Thursday, May 16, 2019

"General Meade" - A Novel of the Civil War by Robert Kofman - An Excellent Read

Author Robert Kofman has written a carefully researched novel that highlights the journey that General George Meade took as he assumed command of the troubled Army of the Potomac. Kofman makes judicious use of letters that Meade wrote to his wife, Margaret, throughout the course of the Civil War. In addition, he spices the narrative with telegrams that were exchanged between Meade and Washington, outlining updates on troop movements, tactics, and strategies being deployed to pin down Robert E. Lee's intrepid troops. To fill in the gap, the author imagines conversations among the principal actors in the unfolding drama.

What becomes clear as the narrative develops is that the war could have ended much earlier had not Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton insisted that a large portion of the Union troops be positioned to thwart any possible invasion of Washington. As a result, there were insufficient numbers available to pressure Lee at Richmond and following the Battle of Gettysburg, when the rebel forces were most vulnerable.

It also becomes very clear that the delicate dance between military strategy and political strategy made things difficult for Meade. Lincoln appointed a number of politically influential men to be generals who has no real military experience, but were able to help ensure his reelection in 1864. These generals proved to often be an impediment during the implementation of battle plans. Despite  chronic interference from Washington in the execution of the plan to defeat the rebel forces, Meade developed a strong and loyal appreciation for Lincoln's leadership. He also had great respect for General Grant, even though Grant often overshadowed Meade in the latter stages of the war.

Mr. Kofman's writing style in describing battles is almost cinematic. Having spent time on several occasions at Gettysburg, I was able to read the author's account of that pivotal battle and feel as if I were there to hear the roar of the cannons and the rebel yell that accompanied Pickett's charge.

This novel serves as an excellent addition to the already rich corpus of works that shed light on the national tragedy that was The War Between the States.



Monday, April 29, 2019

"How Customers Buy . . . & Why They Don't," by Martyn R. Lewis - A Revolutionary Approach To Sales By Decoding The Buying Journey

In writing "How Customers Buy . . . & Why They Don't," author Martyn R. Lewis brings several decades of experience to the table. His broad experience ranges from running sales and marketing teams to consulting with companies to teach their sales and marketing teams a better approach to revenue generation. This is simply the best book I have read in several years on sales, precisely because it turns the concept of "sales" on its head, and approaches the topic through the mind of the buyer.

Writing for an audience of sales and marketing professionals, Lewis makes it clear that the major fallacy that limits the effectiveness of many sales teams is the mistaken belief that "if you clearly demonstrate the value proposition and ROI of a product or service, the reasonable person will make a purchasing decision." Nothing could be further from the truth. Chapter by chapter, the author decodes what he calls the DNA of the Buying Journey. He spends the first half of the book building a case for understanding what is happening on the buying side of a purchasing journey. He strongly advises his readers to resist the temptation to jump ahead and think about how to apply the emerging principals until a full understanding of the Buying Journey has been reached. He then spends the second half of the book describing what he calls Outside-In Marketing and Outside-In Selling.

The main segments in a typical buying journey involve Triggers, Sequential Steps, Key Players, Buying Style, Value Drivers, and Buying Concerns. Using effective case studies and clear logic, he demonstrates that most sales efforts are directed at the early stages of the Buying Journey. And at a point when the potential customer really needs help in overcoming internal push-back and addressing Buying Concerns, the typical sales team is absent.

Mr. Lewis has constructed a very helpful and simple 4Q model of four distinct Buying Styles based on the dual dynamics of Choice vs. Value and Solution vs. Product. The four styles are:

  • Search & Choose
  • Trusted Advisor
  • Sort & Select
  • Starbucks. 

He makes it clear that each Buying Style dictates a different approach to engaging with the customer's Buying Journey.

This book is so effective that I am sending copies to clients whom I feel will benefit from these insights. You may wish to buy several copies to distribute to members of your Sales and Marketing teams.