Reed's Bookshelf

Book Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

Posted February 2017

    • The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking and the Future of the Global Economy, by Mervyn King, 2016, W. W. Norton and Co., New York, NY. OK, I have to qualify this book with the following question: do you have a strong interest in the global monetary and banking system? If not, don't read it. But if you do, this is extremely well written and loaded with historic facts and insights. It does a good job of tearing apart the current global monetary system and proposing modifications for the future.
    • The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks, by Joshua Cooper Ramo, 2016, Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. This book is all about the implications of living in our connected age. It does have at its base a thread of Buddhism, but that is just in helping people to develop a model to understand the possibilities due to those connections. It's about how to stay ahead of the technologies. This is an important, but not necessary, look into thoughts, technology, and networks or yesterday, today, and possibly tomorrow.

Posted January 26, 2017

    • Extreme Ownership: How U. S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, 2015, St. Martin's Press, New York, NY. Military/leadership analogies are favorites for me. But hey, the military has some great leaders and a need to continue to develop new leaders. In the military, leadership means the difference between life and death. In business, usually it doesn't. That means that "leaders" can lead without the detail and precision needed to lead in the military. But business leaders can learn a lot about leadership from the military. This book is one of the best I have read on leadership with great stories and a very simple and specific application to business. One of my top five books from 2016. Sorry it took me until 2017 to read it!
    • Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Night, 2016, Scribner, New York, NY. You have to understand how I read books. They will usually come from recommendations, but sometimes I'll find a list of recommended books….this one from a list this past summer came from a bunch of CEO's. I selected ten books from the list and put them in a pile. Clearly, I'm still wading through the pile. This is one I actually avoided reading….it's about another rich guy….who needs to hear about that? Was I wrong. This is a book about a regular guy, one with a passion, and a big idea. Someone who started with nothing and worked his heart out to see it happen. He wasn't a great leader. You could argue that he was a lousy one. But he and his wife Penny overcame obstacles that boggled my mind. Yes, they are among the 20 richest people in the world today. The two of them earned it. This is a terrific book.

Posted December 15, 2016

    • Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership: Practicing the Wisdom of Leading by Serving by James W. Sipe and Don M. Frick, 1989 and 1993, Paulist Press, Mahwah, New Jersey. This is one of those books that has already been read by good leaders, and while there are some who do this type of thing naturally, there are those that will never read it but should. It's a good book to review the ethical basics of how a leader wants to be seen by her people and how she needs to support her people for better results. I felt that the actual management of people to get things done was very weak, but we'll probably find another book that talks about that. It’s an old but reasonable read.

Posted October 20, 2016

    • Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday, 2016, Portolio, New York, NY. OK, this is one of those books where those who have to read it won't and those who don’t will. While I found some of the discussion quite interesting, it didn't hold together with well-organized and fundamental lessons. Interesting read but not recommended.
    • Own The Room: discover your signature voice to master your leadership presence by Amy Jen Su and Muriel Maignan Wilkins, 2013, Harvard Press, Boston, MA. This book is about more than "owning the room." It's about how to establish the right presence and subordinant/peer connection in your organization. It is especially valuable for people climbing the corporate ladder and how to think about both yourself and others for the benefit of the firm. A good read.

Posted September 22, 2016

    • The Euro: How a common currency threatens the future of Europe by Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2016, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, NY. After Brexit and the implications to both the European Union, the Euro and the global economy, I decided to see what this Nobel Prize winning author had to say about the future of the Euro. While just a bit technical, this book had some great insights into problems with the current system. He gets into considerable detail about how the Euro is set to lead to disaster for the individual countries and Europe as a whole. It gave some good insights as to why attempts to solve the problems of the failing countries like Greece are just going to make the problems worse and what needs to be done to get the EU working well again.
    • Leadership and Self-Deception: getting out of the box by The Arbinger Institute, 2010 Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., Oakland, CA. This book is about how you can either inhibit or enhance your relationship with others by the way you think about those relationships. It is done in story form and quite interesting. I liked the way they bridged the gap between work, home, and personal relationships. A good read. Thanks to Kellie R. for the book.

Posted August 25, 2016

    • Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended On Itby Chris Voss with Tahl Raz, 2016, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY. Since it was written by a top-notch ex-FBI negotiator, I couldn't resist this book. I wasn't disappointed. The author does a great job moving beyond the old, well established and somewhat creaky rules of negotiating. Instead, he presents lessons he learned and how he learned them over the years. It gets to important areas of how to pose questions, mirror conversations, and how to look for that elusive Black Swan. Well worth the read.
    • Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy by Robert H. Frank, 2016, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. OK, you know that I like to read. This book came off a list of books that leading CEO's are reading (Thank you, McKinsey). I'm glad I read it. Here's the problem. While interesting, it isn't a compelling book. I didn't take any notes or action items from it. So my suggestion is that if you like reading about game theory and irrational decision making, go for it. But for the rest of us, go find something a bit more compelling.

Posted July 26, 2016

    • The Distribution Trap: Keeping Your Innovations from Becoming Commodities by Andrew R. Thomas and Timothy J. Wilkinson, 2010, ABC-CIO, LLC, Santa Barbara, CA. First let me apologize. This book is out of print, but it is available from used book sites like It really makes a number of good points that make it worth the effort. The authors do a great job of pointing out the pitfalls of working with the big box stores like Walmart and Home Depot and the subsequent outsourcing that occurs to allegedly keep your costs down. I do wish they had covered some of the newer legal issues and control issues in distribution. If you find yourself going down this dangerous path, this is a must read.
    • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance, 2015 Harper Collins Publishing, New York, NY. For the first half of this book, I thought it was about another smart rich guy, but after the second half, I realized that it was about more, much more. The real measure of a leader is how they deal with adversity, and believe me, this guy has seen plenty. Whether he is the next coming of Steve Jobs is still up in the air, but he certainly has done a great job rewriting the books on car manufacturing and space travel. I'm sold….a very worthwhile read but caution: it's going to make you want to buy a Tesla.

Posted June 23, 2016

    • The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman. 2010, Doubleday, New York, NY. This is a terrific book. The author has a good grasp of global political and economic issues and is able to weave that knowledge into valuable insights as to what we should be expecting in the future. I found the insights new and refreshing from the usual slop we hear on the news and in most newspapers. He covers everything from the rise of terrorism (don't worry, it's being dealt with) to the next phase development for China (they're doing many of the wrong things). Highly recommended.
    • Monetizing Innovation: How Smart Companies Design the Product Around the Price by Madhavan Ramanujam and Georg Tacke, 2016, Wiley, Hoboken, New Jersey. This is a well written book with plenty of sage advice throughout. There is a great discussion of pricing models. There is a bit too much of "we need to do this for you." They also tried to take a page from Nagle's Pricing Effects, and it didn't work as well as Tom's original work.

Posted May 19, 2016

    • Smarter, Faster, Better: The secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg, 2016, Random House, New York, NY. I really liked this book. It offers a clear path with how to do a better job thinking about things in business and life. The author has plenty of well discussed examples from playing poker and flying aircraft. They talk about "cognitive tunnels" that cause managers (and pilots, unfortunately) to get into trouble because they fail to have the right model in their head when needed. He talks about how desperation is not a bad thing and how it can actual improve the results of what you are doing. There are some good ideas about how to immerse people in data so that they really see what needs to be done and execute. Again, a very good read.
    • Friend & Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both by Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer, 2015, Crown Publishing Group, New York, NY. This book does just what the title says. But it does more than that–much more. The discussion on hierarchal vs. flat systems was good. It gets down to problems that women have when they have to compete in business. But the best part was how and when to develop trust and how to fix it when you do things that cause distrust. A worthwhile read.

Posted April 21, 2016

    • Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street by Michael Lewis, 2014, WW. Norton & Company, New York. NY. OK, it takes a lot to get me to read a "25th Anniversary Edition" that has no changes from the original except an epilogue. Well, after watching both the actual implosion and movie The Big Short by Lewis, I decided to give this one a try. It was worth it. If you want to know some of the antics and attitudes that led to the decline of Salomon Bros. and the entire brokerage industry, this book is a great, though somewhat disgusting, review of Lewis' years at Salomon Bros. He is quite frank about the problems and his rise in the firm. I liked the read, though it was a bit dusty.

Posted November 18, 2015

    • The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life by John Maeda, 2006, MIT Business Press, Cambridge, MA. Like its title, this book is a simple and quick read, and it will have some worthwhile insights for those of you in engineering and design. While the author has a fair number of examples that contribute to his point, in his desire for simplicity, he uses a few too many acronyms. A reasonable read but not as good as some of the other books on simplicity out there.
    • Hard Facts: Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense; Profiting from Evidence-Based Management by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert L. Sutton, 2006 Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA. Over the years, I've seen many executives make lousy decisions, some even bankrupting their companies in doing so. I'd like to say that if they had read this book, they might have done better, but I doubt it. This is a great book for open-minded people who want to do a better job running their organization. It's about more than the title indicates, it's about moving beyond bad decision-making processes and skills and empowering people to do a better job for their organizations. For those people who prefer to continue making bad decisions, don't waste your time.

Posted September 24, 2015

    • The New Emerging Market Multinationals: Four Strategies for Disrupting Markets and Building Brands, by Amitava Chattopadhyay and Rajeev Batra with Aysegul Ozsomer, 2012 Tata McGraw-Hill, New York, NY. This book outlines the specifics of four distinct strategies that Emerging Multinational Companies (EMNC's) are using to expand globally. They had a great section on building customer insight competencies. It’s not about how you do it but about how you build the competency to keep doing it. Their work on evolving from a low- to high-value brand was interesting and provided plenty of examples. Those global companies that don't believe they have to worry about EMNC's as competitors will wish they had read this book. It's a good one. That's to my good friend Vishal Kumar for giving me a copy of this book.
    • Segmentation, Revenue Management, And Pricing Analytics by Tudor Bodeau and Mark Ferguson, 2014, Routledge, New York, NY. First, recognize that this is a technical book that gets into the mathematics of what much of the current pricing software does to come up with price recommendations. The authors get into segmentation, forecasting, and various price analytics. I do wish they had a bit more on pricing in B2B, but overall, it was a good read for those who want to dive into the numbers.  

Posted August 20, 2015

    • Sales Effectiveness Training: The Breakthrough Method to Become Partners with Your Customers by Carl d. Zaiss and Thomas Gordon, Ph.D., 1993, Penguin Group, New York, NY. This book has been sitting on my "to read" shelf for a while. Every time I looked at the title, it didn’t seem worth the effort. Well, I was wrong. While an old book, it has a number of great discussions on being a better listener and having better communications with your customers. It might not help you with a price-focused purchasing agent, but it sure will help you deal with the other stakeholders in the account who might go to bat for you next time you get into a negotiation. It is worth the effort. And thanks to whoever recommended it!

Posted July 23, 2015

    • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol s. Dweck, Ph.D., 2006, Random House, New York, NY. This book is all about how people think about things. Of course, there are some people with what is termed a "fixed mindset" who tend to think about things wrong and those with a "growth mindset" who think about things right. Is it as simple as that? Actually, yes, it is. After years of research and working with students and patients, the author presents the simple facts that, if followed, can lead to success in life, love, and business. I learned how I both succeeded and failed as a parent by encouraging very different mindsets with my kids—but don't worry, they both did just fine.
    • On Writing and Stephen King. From: On Writing: The Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, 2000, Scribner, New York, NY. If you don't mind, this is going to be more about writing than a book about writing. We just finished the second edition of Negotiating with Backbone. It went to the publisher last Wednesday, just in time for the Fourth of July. The book will be on the shelves or in the mailboxes by late October. With my last few books, I realized that I have finally become a writer. It's not that I'm good or bad at it, that's for the reader to figure out (OK, and the editor, too). It's that I actually enjoy writing. When the publisher asked for this edition, I agreed quickly and actually looked forward to the daily writing and rounds of editing and rewriting. I'm at the point where I actually enjoy thinking about what to write and putting it down on paper. It wasn't always like that. Some of my earlier books were torture; lots of procrastination and nothing exciting whatsoever.

When I am writing at the book level and since I love to read, my rule is: no business reading during that time. So, as luck would have it, I'm reading Stephen King's current book Finders Keepers. In it, he makes the statement: "you can't teach writing, you can only learn it." That got me thinking about how I finally got on the right track to being a writer. It wasn't from all of the books on how to structure sentences and punctuation.   Those were drudgery. The book that really got me started was King's book On Writing. It's a combination of his life as a writer; how poor he was when he started, some of the jobs he had to do, and his first glimmers of success as a writer. And it's about the tricks he learned and subsequently taught along the way. It was quite a fundamental book for me, since it finally gave me a chance to find my voice as a writer. For that I'm quite grateful.

On another point, Mr. King has stayed true to his craft as a writer. He is certainly one of the most prolific writers in the US for the past four decades. He clearly enjoys writing, but he also enjoys crafting a story that brings the reader along for the ride. He hasn't resorted to working with other writers and continuing the same storyline ad infinitum as Patterson and Clancy have done. King is just a homespun Maine boy who has brought people like me a great deal of quiet pleasure over the years. And he has helped me become a writer. I’m just hoping that I can stay true to the craft as he has done.

Posted June 18, 2015

    • Left Brain Right Stuff: How Leaders Make Winning Decisions by Phil Rosenzweig, 2014, PublicAffairs, New York, NY. 
      I started this book thinking it was just another book on complex decision making. I was wrong. This book takes the area to a new and valuable level. The author does a terrific job of delving into the business of how firms put together complex bids in construction and business acquisitions. In doing so, he takes the basic understanding of The Winner's Curse to a new level by adding issues of leadership and the ability to shape beneficial outcomes after the job is won. This was a good read.
    • Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World by Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, 2015, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, MA.
      This is a terrific book and a must-read for every pricer and professionals in other management fields. Over the years, I have developed a number of rules for myself (an action recommended in this book, by the way). The first, most important, one has been KISS…keep it simple stupid. In the complex worlds of pricing, consulting, business, and certainly academia, there is a strong tendency to overcomplicate things. That's the wrong way to do it. If you really want to get things done, you have to reach across the aisle to salespeople, factory and operations people, and senior managers. As you do that, KISS is the rule that will help you accomplish important things. Pricing touches all other elements of a business, and you need that to be successful in your job. Let me give you a recent example. We had an internal training session on costing for pricing. The training team was asking me for some advice for their session, and I told them one story from this book. The story was about research done with 1200 starting entrepreneurs. 400 were trained extensively on the complex rules of accounting. 400 were given a few very simple rules like: put business money in one drawer and personal money in another. 400 were given no training. When they subsequently ran their businesses, the first and third group performed about the same (!). The "simple rules" group absolutely kicked butt; they grew sales and profits much better than the others. Our guys got the point and gave a terrific presentation on a very complex and often misunderstood area in pricing, and they did it simply without trying to complicate things. Bottom line: It should be at the core of how we think and talk. Come on…go get the book and read the darn thing. 

Posted May 28, 2015

    • High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove, 1983, Random House, New York, New York. Yikes…this book is 31 years old! I can't remember who recommended it, but it was a good read, written by the guy who drove Intel to where it is today. There is a tendency for people to want to only read new books. That's a mistake. I enjoyed learning about some of Dr. Grove's insights in how he grew Intel. The presentation is in very simple terms, so the book didn't get boring (as many do). For those of you working in matrix organizations, additional insights in this area make this book worthwhile, as do his discussions on managing complex organizations.

Posted March 19, 2015

    • The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz, 2014, Harper Collins, New York, NY. This is a book for a special group of people - those who are or want to be CEO of a company. For those of you who are or do, this is a terrific book. The author was CEO of several high tech companies and faced the beast of failure enough times to have learned some good lessons about people, organizing, and managing a business. There isn't much "rah-rah glory" stuff here. It's all about how to deal with the loneliness and tough decisions that come when you're at the top of a struggling firm. He provides those lessons with more than enough detail that this is about the closest book I've seen to be an instruction manual for CEO's. 

