writing a plan, he warns, can distract entrepreneurs from sales, production, hiring and other important tasks. In the end, the controversial thesis convinces-or nearly so. You may not burn your plan after reading Gumpert's latest, but you'll see it differently.


Austin, Texas, writer Mark Henricks has covered business and technology for leading publications since 1981.