Posted February 19, 2015

    • 7 Tenets of Taxi Terry: How Every Employee Can Create and Deliver the Ultimate Customer Experience by Scott McKain, 2014, McGraw Hill, New York, NY. I started this book thinking, "Rats, here's another book about a great taxi driver. I've heard all this stuff before". Well, I was only half right. It is a book that builds on lessons learned from a great taxi driver, but the additional stories and lessons are a) quite insightful, b) fun to hear, and c) more than worth the effort for most of us. The book is really about how we all can impact the customer experience. While the focus does tend to be B2C, there is more than enough to keep us B2B people entertained. It is a very worthwhile read.

Posted January 22, 2015

    • Unlocking Yes: Sales Negotiation Lessons and Strategy by Patrick Tinney, 2014, Centroid Marketing, Ontario, Canada. This is not a book with a new model or dramatic new insights into the field of selling. It does have lots of gritty and valuable lessons on better negotiations, planning, process, and results. Every so often a book comes along with a lot of good ideas to think about – this is one. A good read. The author sent me this book to review, and it might be hard to find. I suggest you go right to:

Posted December 18, 2014

    • Insight Selling: Surprising Research on What Sales Winners Do Differently by Mike Schultz and John E. Doerr, 2014, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey. There are a lot of sales books out there that are rehashing old programs and do little to really move the field forward. This is not one of those books. The authors research successful salespeople and look at the tactics they use with their customers. As such, it is a bit like The Challenger Sale, but this book uses the research to introduce a dramatically new model of how to develop and enhance customer relationships. It’s a very worthwhile read.
    • Winning at Pricing: How High-Tech Product Managers Can Avoid Common Mistakes That Defeat Pricing Strategies by Dawn Pugh, 2013, Kaleah Publishing, San Jose, CA. In writing this book, the author draws heavily from the classic work Competitive Advantage by Prof. Michael Porter. In fact, that's the only books she draws from. So that makes this a basic Cliff Notes version of his book for technology product managers. But the book really lacks adequate detail for them. It’s a valiant effort with some interesting points but not worth your time.

Posted September 2014

    • Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street by John Brooks, 1959, Open Road Publishing, New York, New York. This book was recommended by someone, because Bill Gates says that "John Brooks is an unbelievable business writer." Well, that's true. His stories are very well researched, include interviews with the important parties, and shed a great deal of understanding for important issues—of the time. Here's the problem: The stories are 40-50-years old. As a student of business history, I enjoyed most of them and learned a lot. There are some good stories of how the government works with financial institutions, business failures (Edsel) and successes (Xerox). If you're not a business history geek, don't bother.
    • Slingshot: AMD's Fight to Free an Industry from the Ruthless Grip of Intel by Hector Ruiz, 2013, Greenleaf Group Press, Austin, TX. For those of us involved with the battle, this is an interesting book about the lawsuit that AMD filed against Intel for restrictive trade practices. For the rest of you, this is a good book to learn about how far a company (Intel) will go to control an industry.

Posted August 21, 2014

    • The Chemistry of Strategy: Strategic Planning for the Not-Yet-Fortune 500 by John W. Myrna, 2014, Global Professional Publishing, Kent. A good business book should add an important insight to the field of strategy. This one doesn't. It does give a simple pragmatic look at strategy for a small business and more. It's really about things to think about in running a small to medium (heck even a large) business. Good discussion of risk and some good stories.

Posted July 31, 2014

    • Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions: A Tactical Playbook for Managers and Executives by Keith Rosen, 2008, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ. Learning to coach (encourage) people rather than manage (push) them is a useful skill for sales manager and all managers, especially as they move up the corporate ladder. This is a good book on the subject. It has lots of good advice and stories to help us all improve our skills in that area.
    • Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in the Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information, by Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen, 2014, Harper Collins, New York, NY. This book is mostly B2C but has interesting insights into the declining power of branding vs. the gaining power of real performance (think VALUE). It presents interesting but somewhat dated insights into decision process and framing. The authors do a good job presenting and consolidating some new theories around decision process. For B2B, there is an excellent discussion on drivers of adoption and online ratings and how they can be manipulated.

Posted June 26, 2014

    • Compete Smarter, Not Harder: A Process for Developing the Right Priorities Through Strategic Thinking by William Putsis, 2014, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, NJ. Too many times we complete the strategic process and miss important issues. The resulting blind spot which the author calls "Rizzutoisms" causes managers to waste time, dollars and especially opportunity pursuing the wrong strategic vision. This book will help you avoid that blind spot. It has a simple model with good stories. I did have problems with their discussion on pricing but hey, this is a book on strategy. A recommended read for the strategic minded manager.
    • Revenue Management: A Practical Pricing Perspective, edited by Ian Yeoman and Una McMahon-Beattie, 2011, Palgrave MacMillan, New York, NY. This book is a collection of articles from experts in the area of pricing and revenue management. While technical at times, many of the articles provide good summaries of the state of the art in revenue management in a wide range of industries. They also get credit for identifying weak areas that need further work as the industry evolves. I wish we had more of that in the mainstream pricing arena. A good read for the advanced Pricing Professional.

Posted May 21, 2014

    • Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World by John P. Kotter, 2014, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, MA. As consultants, we must focus on change management in many of our projects and, like others, struggle with the corporate bureaucracy. This is a good book on how to develop "back channel" relationships that get important projects done in large (and sometimes small) firms. There are some great suggestions on how to develop internal champions and speed up the process of change.

Posted February 20, 2014

    • The Pricing and Profit Playbook: A Practical and Strategic Guide to Generating Superior Profits Based on DuPont's Success by Joanne M. Smith, 2013, Bradley Publishing, Avondale, PA. If you are tasked with building a pricing department for a large firm, especially a global one, this is a good book to read. I was a bit surprised and pleased to see how the author focused on the importance of communicating with and actually leading people. Too many pricing books seem to miss that (including ours). It may be missing in some tactical detail, but it is a good book to read.

Posted January 30, 2014

    • The B2B Executive Playbook: The Ultimate Weapon for Achieving Sustainable, Predictable and Profitable Growth by Sean Geehan, 2011 Clerisy Press, Cincinnati, OH. This book is an easy and valuable read for anyone looking for ways to better integrate and direct business activities to meet high-value customer needs. It is simple, well written, and has plenty of good examples. I like the way it gets to problems with the connections that many salespeople have with non-decision makers in customer organizations and provides solutions for really engaging customer decision makers. A very worthwhile read.
    • Breaking the Rules: 111 Tips for Selling Value in the Era of Procurement by Mark Shonka & Dan Kosch, 2013 IMPAX Corp. It's good to see that writers are finally beginning to focus on helping sales professionals deal with procurement. This book does that well in a pragmatic, no-nonsense manner. There are a lot of great qualifying questions and tactical details. The book would have benefited from a simple organizing model, but it is still a worthwhile read. Thanks to my good Friend Vishal for this recommendation.

Posted December 19, 2013

    • Pricing: The Third Business Skill, Principles of Price Management, by Ernst-Jan Bouter, 2013, FirstPrice B.V., The Netherlands. This book has an interesting way of looking at pricing management in terms of organization and focus. The presentation is simplistic and easy to understand for someone who wants to understand pricing better-the discussion of prospect theory was a good one. He also has a good but maybe too high a level of discussion on setting up the pricing function. This book is interesting but not compelling, given some of the books already out there.
    • Winning with Customers: Do Your Customers Make More Money Doing Business With You? A Playbook for B2B by D. Keith Pigues and Jerry D. Alderman, 2010, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ. The key focus of this book is how to determine your DVP or differential value proposition. I like how they determine the DVP through conversations about value with customers. This is certainly one of the most complete discussions on understanding, creating, and capturing value. My problem with the book is that customers rate a supplier's performance using percentages-yes it does provide a "usable" value proposition, but it still doesn't get to the dollar benefit that the economic or value buyer often looks for.

Posted November 21, 2013

    • Pricing Segmentation and Analytics by Mark Ferguson and Tudor Bodea, 2012, Business Expert Press, New York, NY. This book has a great discussion about the mathematics behind price response functions for B2C markets. It includes great depth on equations and methods. I didn't care for their B2B example on win/loss. They over complicated a simple process and missed some important issues. Also, they ignore the emotional component of the decision process, but I believe they didn't have that on their writing agenda.
    • The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail---But Some Don't by Nate Silver, 2012, The Penguin Press, New York, NY. A few years ago, I was working with a well-known high-tech company and got into a discussion about their forecasting methods. They kept getting overloaded with inventory and used dramatic price discounts to unload product. I asked their VP of pricing about their forecasting method. Bottom line: he didn't have a clue what it was, how it worked, or why it gave them the numbers it did – he just used them religiously. Big mistake and the company is now a shadow of its former self. I tell that story because they should have read this book. While a bit technical, Silver has some great stories and links them to important points about forecasting. He talks about everything from baseball to terrorism in a way that simplifies a very difficult subject.

Posted October 17, 2013

    • Number Sense: How to Use Big Data to Your Advantage by Kaiser Fung, 2013, McGraw Hill, New York, NY. I honestly don't know how to describe this book. Some parts are a bit cumbersome and boring but others are quite insightful and helpful. Here's my bottom line: if you're thinking of doing a Big Data project, you should probably read this book. Maybe the pieces about medical and government data games won't help, but the few chapters on business use will be quite insightful. For the rest of you who want a few tidbits, here are a few:
      • "Measuring anything subjective always prompts perverse behavior." No kidding, the law of unintended consequences hits us all. Measure sales volume and you get more discounting.
      • "The urge to tinker with a formula is a hunger that keeps coming back. Tinkering almost always leads to more complexity. The more complicated the metric, the harder it is for users to learn how to affect the metric." Amen, my rule: KISS. I've seen more companies have trouble managing to metrics that no one understood--just a big waste of time, except for the consultants who get to charge for all that tinkering.
      • "It's a mistake to confuse the how (what the Big Data shows) with the why." I wrote about this in my last post. Try focusing on the why. If you don't know, slow down and start again.
      • "A model that ignores cause-effect relationships cannot attain the status of a model in the physical sciences. This is a structural limitation that no amount of data – not even Big Data – can surmount." Sorry guys, that's a fact.

Big Data is great, but there are a lot of traps that too many people fall into along the way. A good rule is to really understand what you are doing and why the relationship is what it is. If you can't, go back to the drawing board or have your consultants explain it better. If they can't, that tells you something.  

Posted September 26, 2013

    • Risky Is the New Safe: The Rules Have Changed by Randy Gage, 2013, Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey. I have to admit that I both loved and hated this book. As a certified T Rex, I have trouble adjusting to the new mantra of promoting self. Too many people do it and end up boring the crap out of me. They also miss the most important point: you promote yourself to be successful, but in the end, you have to help the team and others. But as I read the book, I began to recognize that this guy has enough important insights to put him in the league of Stephen Covey's very important 7 Habits. Just as they did a lot for me as a young executive–or maybe want-to-be executive. This book can do a lot for you, if you really understand what he's saying, the process, and the end game. I don't agree with everything he says. In fact, some of the things are poorly-informed fringe thinking. But the big picture makes this book a worthwhile read. A very worthwhile read. 

Posted July 25, 2013

    • Pricing Strategies: A Marketing Approach by Robert MN. Schindler, 2012, age Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA. Ok, I'll be the first to admit that we now have a lot of technical pricing books available. Fortunately, each one is a little different. This book primarily focuses on B2C but has a few examples around B2B analytics that were good. The examples are a bit dated, and I thought the pricing strategy discussion was thin. There is a good focus on how customers think about price–the psychology of pricing. Also, there was a good, simple discussion on pricing mathematics. Because of that, this is a recommended read.

Posted June 27, 2013

    • High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price, by Mark Hunter, 2012, American Management Association, New York, NY. There is some good advice in this book. I especially liked how the author had a good view of the procurement perspective and suggested ways for a salesperson to deal with "Procurement Professionals." I did feel that he could have provided more depth. He didn't offer a systematic approach to the games procurement people play and the specific tactics that salespeople can use to defeat them. But it was a worthwhile read.  

Posted May 31, 2013

    • What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services by Anthony W. Ulwick, 2005, McGraw Hill, New York, New York. I like an author who has been through the business wars, learned from his mistakes, and is trying to teach others. Ulwick does this with a focus on a better way to innovate. His discussion does tread ground presented by other authors, and when he talks about value, he focuses more on value to the seller, not the buyer. A worthwhile read for those with a deep interest in customer-focused innovation.

Posted April 18, 2013

    • Repeatability: Build Enduring Businesses for a World of Constant Change by Chris Zook and James Allen, 2012, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, MA. This is an interesting but not essential book. A bit of rehashing of known principles, but I did like several of the ideas---like non-negotiable performance criteria. They did have good supporting research and stories. Some of the advice was quite simplistic, which is good, but the devil is in the details. 

Posted March 21, 2013

    • Winning the Battle for Sales: Lessons on Closing Every Deal from the World's Greatest Military Victories by John Golden, 2013, McGraw Hill, New York, New York. This book is an extension of Huthwaite's SPIN Selling. If you like history, the author does a great job of relating some of the classic battles with important tactics from SPIN selling. It is a well-written book with some interesting points, but I generally don't like authors who say "use our stuff" a bit too often. So, if you aren't a big student of history, I'd pass on this one. 

Posted February 28, 2013

    • High-Profit Selling; Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price by Mark Hunter, 2012, American Management Association, New York, NY. There is some great advice in this book for salespeople, but Hunter assumes that salespeople have an incentive to increase price when often that incentive is marginal at best. Good presentation of basic selling skills and points on what it takes to implement "no negotiating" selling. Good advice but tactics won't work with a seasoned procurement person.  

Posted January 25, 2013

    • Visionary Pricing: Reflections and Advances in Honor of Dan Nimer Edited by Gerald E. Smith, 2012, Emerald Group Publishing. We're pleased to see that the book honoring the Father of Value-Based Pricing, Dan Nimer, is finally published. Doing outstanding coordinating work, Jerry Smith of Boston College, convinced some of the leading pricing theorists to do a piece for this book. Tom Nagle of Monitor, Herman Simon of SKP, Kent Monroe of University of Illinois, Mick Kolassa of Medical Marketing Economics, Gene Zelek of Freeborn and Peters, Craig Zawada and Mike Marn (retired from McKinsey), and a wide range of other authors all took the time to contribute to this seminal piece of work. Yes, he got me to do a chapter too. I guarantee that this will be a must read for Professional Pricers.
    • The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies by Chet Holmes, 2007, Penguin Books, London, England. This book had some good points, but it is as much about leadership and time management as it is selling. I guess that says something about selling. 

Posted November 15, 2012

    • Predictable Surprises: The Disasters You Should Have Seen Coming, and How to Prevent Them by Max H. Bazerman and Michael D. Watkins, 2008, Harvard Business School Publishing. This is a good book but a bit depressing. There is a good discussion from both a practical and theoretical perspective of why big disasters occur. It also covers how to prevent them. Main discussion points are airline safety, Enron/Arthur Anderson, and the budget crisis. If you are interested in these areas, it is a good read. 

Posted September 20, 2012

    • Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles by Ruchir Sharma, 2012 W. W. Norton & Company, New York, NY. If you are interested in the global economy, I put this book in a class of important books for business managers to read. The author is head of Morgan Stanley's Emerging Markets Equities team. He also writes simply and with great support and data. He classifies most emerging countries and provides an in-depth analysis of the quality, evolution, and likely directions of those economies. He makes enough comments about the US to make the book all the better. This is a book I'll buy for my bookshelf, too. It is a must-read book.
    • The B2B Sales Revolution: How the buying revolution renders traditional sales techniques ineffective and what you can do about it by John O Gorman and Ray Collis, 2010, The ASG Group, Dublin, Ireland. Insights in this book are based on solid research with procurement professionals,  so it has good insights on how buyers think. It also provides a good look at how to improve the selling process and tools for salespeople. Unfortunately, it doesn't get to any of the "secrets" of procurement and how to deal with them.

Posted August 23, 2012

    • Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World, by Stuart Diamond, 2010, Crown Business Division of Random House, New York, New York. I enjoyed reading this book. It has some great advice and stories. Though the stories did get tedious with the multiple applications of each theory, it provided some good insights into how to get stuck negotiations moving again.
    • Compensating the Sales Force: A Practical Guide to Designing Winning Sales Compensation Plans by David J. Cichelli, 2004, McGraw Hill, New York, NY. If you have a need in sales force compensation, this is the book. It is simple, well written, and a complete discussion of categories of sales jobs, types of compensation structure, and comp plans. If needed, a very worthwhile read.

Posted July 20, 2012

    • Worth Every Penny: How to Charge What You're Worth When Everyone Else is Discounting by Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck, 2012, Greenleaf Book Group Press, Austin, TX. This book is primarily intended for someone starting or running a small business. It is simple, well written, with good stories. And it has good messages that some big business owners should listen to. There is a great discussion on positioning and why discounting is a bad thing for a small business. I'm not going to recommend this, unless you are… Can you guess? Yes, a small business owner.
    • Secrets of Power negotiating, 15th Anniversary Edition: Inside Secrets from a Master Negotiator, 2011, Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ 07444. This is the book that will give you the basics of negotiating. I actually believe it is sometimes best to not negotiate, but in today's world of business, that is often not possible. This book has all the tips you need to be a better negotiator, and they are presented with plenty of stories that make the book a great read. Highly recommended.

Posted June 21, 2012

    • B2B Street Fighting - three counterpunches to change the negotiating conversation,by Brian J. Dietmeyer, 2011, Think! Inc. This is a book that identifies three problems that today's salespeople find, and of course, provides three fairly simple solutions. Since the advice is quite aligned with what we recommend, we strongly support this as a great book. Highly recommended.
    • Birth of a Salesman by Carson V. Heady, 2010, World Audience, Inc., New York, NY. I like books that give advice and wrap that advice around a good story. This book has some marginal advice, but the story is one for late-night TV–too many personal twists. Because of that, I found the book tedious and could hardly wait until I was done with it. Not recommended.
    • Pricing Strategies: A Marketing Approach by Robert M. Schindler, 2012, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA. I get asked a lot to suggest a good text in pricing for people starting in the field. This is a good one. While it doesn't contain many advanced topics, it does a good job in presenting a wide range of beginning and intermediate components of good pricing. There is a good discussion of segmentation and online auctions and where appropriate, there is supporting presentation of appropriate math and statistics. A recommended read. 

Posted May 18, 2012

    • Value Merchants: Demonstrating and Documenting Superior Value in Business Markets by James C. Anderson, Nirmalya Kumar and James A. Narus, 2007, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. This is the most complete book on understanding and using value in a B2B environment that I've seen. It contains a good discussion on how to generate and perfect value propositions and turn them into a more effective offering structure. I do wish that they had gotten into the actual process of building the models and applying them in value selling with the sales force but a worthwhile read.
    • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, 2011, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY. I had to get pushed to read this book, and, I'm glad I did. While Steve Jobs was an obnoxious, self-centered person, he just might be the most accomplished business leader of the past 50 years. Yes, you heard that right, I put him ahead of Jack Welch. He created the most valuable business in the world, brought it back from the brink, and brought Pixar back from the brink using two very different leadership styles. A very worthwhile read.
    • Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard P. Rumelt, 2011, Crown Publishing, New York, NY. First, let me say, there are too many books written about strategy. They tend to use fairly complex models and confuse more than enlighten the reader. There are fortunately a few great books on strategy, and this is one of them. There are very simple discussions on how to think about and develop good strategy and the traps on the road to bad strategy. It has plenty of well-detailed and highly-relevant examples. A good read and "bookshelf" book. 

Posted April 20, 2012

    • Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change and Grow Profits by Jeffrey W. Hayzlett and Jim Eber, 2012, McGraw Hill, New York, NY. Since his last book, The Mirror Test, Hayzlett has participated in the attempted turnaround of Kodak and provides some interesting insights and stories. This book is "classic Hayzlett" – bottom line and no BS. A good read but not much dramatically new.
    •  Contextual Pricing: The Death of List Price and the New Market Reality by Rob Docters, John G. Hanson, Cecilia Nguyen, and Michael Barzelay, 2012, McGraw Hill. I had high hopes when I started reading this book. It is well written and supported with good stories. The concept of contextual pricing could have been a major evolution in the concept of framing, but due to lack of consideration of prior work done in that and many other areas, this book comes down as self accolades and pomp, while taking sweeping pot shots at much good work that has been done in the past. They denigrate academic literature without understanding what has been said or what it does. Not recommended. 

March 22, 2012

    • Beating the Commodity Trap: How to Maximize Your Competitive Position and Increase Your Pricing Power by Richard A. D'Aveni, 2010, Harvard Business School Publishing Corp, Boston, MA. Over the years, D'Aveni has moved closer to the pricing space, and this book is another good step. He presents a good model for analyzing commoditization of products. While his primary focus is on consumer products, there is good insight for B2B as well. He also has a good discussion on value mapping, but I wish he was more specific about how he did it.
    •  Getting Naked: A Business Fable…about shedding the three fears that sabotage client loyalty by Patrick Lencioni. I generally like Lencioni's books, because you learn by reading essentially a story. This one is more focused on customer loyalty in professional services, but it doesn't disappoint. A good story, good points, and a quick read. Thanks to RS for this recommendation.

Posted February 22, 2012

    • Beating the Commodity Trap: How to Maximize Your Competitive Position and Increase Your Pricing Power by Richard A. D'Aveni, 2010, Harvard Business School Publishing Corp, Boston, MA. Over the years, D'Aveni has moved closer to the pricing space, and this book is another good step. He presents a good model for analyzing commoditization of products. While his primary focus is on consumer products, there is good insight for B2B as well. He also has a good discussion on value mapping, but I wish he was more specific about how he did it.
    • Getting Naked: A Business Fable…about shedding the three fears that sabotage client loyalty by Patrick Lencioni. I generally like Lencioni's books, because you learn by reading essentially a story. This one is more focused on customer loyalty in professional services, but it doesn't disappoint. A good story, good points, and a quick read. Thanks to RS for this recommendation.

Posted January 26, 2012

    • Pricing and Profitability Management: A Practical Guide for Business Leaders by Julie M. Meehan, Michael G. Simonetto, Larry Montan, Jr. and Christopher Al. Goodin, 2011, John Wiley and Sons, Singapore. Any time I read a book written by a consulting company, I will admit that I am wary. This book, however, is well written and has good stories and a complete model. It does seemed more focused on B2C methods and analysis. The strategy discussion is a bit confused. There is an excellent discussion on the aspects of setting up a pricing system, process, and department and pricing software adoption. But it is lacking in some of the points on how to do the analysis they recommend – e.g. a competitive value plot. It is a good read, if you need information in the areas mentioned.
    • The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation by Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson, 2011, Portfolio/Penguin, New York, New York. This book moves beyond Spin Selling and investigates salespeople who have been very successful in the current environment of consensus buying and the rise of procurement. They have taken the skills of those "challenger" salespeople and developed a program to teach them to a broader sample of salespeople. Unfortunately, they don't move beyond simple rhetoric in value not do they see how internal systems often create the problem. For example, their strategy for dealing with procurement is to talk about value – not very effective. However, there are companies that have adopted this sales profile with good success. It is a well-written book, supported with clear examples.

Posted December 15, 2011

    • How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of "Intangibles" in Business by Douglas W. Hubbard, Second Edition, 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey. This book was quite technical and complete. It had a good discussion on measuring risk and uncertainty, the use of Monte Carlo simulations, sampling, and the use of regression analysis to create estimates. If you're into this type of thing, a worthwhile read.
    • The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow, 2011, Pantheon Books, New York, NY. This is a book mostly about the history of chance, the people who started writing about it hundreds of years ago, and interesting stories and insights into the field. A good read but a few too many statistics and analytics for a casual read.
    • That Used to be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We Can Come Back by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, 2011, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, New York. With an election year coming up shortly, this is terrific book to help us all understand the problems that we face as a country and the solutions. It serves as a primer for how we need to think about the work of our government and business leaders and our own actions to regain our former greatness. A terrific read.

Posted November 17, 2011

    • Impact Pricing: Your Blueprint for Driving Profits by Mark Stiving, Entrepreneur Press. This books is targeted for the small business owner, which is where Dr. Stiving specializes. Good stories for starting and growing businesses. Not so much a primer on pricing, but a good read for the small businesses and startups.
    • Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell, 2009, The Penguin Press, New York, New York. I generally like writers with a chip on their shoulder, as they are well informed and feisty. I don't like that Ms. Ruppel holds up the wrong things as good. She looks at the evolution from vacuum tubes to modern electronics as bad – very narrow minded. And she often takes the position that most consumers are stupid. I like to believe otherwise. However, this is an extremely well-researched book, with many interesting tidbits in pricing and consumer retailing.
    • Implementing Value Pricing: A Radical Business Model for Professional Firms by Ronald J. Baker, 2011, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey. Ron Baker is the leading pricing specialist in pricing professional services. This book is "Classic Ron" – filled with high-level thoughts, models, and tactical details to help the professional services firm move to a value-based approach with their clients. Worth the read.
    • Escaping the Price-Driven Sales: How World Class Sellers Create Extraordinary Profit by Tom Snyder and Kevin Kearns, 2008, McGraw-Hill Books. This book is intended for sales managers and training professionals and focuses at a systems level on improving sales process and skills. It is an extension of Spin Selling and still has some of the stories from the 1940's! I disagree with many of the premises in the book (e.g. Having salespeople be quote machines and humble!). Also, the book totally fails to deal with the most important issues salespeople face: procurement and the economic buyer.

Posted October 20, 2011

    • Sales Eats First: How customer-motivated sales organizations out-think, out-offer and out-perform the competition by Noel Capon and Gary S. Tubridy, 2011, Wessex, Inc., Bronxville, New York. OMG, this is the sales management book for the 21st century and accomplishes for the sales manager what Good To Great did for the general manager. Simple, well written and loaded with terrific stories from the best sales organizations in the world. I loved this book!
    • Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki, 2011, Portfolio/Penguin, New York, New York. I've been a long time follower and friend of Guy Kawasaki. He is a terrific writer, and his latest book is true to form – full of great ideas – allegedly for starting a business, but it is really about how to live a better life, too. Lots of thoughts on how to be exciting and get people excited about your business. Don't read this book if you work in a large bureaucratic company – you'll get depressed. OK, maybe you should, in spite of the consequences.
    • Pricing Strategy: An Interdisciplinary Approach by Morris Engelson, 1995, Joint Management Strategy, Portland, Oregon. While 25-years old, this book still comes up once in a while, so I finally got around to reading it. It is certainly complete but quite superficial. It covers the basics of pricing analytics in a simple and mechanical world. A good starting primer but way behind Kent Monroe's Pricing, Making Profitable Decisions.

Posted August 12, 2011

    • Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in Your Industry by Stephen Denny, 2011, Penguin Group, New York, NY. This book has a wide range of topics on how to run a business better. Yes, the focus is on small companies beating extremely large companies. There are great lessons on pricing, marketing, selling, and more for all of us. A terrific book.
    • CoDestiny: Overcome Your Growth Challenges by Helping Your Customers Overcome Theirs by Atlee Valentine Pope and George F. Brown, Jr., 2011, Greenleaf Book Group Press, Austin, Texas.  This book contains a good discussion of customer value chains – that is, how and where customers get value from their activities. Note, the value definitions are limited and high value. I found the book tedious and a bit too much selling.

Posted June 24, 2011

    • The Mirror Test: Is Your Business Really Breathing by Jeffrey W. Hayzlett with Jim Eber, 2010 Business Plus, Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. I enjoyed reading this book, as it was bottom line, no BS, and lots of good examples–most of them personal to the author.  This book is primarily focused on the small business owner, but there are a lot of worthwhile insights for most business managers. The discussion on value and pricing is to the point and good.
    • Negotiation Genius: How to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Brilliant Results at the Bargaining Table and Beyond by Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman, 2007, Bantam Dell, New York, NY. While this book tends to generally deal with more complicated negotiations, such as selling a business, it does have a number of worthwhile insights. For example, the authors stress the importance of calculating "what's in it for them"–a useful requirement for prices and salespeople. If you calculate the customer's resulting value from your products and services, you have a better position in pricing and negotiations. It’s a worthwhile read.
    • No B.S. Price Strategy: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Guide to Profits, Power and Prosperity by Dan S. Kennedy and Jason Marrs, 2011, Entrepreneur Press. OK, I admit that I bought this book because of the catchy title. It does have some good points, but it is primarily for small business owners. They do talk about BTB, but most of the examples are BTC. Also, it's more about selling and marketing than price. Skip this one.

Posted May 20, 2011

    • The Delta Model: Reinventing Your Business Strategy by Arnoldo C. Hax, 2010, Spring Science +Business Media, New York, NY. This book has been around for a while, but recently a colleague suggested I take a look at it. I knew by chapter one that I was going to like it. Instead of refining the strategic process, Hax redefines it logically, simply, and well. He takes much of what we say in the pricing and value area to the next level: business strategy. There is a good focus on segmentation and customer value models, with plenty of deep stories. Consider me Hax'd. Thanks, Brian. 

Posted April 22, 2011

    • The Lords of Strategy by Walter Kiechel, 2010, Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA.  If you are either a consultant or consumer of consulting services, this is a terrific book to read.  Oh yea, if you are a manager, it's a good read too.  Kiechel covers the complete history of strategy and strategy consulting.  He presents not only the development and evolution of the theories but how the professional services firms were the prime movers in applying them to their clients.  He also covers how most companies don't have strategies and appear in many cases not to need them--called the Honda Effect.  Thanks to Patrick for the recommendation.
    • The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do by Eduardo Porter, 2011, The Penguin Group, New York, New York.  This is a book about the imact of prices on social structure.  The truth is that money can buy happiness and we don't spend enough on gasoline in the US.  You'll enjoy his many examples and well researched thoughts on a wide range of topics

Posted March 25, 2011

    • Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies and Other Pricing Puzzles by Richard B. McKenzie, 2008, Springer Science + Business Media, New York, NY. This is a well thought out, well researched, and well presented discussion of a wide range of situations in pricing, ranging from popcorn (Of Course!) to colleges. As an economist, Dr. McKenzie presents all decisions as rational ones and misses on things like taste and emotions. Also, I was struck by the old phrase: "as a specialist, you learn more and more about less and less, until you know absolutely everything about nothing." A bit too much at times.
    • Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures by Tim J. Smith, 2012 Smith-Western, Mason, Ohio. This book is well written, well researched, and provides a modern view of pricing strategy and tactics. Tim Smith does a great job of capturing both the art and the science of modern pricing. He has taken much of what has been written in the past and reframed it in the broader context of pricing theory. While he often misses the nuances of B2B, he provides great discussions on bundling, the psychological factors of pricing, and yield management. There are lots of good current examples that are well researched and presented. This is a must read for every pricing professional.
    • Handbook of Pricing Research in Marketing, Edited by Vithala R. Rao, 2010, Edward Elgar Publishing, Northampton, MA. This book is a summary of research and theories in various areas of pricing, exclusively focusing on B2C.  It is highly technical but quite insightful, as the writers of the individual sections have done an exhaustive search in the research literature to support their individual work.  I find it a good book to have on my shelf, if I have to investigate a detail or a specific area of pricing.

Posted February 17, 2011

    • Islands of Profit in a Sea of Red Ink: Why 40% of Your Business is Unprofitable and How to Fix It by Jonathan L. S. Byrnes, 2010, Portfolio Penguin, New York, NY. This is not a pricing book, but it is a book which talks about many of the principles in Pricing with Confidence. The author spends a lot of time on what we call the "20/225 rule"—that is, how to focus on profitable customers and what to do with the ones that aren't (hint: fire them!). He also gets to a lot of the underlying operational requirements for developing a value-driven organization.  Well worth the read.
    • Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations, Revised Edition by William Ury, 2007  Bantam Books, New York, NY. This is a good book to help us all think about different approaches to dealing with tough negotiations with procurement.  It does assume a path—one that may not be there, but it provides a look of good insights and advice.
    •  Value-Based Marketing: Marketing Strategies for Corporate Growth and Shareholder Value, Second Edition by Peter Doyle, 2008, John Wiley & Sons, West Sussex, England. This book came up on a top ten list for pricing managers, so I thought it would be worth the read. As the title says, it links marketing directly with shareholder value—an important exercise. The author tries to solve many problems with marketing by introducing a host of financial measures for marketing managers to include in their sights. He also introduces techniques like the balanced scorecard, with the same intent. I do wonder if it is a bit disconnected from the real marketing and a bit idealistic, but it is a good book.

Posted January 21, 2011

    • Negotiating Rationally by Max H. Bazerman and Margaret A. Neale, 1992, The Free Press, New York, New York. This book has some interesting pointers on how to better approach negotiations. The authors talk about the winner's curse (one of my favorites), the need to take emotion out of the process, and some of the pitfalls that we all tend to fall into during a negotiation. The problem is that it fails to identify the tricks that most procurement people use against us. Having said that, it's still a worthwhile read.
    • Getting Started with Conjoint Analysis: Strategies for Product Design and Pricing Research, Second Edition by Bryan K. Orme, 2010, Research Publishers, Madison, WI. This book is a good introduction to the use and application of conjoint analysis. It gets to what the technique is and does to how to design good conjoint studies. It also does a fair but somewhat limited job of pointing out the shortcomings, but I'll try to take care of that job.

Posted December 17, 2010

    • Hardball: Are You Playing to Pay or Playing to Win? By George Stalk and Rob Lachenauer, 2004, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. This is a "how to" strategy business book out of Boston Consulting Group. Their model is simple and supported with good, but in some cases, dated stories. It will help senior executives take a step back from their business and identify where they are doing well in key strategic areas and where they are doing poorly. If done well, it will also help identify competitors doing the same thing. A pretty good read.

Posted November 19, 2010

    • Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don't by Paul Sullivan. 2010, Penguin Group, New York, NY. I started reading this book, because of its look at sports but was pleasantly surprised by the number of stories it gave around business as well. There are simple criteria for excelling in tough situations and some great examples coming out of the financial crash. A worthwhile read.

Posted September 30, 2010

    • Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People by G. Richard Shell, 2006, Penguin Books, New York, New York. This is a terrific book with lots of good ideas for how to prepare for and initiate better approaches to negotiations. There are many good stories, and the organization structure will help us all in this area. The only problem is that it doesn't cover what to do when you are negotiating with unreasonablepeople.
    • Winning in Turbulence by Darrell Rigby, 2009, Harvard Business School Press. This is from the Bain "Memo to the CEO" series. As such, it is brief and to the point. Also, I give them credit, since they give a lot of good information for executives to think about when they are entering, in, and exiting turbulent periods–hey, isn't that always? They provide a good strategic model, good advice, and a brief recap of their Net Promoter Score, which is a good market research measure.
    • Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions by Zachary Shore, 2008, Bloomsbury USA, New York, NY.  I was intrigued by this book. It certainly delivers on its premise and does a good job of presenting different "states" in our minds, which lead to bad decisions. Since the author is a Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, this does have a military leaning, but there are plenty of practical examples, as well as the war ones. Believe it or not, it has a lot of relevance in the area of pricing too–I ended up discussing it with a client senior executive, as it pertained to many of their pricing problems. A good read. Thanks to Jim Geisman of Market Share Inc. for recommending this book.

Posted August 20, 2010

    • A Sense of Urgency by John P. Kotter, 2008, Harvard Business School Press.  This is a book about urgency; more than that, it's a book about change. And it's a good one. It's a simple, fast read with some great advice, if you are concerned about your department's or your firm's sense of urgency. It's also good if you feel that your people aren't seeing the need to change and it's there. In our work, we see a lot of companies that suffer from a "terminal internal focus" or "death by Powerpoint." This book is the antidote.
    • Practical Pricing: Translating Pricing Theory into Sustainable Profit Improvement by Michael Calogridis, 2009, Palgrave Macmillian. This books certainly gets the connection between new products, valued services, sales, and better pricing. It does miss important points on conjoint. Also, I can't understand why writers (and consulting firms) can't give credit to Mike Marn at McKinsey for developing waterfall analysis. There are interesting insights but some generalizations miss complexity in many areas. This is more of a check list than a how-to book. Also, it's thin in key areas, like strategy, and fails to deal with the frustrations of many pricing managers.
    • Marketing as Strategy: Understanding the CEO's Agenda for Driving Growth and Innovation by Nirmalya Kumar, 2004 Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA. This is a good book for the senior level marketing executive. While I disagree with a few points (around what else–pricing), but it does have a good view of what strategic marketing is. There is a big focus on solution selling and how to put together solutions. I liked how he went beyond the techniques to discuss how to run a good business on relationships and trust. Bit of a BTC focus but good global stories.
    • Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits From Your Small Business by Jay Conrad Levinson, 2007, Houghton Mifflin Corp., New York, NY. This really is a book intended for the small to medium business. But I found quite of few nuggets of value, even for large firms. It has a number of creative approaches and ideas for business to try for their marketing activities. Also, the author does a terrific job of providing bottom line advice that is often needed to make even large campaigns more effective. A decent read.

Posted July 23, 2010

    • Prisoner's Dilemma by William Poundstone, Anchor Books, New York, New York, 1993. If you're a student of competitive strategy, you know about the Prisoner's Dilemma. If you want to learn more about how it was created and subsequently used with offshoots, this would be a pretty good book to read. It digs deep into the people like John von Neumann and how his and other competitive theories were put to use at the government think tank Rand Corp. A good historical book.
    • The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis, 2010, WW Norton & Co., New York, NY. Michael Lewis writes great stories, and this one is about the few guys who sifted through the complex financial instruments in 2006 & 2007 to make money on the decline in value of CDO's. But it's also about the guys who let it happen. This one could have also been called "ignorance and greed," but it's a good story anyway.
    • The Boston Consulting Group on Strategy: Classic Concepts and New Perspectives, Carl W. Stern and Michael S. Deimler Editors, 2006, John Wiley, Hoboken, New Jersey. This is a collection of articles written by various people at BCG over the past 30+ years. While interesting, it does lack a unifying theory ("On strategy" just isn't enough, since it means many things) that pulls everything together. Rather than reading this book, you'd be better served going back to some of the more forward thinking people in the area of strategy.

Posted June 18, 2010

    • Pricing for Profit: How to Command Higher Prices For Your Products and Services by Dale Furtwengler, 2010, American Management Association, New York, NY. I'll give credit to anyone who writes a book—it is hard work. But this book just didn't float my boat. There are a few interesting stories, but he tends to ramble, and I often wondered what the point was. It is BTC and more for small business owners—especially retail. I disagree on a number of points. For example, he doesn't believe you can teach salespeople to be value sellers—-it has to fit their personality profile. There is an extensive discussion and set of questions on bundling that was pretty good, if you're interested.
    • Smart Pricing: How Google, Priceline and Leading Businesses Use Pricing Innovation for Profitability by Jagmohan Raju and Z. John Zhang, 2010,Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ. I have to admit that I was initially turned off by this book. They used some of the structure (and one formula) from The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing. Also, this is not a strategic book—lots of tactical insights but no real or new structure or real strategic direction. If, however, you are working with real innovative, consumer-based products and looking to sell into China, it's a worthwhile read, as they had some terrific and deep stories. If you aren't, don't waste your time.
    • The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul, Gawande, 2009 Metropolitan Books, New York, NY. I started reading this book and thinking: here's another non-business person (a surgeon, no less) trying to write about business. But the more I got into it, I recognized that he has great lessons for managers and, more specifically, Pricing Managers. He does focus a lot on the medical and, to a less extend, the flying business (where checklists originated). But if you think about his message, it makes me wonder if we rely too much on complex process and not enough on simple checklists—5 to 9 brief simple items that we should do when we price a product, for example. The focus is on a) learning from failures and b) teamwork and communication.  It is worthwhile to think about. A good read.

Posted May 26, 2010

    • Predictably Irrational: Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely,2008, Harper Collins, New York, New York.  Dan Ariely has an interesting way of looking at how we make decisions, and this book covers a full range from how we make decisions in a variety of situations to how price impacts how we evaluate the drugs we take (the more you pay, the better you feel!). It's well written with good stories. For the BTB technicians, it isn’t a great read, but if you are a student of consumer pricing and specialize in that area, it's a must-have read.  Thanks to Jim Geisman of SoftwarePricingPartners, Inc. for the loan of this book.
    • The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing: A Guide to Growing More Profitably, Fifth Edition by Thomas T. Nagle, John E. Hogan and Joseph Zale, 2011, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. This is the fifth edition of one of the two "bibles of pricing" (the other is by Kent Monroe). The new edition goes into greater depth in important areas like value estimation and specifically connects that with ideas of segmentation. They also, for the first time, get into pricing organization structure and expand into more practical but technical analysis.
    • Why Smart Executives Fail: And What You Can Learn From Their Mistakes, by Sydney Finkelstein, 2003 Penguin Group, New York, NY.  This book comes from my continuing saga to understand why some businesses fail. This is a good book with a number of very useful insights. It's well written with a useful organization of things to watch for. Of course, it's loaded with stories about the business failures of the past 15 years. It is a good idea to keep your eyes open to learning from the mistakes of others. It's cheaper and easier.
    • Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of it) by William Poundstone, 2010, Hill and Wang, New York, New York.  If you are a student of consumer pricing response, this is a terrific book. Poundstone starts with the history of the study of psychophysics, prospect theory, behavioral decision theory, and menu theory. Menu Theory? Yup, the rules for how you should show prices on menus. That one's going to drive me crazy in a few weeks. At any rate, if you get all wrapped up figuring out the "perfect" price for your consumers, read this book. It's a great narrative for the other considerations you should be thinking about, as well as those that have nothing to do with the price but everything to do with whether a customer will buy your product or not.

Posted April 15, 2010

    • The 1% Windfall: How Successful Companies Use Price to Profit and Grow by Rafi Mohammed, 2010 Harper Collins, New York, NY. Rafi's latest book is a pretty good one. He has simple models of how to think about price and why that is important. The stories are current and make you think–always a good thing. There are parts that are a bit confusing, as he comes from two directions: as a pricer and a negotiator. Also, this is primarily a BTC book.

Posted March 18, 2010

    • Competitive Intelligence: How To Minimize Risk, Avoid Surprises, and Grow Your Business in a Changing World by Seena Sharp, 2009, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey.  This book was a surprise. I was expecting a book about how to research your competitors and discovered thatCompetitive Intelligence has progressed to a highly relevant business activity, one that is critical for successful businesses. It's a good look at how to get external insights to better drive both strategy and tactics of a firm. I liked Seena’s discussion of the shortcomings of traditional market research and why focusing on customers is more important than focusing on competitors. I absolutely loved the following quote: "Pricing is often identified as the brass ring, when the real issue is elsewhere." Right on Seena. A terrific book for all of us.
    • Let's Get Real or Let's Not Play: Transforming the Buyer/Seller Relationship by Mahan Khalsa and Randy Illig, 2008, Penguin Group, New York, New York. This is a terrific book for people selling professional services. I loved some of the analogies, and they had a good discussion on RFP's and how to handle pricing. The pricing focus was on eliciting and framing budget discussions–very worthwhile.
    • The Ten Commandments for Business Failure by Donald R. Keough, 2008, Penguin Group, New York, NY. This is a quick read by the past CEO of Coca-Cola. It has simple messages that are backed by good stories and includes a fairly frank look at a company that he led for 12 years. There are 11 fairly simple lessons on how to guarantee business failure–a tongue-in-cheek way of saying how to do it right. A surprisingly pleasant read.
    • Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales GreatnessHow to Make Sales Forever by Jeffrey Gitomer, 2005 Bard Press, Austin, Texas. This is a good book for new salespeople or for new managers, for that matter. It is more of a self-help book, albeit a good one. There are a few too many stories about being a writer, but there is some good advice here, if you're trying to develop good selling skills.

Posted February 18, 2010

    • Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, 2009, Harper-Collins, New York, NY. As you would guess, this is a follow-up to the book Freakonomics. Like the original book,Freakonomics, this one has a number of great stories and very unique ways of looking at different situations in our lives today. A favorite story is the one about how the price quality effect and pricing work in prostitution. A good read–enjoy.
    • The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam, 2008, Penguin Group, New York, NY. Most of you know that when it comes to presentations, I believe in fewer eye charts and more pictures. They're more interesting and better make the point. This is a good book to add more structure around that concept. For me, the first few chapters were enough, but if you want to get really good at using pictures to make your point, this is a worthwhile book.
    • Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years by Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui, 2008, Penguin Group, New York, NY. Ever since I read the Deep Survival book reviewed in our January newsletter, I've been focusing part of my reading on companies that fail. Air travel has become safe, because pilots and operators spend a lot of time dissecting crashes and instituting improvements. Unfortunately, business could use the same focus. Whether it be through questionable acquisitions, bad pricing, bad decision making, whatever, businesses fail more than they succeed–lots more. This is a good book, especially for senior managers who need to see the many failures in decision-making and how some firms have begun to improve their safety record. 

      There were two noteworthy discussions. The first was on how products perform relative to competition. While most executives rate their products as being better, only 4% of customers agree. The next one is on research. Successful firms have recognized that traditional market research often points them in the wrong direction and have begun to use offshoots of ethnographic/depth research to get better understandings of customers. Important! A good and valuable read.

Posted January 29, 2010

    • What the Dog Saw and other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell, 2009, Little, Brown and Company, New York, New York.  Malcolm Gladwell is a favorite author (The Tipping Point, Blink), but I had held off buying this book, since it is a collection of articles from his work at The New Yorker. Fortunately, a late night desperation buy at an airport bookstore solved that problem. It really is a terrific book, with lots of great insights into questions we normally might not ask but are pleased to get answered: Why is there one dominant brand of ketchup? Why are investments really a crapshoot even for the best? Why isn’t finding the blame always the best thing? That's just three out of many. It really was an enjoyable read.
    • Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales, 2005, W. W. Norton and Company, New York, New York. I read this book in the general interest category but decided to write about it. The reason is simple—there is advice in this book which will keep businesses from failing—really. For example, the author talks about how survivors do a great job accepting and adjusting to their new reality, be it in the wilderness or a survival raft in the middle of the storm. They adjust so well that when the danger is over, they are actually quite comfortable there. As we've seen the number of spectacular business failures over the past several years, I was struck by how relevant this piece of advice was for their managers. Executives leading companies that survive don't deny their dire circumstances, they embrace them and figure out how to survive, then how to flourish. There are some other interesting insights here and certainly worth the read for personal reasons.
    • Behind the Cloud by Marc Benioff and Carlye Adler, 2009, Josset-Bass, San Francisco, CA. This is the story behind the explosive growth of told by it's CEO. It is written as 110 "plays" that helped them get to where they are. It is a bit antiseptic, but it has some good stories. Also, it has a good thread of how they evolved their offering to multiple levels to meet the needs of different segments, and how they had to evolve their pricing model to accommodate the offering, too. Thanks to good friend John Kador for this recommendation.

Posted December 16, 2009

    • Pricing for Profitability: Activity-Base Pricing for Competitive Advantage by John L. Daly, 2002, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY. While this book is primarily for manufacturing professionals, it is a good introductory book for pricing theory. There are relevant stories that support the theory, and the Activity-Based Pricing concept is a good starting point for pricing in a manufacturing environment. There is a good discussion on pricing to enhance capacity utilization, too!

Posted September 25, 2009

    • The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, 1999, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.  This book has an interesting discussion about the difference and value of viewing a service businesses as a more theatrical "experience" business. It's a good read for all services business and has good insights for how BTB companies can better relate to its customers and intermediaries

Posted August 29, 2009

    • Recession Storming: Thriving in Downturns through Superior Marketing, Pricing & Product Strategies by Rupert M. Hart, 1990-2009, Recessionstormingmedia, So, I was surprised to find that this was a twenty-year-old book updated with recent stories. There is lots of simple, good advice. There is a thin, but worthwhile, discussion on things to think about in pricing, but some of the examples are quite dated. Yes, it might be late for this recession, but you never know when you might need it for the next one

Posted June 19, 2009

    • Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm, by Verne Harnish, 2002, SelectBooks, New York, NY.  Verne Harnish is a frequent writer for Fortune and focuses his consulting expertise on small businesses in the $10-200M range. This book is a terrific list of models and things to think about for business managers in all sizes of business. He writes about how to identify and focus on what's important and how to make sure everyone on your team does the same. It is a book for managers who want results. Don't we all?

Posted April 23, 2009

    • The Strategic Pricing of Pharmaceuticals by E. M. (Mick) Kolassa, Ph.D., 2009, The PondHouse Press. Mick is a colleague from the older days and is currently Managing Partner of Medical Marketing Economics. This is his second book on pharmaceutical pricing, and it is his best. I found it both insightful and informative. He unravels the complex issues of pharma pricing and integrates those issues to modern pricing theory. The book has clear examples, and I enjoyed his discussions on framing, drivers of use, and the impact of generics. This book has a wider application than just pharmaceuticals–anyone in the medical equipment or services field would find great insights.
    • Effective Apology: Mending Fences, Building Bridges, and Restoring Trust by John Kador. When I first heard about this book, I thought it might be hard to write an interesting book on apology. Boy, John, I'm sorry–I was wrong. We all screw up, and too often, we ignore or gloss over an apology. Ineffective apology can undermine our power as a manager and it can weaken our friendships. Lack of apology does worse. John Kador does a terrific job providing a sound foundation of both when we should apologize and how we should do it effectively. He includes plenty of personal and public examples, so we can see how people have apologized poorly and how they have done it well.  The book comes complete with checklists and simple rules for us all. This is a terrific book–one that all of us should read.

Posted April 23, 2009

    • The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation by Mathew E. May, 2007, Free Press, New York, NY.  This is a well-written book about how Toyota lets its people innovate like crazy. But it is really more than that, it's about how it respects and empowers its workforce to outperform competitors year after year. There are some great stories that emphasize key points, too. Here's the problem–the managers who really need to read it will dismiss it as rhetorical junk. That's too bad. 
    • The Mission, The Men and Me: Lessons from a Former Delta Force Commander by Peter Blaber, 2008, The Berkley Publishing Group, New York, NY. This book was recommended by my son in the military. I would not normally review it here but found myself in a board meeting recently using some of the principles to get other members focused on the mission of the organization. So, here it is: this book is about two things.  First, it is about what it was like being a mission commander on the ground in Afghanistan and how senior commanders in Washington screwed things up by not listening to the guys in the battlefield. Second, it contains a number of worthwhile principles for senior leaders of the firm to use when it comes to developing and executing strategy. The managers who don't follow these rules tend to make mistakes. The ones who follow don’t–that tells you how important those simple rules are.

Posted March 19, 2009

    • The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder, 2008, Bantam Books, New York, NY.  Boy, did this one take a long time to read. It is an exhaustive history of Warren Buffet from childhood to recent years. I found it interesting to read and full of insights on financial markets–especially in today's current financial meltdown.  Pricing? Not much. But there are lots of valuable insights into the CEO's of companies that continue to pay dividends to owners and employees alike.
    • The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure (And What To Do About It) by Michael E. Raynor, 2007, Doubleday, New York, NY. This book is a bit scary as it gets to the issue of being lucky in the strategic process. It is about how to manage a large business in an uncertain environment and provides new insights into the complex world of corporate strategy. It is well researched, well written. Though a bit of a sales job about the need for scenario-based planning and strategic flexibility, it is worth the read.

Posted January 16, 2009

    • Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, 2998 Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. As usual, Gladwell has some incredible insights into health, education and, yes, business. There is a great discussion on why airplanes crash that has relevance to decision making in business. It gives us good insights into why the old style of command and control gets aircraft and business into trouble and how new approaches may prevent some of the disasters we're seeing today. He does leave it up to the reader to tie his insights together into a tight package, but if you don't mind the work, it's worth the trip.

Posted December 18, 2008

    • How Much Should I Charge: Pricing Basics for Making Money Doing What You Love by Ellen Rohr, 1999, Maxxrohr Press, Rogersville, MO.  How many times have people told you that they hate pricing their products and services--especially small business people?  Well, here is a simple, basic book on pricing you can recommend they read and get them to stop asking you questions.  No business degree required! 

Posted November 14, 2008

    • Double-Digit Growth: How Great Companies Achieve it–No Matter What by Michael Treacy, 2003, Penguin Books, New York, NY.  This book is well written, contains no fancy graphics, and has a lot of very good stories. His model is simple and high level.  The problem with any book which focuses on a few companies for stories, as authors Peters and Waterman discovered, is that some stumble subsequent to publishing (Dell and WaMu). Also, he tends to make extreme statements which aren't always true and some stories contradict.  But a worthwhile read.
    • Harvard Business Review on Pricing, 2008, Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA. This book contains a collection of prior articles from the Harvard Business Review on pricing, including pricing new products, fighting a price war, Six Sigma Pricing–generally a good collection from some of the top authors in the field. 

Posted August 21, 2008

    • The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company by David A. Price, 2008, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, New York.  I'm not much of a historian, but I do love business history.  As we look at successful businesses today, the truth is that the path to getting there was ugly and littered with good, bad, and daring decisions.  If you are like that, then this will be a good and interesting read.  It's about the evolution of a business and a technology.  It’s also about the people who made the commitment and stuck to it despite advice and pressure from some very powerful people.

Posted July 25, 2008

    • Exceeding Customer Expectations by Kirk Kazanjian, 2007 Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, New York, NY. This is not as much a book about pricing as it is about how to build and grow a world class company. This is a no BS, inside look at how Enterprise quietly and competently became the #1 car rental company in the U.S. We get to learn about how they price used cars ("no-haggle"), how they respond to customers (fast and well), and how they absolutely trounced their competitors by focusing on getting the job done. Finally, we learn about how they used simple market research to evaluate performance and how they used the results to become the best in the business. A good, quick read too!
    • The Big Talk: How to Win Clients, Deliver Great Presentations and Solve Conflicts at Work by Debra Fine, 2008, Hyperion, New York, NY. There are some good points in this book, but it suffers from one big problem–the author jumps around too much. One minute she’s talking about dealing with the boss, the next, it's a problem employee. My sense is that she would have been better served with better organization. A bit of a disappointment.

Posted June 24, 2008

    • Optimal Bundling: Marketing Strategies for Improving Economic Performance, Edited by Ralph Fuerderer, Andreas Herrmann and Georg Wuebker, 1999, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany. This book is a collection of working papers on the theory behind and the state of bundling and pricing of products and services. As such, it is a very technical work. But it does contain good and complete examples of work done by some of the leading scholars and practitioners in the field.
    • The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M. R. Covey with Rebecca R. Merrill, 2006, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY. OK, maybe I'm biased by a few years of research on trust, but I did like this book. Trust is something that is often dismissed as not being relevant in business. The son of Stephen Covey, the Seven Habits guy, does a great job of not only showing why it is important, but he gives great advice on how to get there. Too many managers make little slips in this area and wonder why they don't have a culture of trust. If you're worried about that, read this and find out where the problems are.
    • Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber, 2005 St. Marten's Press, New York, NY. John Kotter is one of the leading specialists in organizational change, and he has finally become "Blanchardized." You might be familiar with how Ken Blanchard and his cohorts develop memorable stories to go along with their models and books. This one is an entertaining and quick read about the eight steps that organizations need to think about in addressing change. Pretty good for the troops if you're going through a change process.

Posted May 30, 2008

    • Value Creation: The Power of Brand Equity by William Neal and Ron Strauss, 2008, Cengage Learning, Mason, Ohio. I'm going to warn you right up front that the punch line of this book is using the author's predictive model for improving the effectiveness of branding efforts. Generally, you know I frown on consultants writing books where you have to use their services to get anything out of it. Fortunately, this isn't the case here. It is a well-written, well-researched effort which ties the brand identity to not only the CEO but other constituencies in the firm–workers, customers, and dealers. I like the way it connects brand results and satisfied customers with happy employees and draws well from the work of people like Fred Reiccheld along the way. This is both an introductory and a technical book, but for those who use branding research, there is an excellent discussion of different methods. I did find the few chapters that had a long story in them a bit distracting.
    • Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury. Second Edition, 1991, Penguin Books, New York, New York.  I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by this oldie but goodie. Generally, books on negotiating lack the depth needed to deal with price-oriented customers in today's world. This book does not suffer from that malady. It is a well-written book that covers a wide range of negotiating topics in a manner that provides the reader with great insights on improving their skills. It doesn't really get to specifics on aggressive price negotiations, but with a little bit of thought, it's not hard to connect the dots there, too.

Posted April 18, 2008

    • The Price is Wrong: Understanding What Makes a Price Seem Fair and the True Cost of Unfair Pricing by Sarah Maxwell, PhD., 2008, John Wiley, Hoboken, NJ.  This is a book about the psychology of pricing in a consumer environment.  There are lots of good stories, insights and information for true students of pricing.  Also, a lot of good insights about what to watch for in unfair pricing.  There is a good discussion of pricing power and trust which is relevant in a BTB world.  I liked this book–well written and interesting

Posted March 20, 2008

    • In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disaster, Second Edition by Merrill R. Chapman.  I've always like to learn from other's mistakes rather than my own, it's cheaper and more fun.  This is a good book that pokes brutal fun at all of the high-tech blunders that occurred over the past twenty years.  Yes, it does get a bit too technical for me at times, but if you want to know why your favorite technology company imploded, you'll probably find it here.  Pricing?  Oh yeah, enough discussion of pricing blunders to make it worthwhile too.  Thanks to Jim Geisman of MarketShare ( for sending this book along.
    • The Future of Management by Gary Hamel, 2007, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.  This is a fairly good book about how several organizations have moved from top down, command and control management to individually empowered organic organizations.  Originally led by Meg Wheatley over twenty years ago, one of the leading strategic thinkers picks up the pace with a number of in-depth examples of how companies have moved into this better space.  The problem is that in most cases, it took a CEO willing to change and drive change to accomplish it.  What are the rest of us supposed to do?

Posted January 25, 2008

    • Value Merchants: Demonstrating and Documenting Superior Value in Business Markets by James C. Anderson, Nirmalya Kumar and James A. Narus, 2007, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. For those of you who want an in-depth indoctrination to understanding and selling value in business markets, this is a terrific book. Though academics, the authors have presented a very pragmatic and usable model with lots of good stories to support it's application.
    • Strictly Speaking: Reid Buckley's Indispensable Handbook on Public Speaking by Reid Buckley, 1999, McGraw Hill, New York, NY. I would have like this book if it was an article, but it does what it says—provides a terrific handbook on public speaking. What's the problem? It covers all of the situations—it seems like every last one of them. Fortunately, it is written quite well and has a lot of supporting anecdotes. He teaches the best speakers, and if you want to improve your public speaking skills, it's a worthwhile read. By the way, if you are a public speaker, you should want to improve your speaking skills.
    • Pricing with Confidence: Ten Ways to Stop Leaving Money on the Table by Reed Holden and Mark Burton, 2008, Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ will be shipping at Amazon in February!

Posted December 13, 2007

    • The Circle Innovation: You Can't Shrink Your Way to Greatness by Tom Peters, 1997, Vintage Books, Random House, New York, NY. This book has been sitting on my shelf for quite a few months, a recommendation from a member of the Kitchen Cabinet. Tom Peters is his usual self in this one–lots of rants wrapped around mediocre theory. But you know what? I enjoyed this book. This is a book that motivates you to do new things, different things. That's always a good thing. It inspires. Sometimes with little things, sometimes with big things. Worth the read.
    • Mind over Matter: Why Intellectual Capital is The Chief Source of Wealth by Ronald J. Baker, 2008, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey. Ron Baker is the most prolific writer in the field of pricing, with several top sellers to his credit. In this new work, he moves to a broader discussion of the value of intellectual capital. He draws from a wide range of the world's greatest thinkers to spin an interesting web that does well to both support his point and draw the reader (me) in. Along the way, he takes on some of the flawed theories of pricing and business strategy. Another good read this month.

Posted November 16, 2007

    • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph. D., 2006, Random House, New York, NY. When I picked this book off my shelf to read on a trip, I was disappointed. It didn't look like a business book. Self help? Maybe. But certainly not a great business book. In fact, it turned out to be a good business book. This is a book about two very different types of people. It is also a book about how managers can create/support each kind. As such, it is a book about how to both select and develop more successful people. It has great business examples from the CEO clowns and kings. A good read.
    • The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World by Alan Greenspan, 2007 Penguin Press, New York, NY. When I sat down on the airplane to read this book, the woman next to me commented that it must be very technical with lots of numbers. I told her it wasn't. But I had only finished the first half. In the second half, Greenspan gets into lots of detail of financial markets that were either over my head or out of my span of interest. Having said this, I really enjoyed the first half's discussion of his five terms as Chairman of the Federal Reserve – lots of insights into how he and the government struggled to figure out how to help the economy.
    • Six Sigma Pricing: Improving Pricing Operations to Increase Profits by ManMohan S. Sodhi and Navdeep S. Sodhi, 2008 FT Press, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. These guys get into the nitty gritty detail of how pricing problems destroy profits. The book is loaded with tools and real-world examples and should be on every pricing manager's bookshelf. You'll be glad you bought it.
    • The Self-Destructive Habits of Good Companies…And How to Break Them by Jagdish N. Sheth, 2007, Pearson Education Co., Upper Saddle River, NJ. This is a terrific book with good logic and even better stories. There is a good discussion on price value positioning. If you're unhappy with your senior management, read this book. But be forewarned that the guys who really need to read it won't – they don't think they have to. OK, buy them a copy and dump it on their desk. Just don't tell them who did it.

Posted October 19, 2007

    • How to Write & Give a Speech by Joan Detz, 1984, St. Martins Press, New York, NY. This fall, we're preparing to go on the road talking about our new book. As a result, I'll be reviewing a number of books on giving speeches and making presentation. My conclusion is that we all need to get better and more interesting in doing those darn things. This book is terrific. If you give speeches or presentations, it should be on your bookshelf. It is a complete how-to book on the subject and has a number of great examples.
    • The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2007, Random House Publishing, New York, NY. OK, this is an interesting book written by a very intelligent guy. The problem is that the somewhat obscure discussions make its value in a business environment questionable. His message is to prepare for the outliers. In business, it's not logical to do that. Yes, you have to be aware of the possibility of "outliers" like Hurricane Katrina so that when they happen, you don't ignore them but instead deal with them effectively. Hopefully, he'll do a book specific to business some day.
    • Rocketeers: How a Visionary Band of Business Leaders, Engineers, and Pilots is Boldly Privatizing Space by Michael Belfiore, 2007, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY. I almost classified this as a "personal interest" book. But the more I thought about it, I recognized that it has a lot of relevance to firms that are trying to revolutionize their industry. We tend to try to do that by brute force and by ourselves. This is a story about how individuals and companies are using prize money to get business people to push technology to its limits for the benefit of an industry (and mankind for that matter). A good read.

Posted September 21, 2007

    • Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, 2007, Random House Publishing, New York, NY. If you don't want to do better presentations, don't read this book. There has been a rumbling for quite a few years about the ineffectiveness of most PowerPoint presentations. We all know that but don't want to deal with it. Well, if you want to be more effective in making presentations, you should read this book. It has a simple (aka, sticky) framework of how to make better presentations. And, yes, I'm a reluctant convert. Starting to rework them this morning, in fact.
    • >Kiss Theory Good Bye: Five Proven Ways to Get Extraordinary Results in Any Company by Bob Prosen, 2006, Gold Pen Publishing, Dallas, TX. This is an "I" book – I did this, I did that, and look how great it was. I don't get the title. A better one is: I have lots of advice but don't want to take the time to put it into a system which will make it easier to remember and present. The net result is rhetoric and redundancies with nothing new. He tried doing too much and ended up doing too little. Fahgedaboutit.
    • Give Your Speech, Change the World: How to Move Your Audience to Action by Nick Morgan, 2003 Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. This is a terrific book if you want to do a better job making presentations, be they large or small. The author has lots of great examples to make his points, and like the title, you want to change the way you give presentations once you're done.

Posted August 17, 2007

    • Marketing That Works: How Entrepreneurial Marketing Can Add Sustainable Value to Any Sized Company by Leonard M. Lodish, Howard L. Morgan and Shellye Archambeau, 2007, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. This is an insightful but bland effort. It has quite a few stories and is clearly positioned for a small to medium business that needs to get insights in marketing. Unfortunately, it pales in depth, insights, and pizzazz to Kotler's old standby. There is a good discussion on distribution and representative/salesperson strategy.
    • The Halo Effect…and the Eight Other business Delusions That Deceive Managers by Phil Rosenzweig, 2007, The Free Press, New York, New York. This book is well researched, has some great stories and attempts to turn around how we think about some of the great business books. This guy does have a beef, and it's a reasonable one that some of the top business guru's are a little full of themselves and that their theories are based on insight, not solid research. But it takes him four chapters to get to the problem and another four to say what it is and why it is important. Then he has one chapter to pull it together and he fails. His punch line: it's a tough world out there to predict and to manage. No kidding. Didn't need a book to get there.

Posted July 20, 2007

    • The Marketing Mavens by Noel Capon, 2007, Crown Business, New York, NY. This is the best marketing book I've read in a long time. Capon delivers on his promise of who the big marketing mavens are and tells how they do it. He gives us five simple imperatives in marketing and in business and provides in-depth stories on how to achieve them. This is a well-documented, well-written book – a worthwhile read for all marketers.

Posted June 22, 2007

    • Selling Blue Elephants: How to Make Great Products that People Want Before They Even Know they Want Them by Howard Moskowitz and Alex Gofman, 2007, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ. This book is about RDE--Rule Development Experimentation. Great theory but muddled in technology and lacking in simple logic of why it should be used. It is a way of taking consumer preferences and mapping and optimizing them. Simple? Not the way they present it. Also, it’s all BTC examples.
    • The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth by Fred Reichheld, 2006, Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA. This is a book worthy of your bookshelf. It is well written, easy to read, and makes an excellent point. Leveraging his work on customer loyalty, Bain's Fred Reichheld shows how he measures sustainable competitive advantage by developing his Net Promoter Score – that is the percentage of customers who promote your business less the percentage of customers who detract from your business by complaining about it. This is going to be a scary read for some executives, but they're already in trouble. For those of you who care about your business and want to begin to develop simple metrics on how to improve it, this is a must read.

Posted April 20, 2007

    • The Manager's Book of Decencies by Steve Harrison, 2007, McGraw Hill, New York, NY. This is one of those books that is full of little insights into how you need to think about interacting with the people of your business. There are so many pearls of wisdom on how to run and attend meetings that they alone are worth the time to read it. They say that business success comes from attention to detail. If you are trying to motivate people, this book is loaded with insights on those details. A good read.
    • Winning the Profit Game: Smarter Pricing, Smarter Branding by Robert G. Docters, Michael R. Reopel, Jeanne-May Sun and Stephen M. Tanny. This book is packed with good BTB and BTC stories and has some good advice. It also lacks good analytical insights. It should also be titled Smarter Finance, because it strays there a lot with a decent discussion on derivatives.
    • Plain Talk: Lessons from a Business Maverick by Ken Iverson, 1998, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey. This is a manifesto for managers who are tired of all the complexity that we add to business. It talks about how to best compensate and motivate people, how to have simple reporting structures. But most of all, it talks about Iverson's secrets to success as he took a business on the edge of bankruptcy in an industry that was in a massive downturn and made it into a global powerhouse. A book that should be on everyone's bookshelf.
    • The Ultimate Question by Fred Reichheld, 2006 HBS Press. One of the pioneers of thinking on the value of loyal customers, Reichheld and his team seek to boil down all of their work to make it simpler and more applicable. By measuring the difference between customers that say that they would recommend your product and those that would not, the Net Promoter Score–Reichheld contends that companies can develop a roadmap to unparalleled growth. His points on how companies that live off bad profits generated by intentionally complicated pricing and onerous contract terms are particularly vulnerable are good ones. I have two issues with this book. First, most of his examples focus on business to consumer sales where the decision-making process is a simple and centralized means that many in business-to-business markets may find applying the Net Promoter Score concept a difficult proposition. Second, there is very little insight into what to actually do once you get the data. As a result, I can’t recommend this book. Do you think he is keeping score?

Posted May 18, 2007

    • Clued In: How To Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again by Lewis P. Carbone, 2004, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ. This book provides an in-depth look at how to manage for better customer experiences. Included are great stories on companies that have done it well and some that have done it poorly. Carbone explores the simple relationship between customer experience and business success. He considers customer experience to be a value proposition that links to loyalty and business results. He is right. But, he provides no real understanding of how to both prioritize and leverage those insights. Also, this is a solid BTC book–no BTB stories but some relevance.
    • True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership by Bill George with Peter Sims, 2007, Jossey Bass, San Francisco, CA. This is a world-shattering book for anyone who chooses to take it seriously. If you feel like you've gotten too many bad breaks and have a lousy situation or a good situation and want to make it better, this book will help you. It not only provides a model for doing that, it provides a bunch of stories from industry leaders in what they had to go through and overcome in their journey of life.

Posted March 23, 2007

    • Measure What Matters To Customers: Using Key Predictive Indicators by Ronald J. Baker. 2006, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey. Ron Baker is an expert in services pricing, but he is also a philosopher, economist, and historian of sorts. His writing is never entirely about the title of the book. Yes, this book is about the importance of, but also, the need to move beyond Key Performance Indicators (KPI's) in the management of a business. For those of us in the services business, there is a terrific section on KPI's for knowledge workers. Since meeting him a decade ago at the University of Chicago, I have come to respect him for how he thinks, what he knows, and what I can learn from reading his books. This one does not disappoint.
    • Work in Progress: Risking Failure, Surviving Success by Michael Eisner. This book came as a business gift, and it went to the bottom of the reading pile–the very bottom. I almost threw it out. After all, who wants to read the revisionist history of an ego-driven CEO? Well, the pile got low, and I found this to be an open, honest discussion of what it is like to be in the top spot. He admits his failures. He doesn't take all the credit. He understands his people. And, after all, he is responsible for making Disney the powerhouse it is today. Another good read.
    • The Three Tensions: Winning the Struggle to Perform Without Compromise by Dominic Dod and Ken Favaro, 2007, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ. This book is a well-researched, high-level directional piece on how CEO's can manage the tensions between three important "tensions" in the firm: profitability vs. growth, short term vs. long term, and managing pieces or a whole part. While I found the third part a little rhetorical, there is good logic, great stories, and plenty of data to support the author's path. While it is a high-level piece, I was disappointed that they never dealt with pricing problems. Ah well, maybe next time.

Posted February 16, 2007

    • Marketing Champions: Practical Strategies for Improving Marketing's Power, Influence, and Business Impact by Roy A. Young, Allen M. Weiss, and David W. Steward, 2006, John Wiley, Hoboken, New Jersey. This book provides two out of three things its title promises. Unfortunately, it doesn't do the most important thing: how to make marketing more effective for the firm. It does talk about how to increase marketing's power by using more appropriate words for the different high-level functions of the firm. But it is weak on metrics and doesn't focus on external issues enough. The book features two chapters that ended with a list of questions to evaluate the CEO and CFO; it would have been more effective to have questions which evaluated marketing!
    • Boeing versus Airbus: The Inside Story of the Greatest International Competition in Business by John Newhouse, 2007, Alfred Knopf, New York, New York. This book provides an in-depth look at the brutally competitive large aircraft business. Newhouse provides great depth in the cost, design, union, and customer demand factors that have caused a complete reversal of fortune in the battle between two giants. If you like the art of the deal, you'll like this book. If you're worried about complacency in your own firm, you might not like it, but you should read it.

Posted January 19, 2007

    • Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth Together by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones, 2005, Free Press, New York, NY. This book is all about making the process of customer engagement and the supply chain to achieve it more efficient. The primary focus is on BTC, but there were enough BTB examples in the service arena to make this a worthwhile read. There is a good discussion on the use of price to control demand. It's written in an easy prose with lots of examples.

Posted December 15, 2006
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • Total Integrated Marketing: Breaking the Bounds of the Function by James Mac Hulbert, Noel Capon, and Nigel F. Piercy, 2003, The Free Press, New York, NY. I always get a little nervous when I read a "practical" marketing book written by three business school professors, but this one was actually pretty good. It is all about marketing "in the new age" of fast moving customers and competitors. Their five tasks of strategic marketing form the manifesto for today's marketing executives. There are lots of relevant stories, and I loved the discussion on connecting with sales—one of Capon's strong points.

Posted November 16, 2006
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • Leading at the Speed of Growth by Katherine Catlin and Jana Mathews, 2001, Hungry Minds, Inc., New York, NY. Growing companies are evolving companies, and the job of the president and/or CEO is to change their style in a manner consistent with that evolution. This book identifies both the challenges and the trouble signs during that process. It is primarily for under $200M companies but is an easy read and has a number of good insights to be useful to many managers.
    • Revenue Management and Pricing: Case Studies and Applications by Ian Yoeman and Una McMahon-Beattie, 2004, Thompson Learning, London, England. For both BTB and BTC services firms, this book provides some useful insights on problems other firms have had with yield management and the solutions to those problems. There are several great examples on bundling of services, and fortunately, the cases have answers.
    • Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen, 1999, Viking Publishing, New York, NY. Do you hate to give feedback, especially hard feedback? Do you find yourself getting angry in simple conversations? Well, this book may help. It has simple rules, such as seek first to understand (Covey fans will remember this one), look for good intentions (rule #4 from Managing from the Heart), don't worry about blaming, worry about learning, understand how you really feel, and the importance of learning. Maybe it has too much depth, but the lessons are good ones.

Posted October 19, 2006
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High! by Jeff Thull, 2003, Wiley, Hoboken, New Jersey. Any book can provide some value and I suppose this does. The problem is that it is long on rhetoric and short on logical systems and processes to identify where a complex sales process is needed and how to do it. It presupposes too much and does things like calling disciplines criteria and mixing applications along the way. With regrets to whomever recommended it, this one didn't make the shelf.
    • Marketing as Strategy: Understanding the CEO's Agenda for Driving Growth and Innovation by Nirmalya Kumar, 2004, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. This is a well researched, well thought-out book with many practical examples. His Three V's model is simple and seems to work. The shortcoming is that many of his examples are quite dated and haven't stood the test of time and there is nothing there to manage his process. Maybe he tries to do too much, and in doing so, misses points on metrics to prove value and basic connections with salespeople.
    • The Cluetrain Manifesto by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger, 2000, Perseus Publishing, Cambridge, MA. Wow, this is a goofy book, but boy did it stick with me. It's all about how companies need to think about dialogues with people. It's not about talking to customers–which is how most companies think. It is a little technical and its stories focus on how some of the technical communities started dialogues with developers in the early days of the internet, but I did find it insightful and worth the read.

Posted September 22, 2006
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services by Anthony W. Ulwick, 2005, McGraw Hill, New York, NY. There are three types of books: ones that are a waste of time, ones that provide interesting insights, and ones that have solid tools to help you in your business. This one is certainly "interesting." I like the author's focus on "outcome-driven" innovation and the way he talks about different types of innovation. He also does a good job identifying problems with many innovative approaches we see in business today. Unfortunately, in his drive to keep it simple, he misses many opportunities for a deeper discussion in important areas. Nor does he provide useful tools or talk about how his approach would (should?) change in a push vs. a pull marketing and sales environment.
    • The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, 2003, Penguin Group, London, England. The FAA has made flying in America safer than any other country. They do that by studying crashes. They learn what caused a crash and implement new procedures so it doesn't happen again. In business, we spend too much time studying the successes and when they crash, we ignore them. That's too bad, because we can learn a lot from crashes. Were there early warning signs of the crash at Enron? You betcha. Management ignored all of them. In fact, they encouraged practices that caused the crash. This is a very well written book. If you are in financial services, accounting, or senior management, it's a good read and chock full of insights on how not to run your business.

Posted August 17, 2006
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • Pricing and Revenue Optimization by Robert L. Phillips, 2005, Stanford Business Books, Stanford, California. This book is loaded with formulas and is about the best in-depth book for anyone who is thinking about using price optimization software. It is about pricing from an econometric perspective with good mathematical how-to's in demand shifting, segmentation, and supply and demand structure for intermediaries and markdown management. For those of you who aren't mathematically inclined, it still contains some good information about when optimization works.
    • How to Sell At Margins Higher Than Your Competitors: Winning Every Sale at Full Price, Rate or Fee by Lawrence L. Steinmetz, PhD and William T. Brooks, 2006, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey. I've been a fan of Larry Steinmetz ever since I discovered another of his books last year. This book should be required reading for all sales managers, senior executives, and especially salespeople who deal with price. Pricing managers should read it too, so they can recommend it to the sales side. This is a tactical view of pricing execution in the trenches and what managers need to do to make it more successful. Plus, he has some great stories. This book has several additional chapters on signs of under and over pricing not included in his earlier book.
    • Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renee Maugorgne, 2005, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. These guys get it--the Value DisciplineSM that is. If you are tired of beating your brains out competing with all of the firms in your industry, this book provides a useful structure to consider moving into new, higher-value positions. If you are a handwringer or generally have a negative bent, don't waste your time. But, if you truly want to elevate your thinking to a new, higher-value level, this is a winner.
    • Key Account Management and Planning: The Comprehensive Handbook for Managing Your Firm's Most Important Strategic Asset by Noel Capon, 2001, The Free Press, New York, NY. This the complete textbook version for the manager's handbook by Prof. Capon we reviewed last November. As such, it provides a much more in-depth and quite valuable look. This is the "how to" book for major account management by the leading expert in the field. It includes the requisite underlying logic, practical support, tools, and plenty of real-world examples to support even the most ambitious program.

Posted July 21, 2006
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • The 50-Plus Market; Why the Future is Age Neutral When It Comes to Marketing & Branding Strategies by Dick Stroud, 2005, Kogan Page Limited, Sterling, VA. If you have anything to do with BTC marketing, this is a good book to read. It is well written and has lots of anecdotes and practical advice for the marketing practitioner in how to deal with the aging global population. It is written from the United Kingdom but has a very global perspective and does take the discussion to a number of valuable "so what's," especially with regard to technology.
    • The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing, Fourth Edition by Thomas T. Nagle and John E. Hogan, 2006, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ. While I will admit to a bit of nostalgia while writing this, the fourth edition, of what is still the best book on strategic pricing, continues to move away from pricing in the trenches to a higher-level pricing strategy book. It is well written with a good balance of BTB and BTC examples in the early chapters. I liked the discussion on price banding analysis and value communications strategies but was disappointed that some of John Hogan's great work on new product pricing was missing. The inclusion of "negotiating with power buyers" was a great start, but it only refers to dealing with large retail buyers and moves further away from pricing support for the salesperson.

Posted June 16, 2006
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • Pricing and Revenue Optimization by Robert L. Phillips, 2005, Stanford Business Books, Stanford, California. This book is loaded with formulas and is about the best in-depth book for anyone who is thinking about using price optimization software. It is about pricing from an econometric perspective with good mathematical how to's in demand shifting, segmentation, supply and demand structure for intermediaries and markdown management. For those of you who aren't mathematically inclined, it still contains some good information about when optimization works.
    • The 50-Plus Market; Why the Future is Age Neutral When It Comes to Marketing & Branding Strategies by Dick Stroud, 2005, Kogan Page Limited, Sterling, VA. If you have anything to do with BTC marketing, this is a good book to read. It is well written and has lots of anecdotes and practical advice for the marketing practitioner in how to deal with the aging global population. It is written from the United Kingdom but has a very global perspective and does take the discussion to a number of valuable "so what's," especially with regard to technology.

Posted May 19, 2006
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • Managing Global Accounts: Nine Critical Factors for a World-Class Program by Noel Capon, Dave Potter, and Fred Schindler, 2006, Thomson Higher Education, Mason, Ohio. Think of this as THE handbook for Global Account Management (GAM). It is a terrific book, chock-full of processes and steps for managers trying to catch up with the needs of their global accounts. Also included at no extra charge is some sage advice for the many firms that have stumbled in the process.
    • Manage for Profit, Not for Market Share: A Guide to Greater Profits in Highly Contested Markets by Hermann Simon, Frank F. Bilstein & Frank Luby, 2006, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. The purpose of any book is to entertain, teach, or inspire the reader. This book doesn't do it. It has a long list of stories about how they have helped clients, but it fails to provide the detail, models, or theories needed. It is a "buy our consulting services" book. As such, it is not a recommended read.

Posted April 21, 2006
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • The Giants of Sales: What Dale Carnegie, John Patterson, Elmer Wheeler, and Joe Girard Can Teach You About Sales Success by Tom Sant, 2006, American Management Association, New York, NY. With this book, Tom Sant finally gives credit where credit is due to the original thought leaders in the development of modern selling. This book points beyond the rhetoric of the "one size fits all" sales program and puts all of the modern techniques into a simple and practical perspective that benefits all. By taking the discussion to the level of how to make the techniques work for you, Tom Sant has written an outstanding book that should be read by all in the field of sales.
    • The New Solution Selling: The Revolutionary Sales Process That is Changing the Way People Sell by Keith M. Eades, 2004, McGraw Hill, New York, NY. This is a terrific book to introduce salespeople to a systematic process of selling that increases the likelihood of a successful piece of business. Included in the discussion is prospecting, how to engage in customer dialogue, when and how to compete and the use of vision re-engineering to take control of the sales process. I also like the chapter on how to gain access to people with power using gives-gets.

Reviews by Mark Burton

    • Hardball – Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win? by George Stalk and Rob Lachnauer, Harvard Business School Press, 2004. While Hardball has a great deal of practical advice and examples on firms that have successfully made tough and aggressive strategic moves, the authors do a much better job in making some of their recommended approaches come to life than others. One of the areas where they do provide terrific depth of insight is in the connection between pricing strategy and competitive strategy – easily amongst the best material written on this subject. Given this and the fact that Hardball is a quick read, it is worth picking up.
    • The Art of Pricing: How to Find the Hidden Profits to Grow Your Business by Rafi Mohammed, Crown Business Press, 2005. While I disagree with the premise that pricing is an “art” this book provides plenty of great examples of how to address some of the trickier elements of pricing including segmented and differential pricing. In these areas I agree with the author that a healthy dose of creativity and out-of-the box thinking can lead to opportunities to really improve pricing performance and profits. With a good mix of consumer and business-to-business examples, this is a good read for pricing professionals of all persuasions.
    • Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes and How to Correct Them – Lessons From the New Science of Behavioral Economics by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich, Simon and Schuster, 1999. This is really a book about factors that affect the way that people approach financial decisions and calculations, the predictable mental shortcuts they take, and the inherent biases in these shortcuts. For the hardcore pricing professional that wants to better understand the factors that affect customer perceptions of prices it is worth a read but I wouldn’t recommend it for other audiences.

Posted March 24, 2006
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • Life After the 30-Second Spot: Energize Your Brand with a Bold Mix of Alternatives to Traditional Advertising by Joseph Jaffe, 2005, Joseph Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey. Television advertising is not in the practical target for a small to mid-sized BTB CMO, but there are plenty of large companies that slide down the slippery slope of justification for what is increasingly becoming a low-return investment. This is a good primer on both the fallacy of TV advertising and the need to move into less "traditional" approaches – most of which are presented in this book.
    • Competition Demystified: A Radically Simplified Approach to Business Strategy by Bruce Greenwald and Judd Kahn, 2005, Penguin Books, New York, New York. Developing corporate strategy is hard enough – any attempt to simplify it is indeed worthy. The problem is that in spite of all the data analysis, there are random problems that can crop up along the way. This book tries to take David Porter's Competitive Strategy Model and focus more on analysis of markets and make that process decision-tree-based.
    • Passionate & Profitable: Why Customer Strategies Fail and 10 Steps to do Them Right by Lior Arussy, 2005, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey. Most companies give their customers a terrible experience. If you are one of those companies and you're comfortable with that, don't read this book. But you better hope your competitors don't read it either. While this book has as much rhetoric as passion, it does present a number of valuable tools on how to evaluate customer touch points and eventually improve the customer experience. It is primarily a BTC book and misses the complexity of the BTB relationship, but is a worthwhile read.

Reviews by Mark Burton

    • Loyalty Myths – Hyped Strategies That Will Put You Out of Business – and Proven Tactics That Really Work, Timothy L. Keiningham, Terry G. Vavra, Lerzan Askoy, and Henri Wallard, 2005, John Wiley and Sons. I have to admit I usually get a little queasy when I hear about the emphasis that many companies put on customer loyalty and money spent on loyalty programs. After reading this book, I know why. Loyalty Myths puts the conventional wisdom regarding customer loyalty under a microscope. In the process, the authors challenge just about everything that you thought you knew about the economics, causes, and means to create more loyal customers. My one complaint is that while there is a sharp analysis to refute “truths” like loyal customers are more profitable, cheaper to serve, and pay higher prices, there is little in terms of actionable alternatives or case studies on companies that are handling customer loyalty the right way. (Maybe that’s a finding.) Having said that, this book is still a must read for executives that are thinking about or have implemented loyalty programs. It will provoke you to ask a lot of challenging questions and hopefully put expectations in the proper perspective.

Posted February 17, 2006
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • The Value Enterprise: Strategies for Building a Value-Based Organization by John Donovan, Richard Tully and Brent Wortman of Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group, 1998, McGraw Hill Ryerson, Ontario, Canada. This book does a good job of showing a high-level interaction with a firm's "value constituency"--its employees, its stockholders, and its customers. As such, it shows how firms that practice Value DisciplineSM can leverage the results throughout other elements of the firm for greater success. Unfortunately, it fails to get to the in-the-execution trenches of the value enterprise.
    • Knockoff: The Deadly Trade in Counterfeit Goods by Tim Phillips, 2005, Kogan Page Ltd., London, UK. When I received this book, sent by the agent for the author, I thought that it would be a fairly light and uninspiring read. After all, doesn't everyone buy knockoffs and copy music? No big deal, right? Wrong. The knockoff business, whatever it involves, Gucci to Viagra, steals the intellectual property of others, and that is bad. In fact, in many cases, it is deadly. In 2001, 192,000 people in China alone died from using fake drugs. As I type this, I get chills thinking about that number because, as big as it is, it only represents China. This book is not only an indictment of the people who make the fakes, it is an indictment of the companies that don't do enough to protect themselves–and more importantly the public–from bad merchandise. If you think that fake Gucci bags are no big deal, recognize that tolerance here sets the standard for tolerance in other areas as well. This book is an important work if your firm has any problems with grey or black markets–whatever the product.
    • Escaping the Black Hole: Minimizing the Damage from the Marketing-Sales Disconnect by Robert J. Schmonsees, 2005, Thompson Higher Education, Mason, Ohio. With the title and the focus on value, I had high hopes for this book, but in terms of definite action steps in a broad perspective, I came away disappointed. It does bring us a step closer in the strategic divide between sales and marketing and provides a very useful discussion of the current problems in that area–in fact that is 43% of the book! He does get to the importance of tracking systems and training, but he lost me when you had to license his "patented" value system that fails to go beyond a well organized but still rhetorical exercise.
    • Magnetic Service: Secrets for Creating Passionately Devoted Customers by Chip R. Bell and Bilijack R. Bell, 2003, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, CA. If you think you have good customer service, read this book and discover a new standard and host of opportunities for improvement. There are no secrets or fancy processes here, just simple, from the heart advice that is terrific.

Posted January 20, 2006
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • Performance Without Compromise: How Emerson Consistently Achieves Winning Results by Charles F. Knight with Davis Dyer, 2005, Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, MA. Emerson is one of those quiet little companies that has delivered a twenty year string of solid growth and profits under CEO Charles Knight. In this book, he tells about his secrets of success and the tricks on how to make them work. I especially liked his idea for a Corporate Profit Czar who helped manage divisional profit performance. Under Knight's leadership, Emerson managers learned how to evolve a business in a very beneficial direction--casting off some pieces with respect, buying others with resolve and the knowledge you can make it work. He also discusses how to keep the balance between profit and growth and supports that balance with effective compensations systems. Knight certainly embraced necessary change that caused other CEO's to circle the wagons. In doing so, he build an engine of growth, profit and pride. A pretty good read.
    • Clients for Life: Evolving from an Expert for Hire to an Extraordinary Advisor by Jagdish Sheth and Andrew Sobel, 2000, Fireside Div. Simon and Schuster, New York, NY. Yes, the title of this book pretty much says it all. This is a good read both for the professional services person and the consumer of those professional services since it tells what to look for in buying world class advice. The authors graciously include thorough checklists in each area of recommendation.
    • Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID by Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre, 2005, Nelson Currant, Nashville, TN. Every so often, someone recommends a book that comes from the other side. You know, the authors decided to take Only the Paranoid Survive to the next illogical step. Well, this is the book. It takes a swipe at the ethics of all marketers and tries to support that with data and specific reference to Hitler and 1984. If you can read it with an open mind, it does provide good insights into how small tracking chips can be used to provide consumer data in a wide range of areas of shopping habits. I would say this is a must read for BTC marketers but a no read for BTB.

Reviews by Mark Burton

    • What Customers Want by Anthony W. Ulwick McGraw-Hill, 2005 With the opening line, “Listening to the ‘voice of the customer’ has been the marketing mantra for more than 20 years, but it is time for that voice to be silenced. The literal voice of the customer sidetracks the innovation process because customers are not qualified to know what solutions are best – that is the job of the organization…” this book got my attention. Ulwick provides an updated but straightforward approach to using an old tool, importance-performance analysis, to uncover opportunities to deliver products and services that deliver superior performance on key customer outcomes. This emphasis is important because it gets companies past reactive approaches that focus too literally on the features that customers say they want. There is lots of useful common sense in this one in how to apply this approach to segmenting, targeting, and messaging. My one wish is that the author had pushed beyond outcomes to the ultimate measure – economic value to the customer.
    • The Heart of Change by John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen 2002, John Kotter and Deloitte Consulting. Effective and lasting change is rarely driven by overwhelmingly compelling logic and analysis. It happens when organizations and, more important, individuals feel the need to change and have a clear sense of where the change will lead. Kotter and Cohen make this truth come to life in a simple process with a lot of vivid, real-world examples, and practical advice. Are your efforts marked by “complex governance structures full of sponsors, cross-functional task forces, ownership teams or owners, and the like?” Does your organization suffer from a culture of over-analyzing before making change – or the opposite set out too quickly in pursuit of an ill-defined vision? If so, this book will be a critical beacon as you labor in the salt mines of creating meaningful, lasting change. 

Posted November 29, 2005

    • Profit Brand: How to Increase the Profitability, Accountability and Sustainability of Brands by Nick Wreden, 2005, Kogan Page, Sterling, VA. I've got to admit that when I received the proof of this book, my first, second, and third reaction was "not another useless book on branding." Boy, was I wrong. This book is about more than branding – it is a hard-hitting manifesto for the proactive and strategic CMO. The problem is that it is going to scare the heck out of them first. Nick provides a good framework for the evolution of brand premises from the past and into the future. Accordingly, he helps prepare us for the coming future state. He has redefined the role of marketing for the sake of the firm and the customer. He looks at the difference between brand and customer equity and makes a strong case for ignoring the former. There is a great discussion and list of required metrics for building a customer-centric culture. This book has great examples of both BTC and BTB firms. It is on my top-ten "must read" list for 2005.
    • All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World by Seth Godin, 2005, Penguin Books, London, England. Ok, I agree that positioning is everything and good stories make for great positioning. There is a good discussion of this, but unfortunately, it is mostly from a consumer perspective. I don't care for the positioning of this book, but the author's premise is that you've got to be willing to shock and alienate a large portion of the market to accomplish the appropriate position with the rest. It may work in BTC but in BTB you might as well close the door if you use this approach – this one didn't even make the bookshelf.
    • Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges by William Bridges, 1991, Perseus Books, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY. Ok, so this is one of those books that sat on my bookshelf for over five years never read – pretty much a sin in my world. Well, a sin it was. This is a fast read for executives and managers who are trying to more effectively manage change. It not only debunks many popular approaches as useless but also characterizes change in three distinct phases and provides useful checklists on how to manage more effectively in each one.

Posted October 25, 2005
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • How to Sell at Prices Higher Than Your Competitors: The Complete Book on How to Make Prices Stick by Lawrence L. Steinmetz, Ph.D., 2003, High Yield Management, Boulder, CO. I'm writing this review with a heavy sigh---feeling a little bit too much like a "head-in-the-clouds" academic. This is a book I should have read ten years ago--it is a book you should read now. It is a real pricing book from a salesperson's perspective. As such it is also a great book for managers who have salespeople who can only sell on price. Also, it is written with an "I'm not going to take this anymore" perspective--quite refreshing. It contains simple business rules--getting into the faulted psychology of price selling and it is the first book that contains all of those nasty tricks purchasing agents use to get salespeople to lower the price. It may be dated--there are more price decisions now than ever before, and its costing discussions are limited in depth and overly complex in presentation. Having said that, it is a great discussion on what I call the "hurt me" strategy of price selling reps who use simple adjectives along with the price that undermine their value proposition faster than you can say "hurt me."
    • Digital Phoenix: Why the Information Economy Collapsed and How It Will Rise Again by Bruce Abramson, 2005, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, USA. This book is titled wrong; it should be titled The Digital Hydra. Yes, the author does discuss why many of the high flying dotcoms failed in the 1990's. But the real story is how traditional companies are losing to smaller start-ups who do a better job ferreting out the real opportunity in the digital age. The book is well written and covers the legal, business and economic realities of knowledge and information businesses. It is the best book I've seen to explain and learn from the internet bubble and the details of the Microsoft court case.

Reviews by Mark Burton

    • Clients for Life – Evolving From an Expert For Hire to an Extraordinary Advisor by Jagdish Sheth and Andrew Sobel, 2000, Fireside. Originally written for people in the professional services industry, the relevance of this book goes far beyond that. Having been in both “in-house” and consulting roles, we see this book as a manifesto for professional development for senior managers and professionals of all types. In short, it’s one of the best business books that we have read in a long time. The authors draw on copious examples from industry and history to make their points about what it takes to be a great professional. One of the themes that really resonated with us - start with mastery of one area, have the humility to realize its limitations and have the strength to use it as a launch pad to build into a well-rounded and thoughtful leader. They also spend a lot time bringing clarity to one of the most important and rare qualities in professionals – the ability to synthesize a number of ideas and perspectives into a useful whole that organizations can rally around. There is not much fluff here rather there are frameworks that provide a good blueprint for marketing.
    • A Great Improvisation – Franklin, France, and the Birth of America by Stacy Schiff, 2005, Henry Holt and Company. While this is predominantly a wonderful biography and history of Franklin’s work in France during the American Revolution, we have included it in this month’s reading because the author does a terrific job in laying out the detail of the give and take of negotiations for aid from France. Understanding why Franklin’s approach of allowing the French to see him as they expected to worked, while others who came with a “give ‘em hell” posture didn’t, is an important insight for all leaders who want to improve their effectiveness in negotiations and in working in a global economy with partners from many different cultures.

Posted September 23, 2005
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • Market Busters: 40 Strategic Moves That Drive Exceptional Business Growth by Rita Gunther McGrath and Ian C. MacMillan, 2005, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. I am in a bit of a dilemma on this book. It lacks a systematic approach to strategy, despite discussions to the contrary by the authors. On the other hand, it has an excellent discussion of metrics from both an operations and customer performance perspective. It also does a nice job of using "attitude mapping" to determine value positioning for customers. Finally, their "Kite" model of execution systems (or Transformation in our words) has some good insights.
    • Managing Conflict and Consensus: Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer by Michael A. Roberto, 2005, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ. Despite a level of detail that most managers don't need, this is a good book for a number of reasons. First, it validates the importance of positive conflict as a value in organizations. It also does well at pointers for better listening and building consensus, especially in critical meetings and how to get better participation in the process. For those managers who are trying to bust "cycles of inaction", this is a must read.
    • 25 Ways to Win with People by John c. Maxwell and Less Parrott, Ph. D., 2005, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Nashville, Tennessee. This is one of those quick read books that have 3 or 4 jewels of information for you. The trick to managing people is to figure out how to bring out the best in them. How to make them want to do the best job possible. This book has the little pieces of advice on how to do that.
    • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, 2005, Time Warner Book Group, New York, NY. This book, by the author of The Tipping Point, is about how some people can make very correct snap judgments in the "blink" of an eye. While not as directly relevant to actual business operations, this is still a good book. It provides the rationale and reasons why people can do this. It is an interesting book. For those of you thinking about joining one of these rotating five-minute meeting dating services, read the book, then go ahead. For those of you thinking about a five minute job interview, you might want to hold on for a bit.

Posted August 24, 2005

    • Solution Selling: Creating Buyers in Difficult Selling Markets by Michael T. Bosworth, 1995, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY. My frustration with all selling skills books is that they only cover pieces of what needs to be done yet they act like they cover all the steps of successful selling. The current issue is that sales people and their managers lack a systematic approach to selling. Having said that, this book is a good read and contains a number of excellent processes and points. It does discuss how a salesperson can move a buyer through three levels of "pain" and it has good coverage of building reference stories and phone scripts. It also has a great discussion on what they call false price negotiations--our “poker players”. It takes value selling to a good level but fails to provide some of the needed techniques.
    • How Winners Sell: 21 Proven Strategies to Outsell Your Competition and Win the Big Sale by Dave Stein, 2002, Bard Press, Austin, TX. This must be the month for people to recommend selling books. This book is more of a personal self-help book for salespeople who want to learn to sell higher-up in client organizations. The author does provide quite a few valuable tools both for salespeople and sales managers. My favorite is the sales opportunity matrix which provides a way of thinking about how you enter the approval cycle and how high you are calling in the client organization---a good way to decide how and where to put your resources. Clearly, the winning approach is to get involved early and sell high. Yes, it is common sense but sometimes it's good to get hit over the head with it again.
    • The Economics of Information Technology: An Introduction by Hal R. Varian, Joseph Farrell, and Carl Shapiro, 2004, Cambridge University Press, New York, NY. This book is a summary of lectures on the subject of pricing of internet technology given at the University of California, Berkeley, CA. As such, it is more for an advanced Pricing or Marketing Manager in the IT industry. Having said that, there are a number of great insights for any marketing or pricing manager selling any type of intellectual content or information offerings. It provides ways of looking at product versioning and approaches to gaining more of an industry footprint in a particular technology.
    • Introduction to NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming): Psychological Skills for Understanding and Influencing People by Joseph O'Connor & John Seymour, 2002, Element (Harper-Collins Publishing), London, England. I agree with the authors that just the title of this book is enough to scare you away. While the book did have small elements on selling, meeting management and negotiating, it is so far down the path for practicing psychologists, that I won't recommend it for a casual read. It is clearly a powerful technique of getting people to change but it clearly will take years of study and practice---I think I'll leave that to the real professionals.
    • The Prime Solution by Jeff Thull, 2005, Dearborn Trade Publishing. A terrific summary of what marketing and sales leadership must do to uncover opportunities to move beyond pushing product to position and sell a set of services and solutions that deliver value over and above the competition. Building on his original work in The Complex Sale, Thull also provides good insight into something that most companies aren't even thinking about: ensuring that the value uncovered during the sales process is actually delivered - what a concept!
    • The Rational Project Manager: A Thinking Team’s Guide to Getting Work Done by Andrew Longman and Jim Mullins, 2005, Wiley Publishing. One skill that we see lacking in almost every firm that we work with is project management. So when the folks at one of the premier project management consulting and training firms, Kepner-Tregoe, put out a new book on the subject we were eager to get our hands on it. Unfortunately we were somewhat disappointed. Perhaps our expectations were too high given our experience with some of Kepner-Tregoe's live seminars. The Rationale Project Manager is a nice overview of good project management processes and tools but fails to bring life to the burning platform of project management and performance that exists in many organizations. Our advice? Get them in to do a seminar.

Posted July 22, 2005

    • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, 1936, Simon and Schuster, New York, NY. When someone recommended this book, I was skeptical--after all, it's over 70 years old. Since it is a short read, I went ahead and found the advice perhaps more relevant today than it was when it was originally published. It contains apt advice on how to handle people in general and difficult people specifically. There are plenty of examples and Mr. Carnegie boils it all down to a simple list of actions.
    • Turning Great Strategy into Great Performance by Michael C. Mankins and Richard Steel, Harvard Business Review, July-August, 2005. Every so often a great article comes along for those who want to learn more about the Value DisciplineSM. This article gives a number of simple principles on how to make sure that the competitive strategy side of things connects well with execution. It's the author's first rule is to keep it simple---Amen!
    • Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy by Carl Shapiro and Hal R. Varian, 1999, Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, MA. This excellent should be read by anyone who is involved in product development, marketing or pricing of information and/or intellectual content. In fact, it should be their bible. The insights in this book will provide the guidance needed to make more profitable decisions and develop a larger competitive footprint in the global information business. The later chapters deal extensively with strategies for setting industry standards.
    • The Last Word on Power: Executive Re-Invention for Leaders Who Must Make the Impossible Happen by Tracy Gross, 1996, Doubleday Publishing, New York, NY. This is a little bit of a "fake it till you make it" book for senior executives. While I do believe in the approach it is both squishy and a bit too self serving---in order to make this work you really need to have a lot of coaching and they say that up front---"after engaging with (us), he created a new context for himself". My basic belief is that a book should have the answer---if this one does, it is a bit too confounded with self promotion to be useful.

Posted June 24, 2005

    • Focus on those intermediaries and customers who are most likely to adopt the new technology first, they will be the basis of your business case and success drivers. Have the patience to let the new adopters sniff around and trial the technology. Sage advice that is often ignored.

Posted May 20, 2005

    • Winning by Jack and Suzy Welch, 2005, Harper Collins, New York, NY. I will admit to being a Jack Welch fan. If you aren't, don't waste your time with this book. If you are, go back to any one of his earlier books and your read will be more insightful. While this isn't a bad book, it lacks the punchy drama that defined his earlier works. Yes, there are many good rules of engagement for handling people, jobs, strategy and the like. The problem is that most of these were in the earlier books and with more passion.
    • The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman, 2005, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, NY. OK, I am a really big fan of this Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The New York Times. This book provides further proof that the competitive structure of most markets are a) becoming more global and b) thus becoming much more competitive. While there are lots of esoteric detail and arguably too much detail on technological and internet history, this is a must read for anyone specializing in services as well as software and technology companies.

Posted April 21, 2005

    • Platform Leadership: How Intel, Microsoft, and Cisco Drive Industry Innovation by Annabelle Gawar and Micahel A. Cusumano, 2002 Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. As markets get more complex and suppliers are forced to give up control of their offering to a mix of partners and intermediaries, they will increasingly have to rely on communities of collaborators to improve on and evolve that offering. With solid examples from a number of highly successful high technology companies, the authors provide the both the operating principles and the details of accomplishing those communities.
    • Relevance Lost: The Rise and Fall of Management Accounting by H. Thomas Johnson and Robert S. Kaplan, 1987, Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, MA. This seems to be "operational leverage" month with our clients as they discuss how best to deploy their costing systems for a value-based model. This book is the classic that marks the beginning of Activity Based Costing--a better way of allocating fixed costs in the firm. The problem to recognize is, that for the sake of pricing, incremental costs become the best internal measure of costs. When capacity constraints are seen, contribution dollars (not margin) need to be maximized to the point of the constraint (AKA Herbie for you Goldrat fans).
    • The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization by Thomas L. Friedman, 2000, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, NY. While ordering Friedman's newest book The World is Flat, I realized that his earlier book hadn't been reviewed, yet it is one we discuss with clients on a weekly basis. If you are wondering why global competition is something that all managers should think about, this is the book to make that realization apparent. This Pulitzer Prize winning writer for the New York Times presents many practical examples of why the internet and global financial communities have changed the face of global competition forever. This book is on my top ten list and is likely to stay there for quite a while.

Posted March 24, 2005

    • Rethinking the Sales Force: Redefining Selling to Create and Capture Customer Value by Neil Rackham and John DeVincentis, 1999, McGraw Hill, New York, NY. In this extension of Rackham's original work on SPIN Selling, the authors present a good model for dealing with what we would call price, value and loyal customers. In their model they match each of these buying types with transactional, consultative and enterprise selling. The problem we see is that first, they don't do a good job defining the specifics of "value" in dealing with customer organizations. Also, they suggest that each approach would be a appropriate for a particular industry. We would disagree with that but do appreciate the depth they add to the sales approaches for the different types of customers.
    • Managing Channels of Distribution: The Marketing Executive's Complete Guide by Kenneth Rolnicki, 1998, American Management Association, New York, NY. This is a terrific guide for developing new and evaluating existing distribution systems. While it still doesn't address the thorny issue of managing difficult distributors in depth it does provide an extensive number of checklists for how to review new and evaluate existing distributors. Readers are cautioned to review the recent supreme court decision that gives manufacturers considerably more latitude in setting end prices in a channel. They should also recognize that there are considerably more opportunities to balance existing power structures with creative and positive approaches. The authors provide an excellent review of the country by country laws which govern channel systems.
    • The Manufacturer's Guide to Business Marketing: How small and midsize companies can increase profits with limited resources by Michael P. Collins, 1995, Michael P. Collins. To use the words of the author, this book focuses on "three fundamental strategies: 1) focus on improving profit performance not higher sales volume, 2) becoming customer-driven and 3) targeting specific markets and customers with tailored products and services." #3 certainly sounds like The Value Discipline. This book is a good gut-check for whether or not you are customer driven and provides numerous process check lists for conducting customer interviews, developing competitive intelligence capabilities and how to work with independent sales agents.
    • The New Law of Demand and Supply: The Revolutionary New Demand Strategy for Faster Growth and Higher Profits, by Rick Kash, 2001, Doubleday, New York, NY. This book points to the tremendous and devastating loss of pricing power that firms have suffered over the last decade. While value is not well defined and the examples are mostly consumer, they do present an interesting framework for how to become more customer centric and use that centricity to drive innovation into the firm for sustainable competitive advantage. An interesting note is that most of the innovation he points to is services based.
    • Strategic Supremacy: How Industry Leaders Create Growth, Wealth, and Power Through Spheres of Influence by Ricard A. D'Aveni, 2001, The Free Press, New York, NY. The author uses deep knowledge of history and competitive strategy to build his concept of spheres of influence which much be effectively managed in today's global markets. The problem is that, to a certain extent, he over complicates it. Also, he fails to address how non-leaders should evolve.
    • Mail and Internet Surveys, Second Edition by Don A. Dillman, 2000, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY. If you do market research and think that response rates of 5-10% are good, you need to read this book. The focus is primarily on the elements needed to dramatically improve survey response rates to the 50-70% range. Prof. Dillman provides the elements of the "Tailored Response Method" which has been in use for over 20 years. A note: their coverage of Internet-based surveys is over 5 years old--an eon in that business.
    • The Power of Impossible Thinking: Transform the Business of Your Life and the Life of Your Business, by Yoram Wind and Colin Crook, 2005, Pearson Education, Saddle River, NJ. Success in business is all about getting organizations and managers to change how they think about their business and it's problems. We often see managers make a major paradigm shift away from a price-focused to a value-focused business with incredible success. This book is all about challenging the mental models that hold us back from that transition.

Posted February 19, 2005

    • Root Cause Analysis: A Tool for Total Quality Management by Paul F. Wilson, Larry D. Dell and Gaylord F. Anderson, 1993, ASQC Quality Press, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ok, so I skipped the textbook and went right to the workbook. Root Cause Analysis seeks answers to problems by looking at their root causes. It is a useful way of analyzing problems with sales, profits and pricing, especially pricing. Barrier analysis is "used to determine the real or actual cause of an event or unwanted condition". It looks at both "hard" and "soft" causes that lead to problems--treating those problems more as a symptom--which they are. This workbook provides useful case studies with step by step instructions on how to fill in the forms.
    • The Best of Branding: Best Practices in Corporate Branding by James R. Gregory, 2004, McrGraw Hill, New York, NY. Ok, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a big fan of corporate branding programs--having read this book, however, I've changed my mind. I'm not a fan of lousy corporate branding programs. This book is a terrific primer on how to do it right--even in a BTB environment. There are plenty of anecdotes and case studies that show both how to do it right and how to do it wrong. If you are spending money on "image" advertising--this is a must read.
    • Beyond Selling Value: A Proven Process to Avoid the Vendor Trap by Mark Shonka and Dan Kosch, 2002, Dearborn Trade Books, Chicago, IL. Selling value is all about getting salespeople to move beyond the purchasing agent to the decision maker in their sales process. This is a book that provides some good "rules of the relationship" in how to get the decision maker, how to get the information and do your homework in preparation for a call.

Posted January 28, 2005

    • How to Grow When Markets Don't by Adrian Slywotzky and Richard Wise, 2003 Warner Business Books, New York, NY. The best way to avoid commoditization of anything is to look to your customers for peripheral product and services opportunities to redefine your business. This book provides both a good process and numerous examples of companies that have found this to be abetter way and driven superior results.

Posted December 17, 2004

    • Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters to Get Things Right by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, 2004, Crown Business, New York, NY. In this follow-up book to their recent hit Execution, the authors once again exhort readers to get rid of the blinders and develop better understandings of what is going on both inside and outside of their companies. Success today is all about business savvy. Getting it takes an in-depth understanding of both the internal realities of the business and the external realities of markets and competitors. Ignore those realities, and managers will relegate their operations to the scrap heap of business also-rans.
    • Competing in a Service Economy by Anders Gustafson and Michael D. Johnson, 2003, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA. As more products and services become commoditized, high-value solutions that are co-created with customers are the key to competitive advantage. The problem is that services and solutions are fundamentally different than products. Companies must have far more frequent and meaningful dialog with their customers about what they value to get it right. The authors lay out a number of practical tools for attacking what can seem like a squishy, esoteric challenge. Companies that rise to this challenge will be the new value and market leaders. As the authors put it, "Competitive forces continue to push to provide customers with more than just product value. Increasingly it's service value, solutions, and experiences that differentiate competitors." We couldn't agree more.

Posted October 18, 2004

    • The Flight of the Buffalo--Soaring to Excellence, Learning to Let Employees Lead by James A. Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer, 1993, Warner Books, NY, NY. Leadership is all about making people more effective through systems, processes and behaviors. Unfortunately, most leaders do exactly the opposite things that need to be done to make that happen. This book is an effective primer for senior managers of both small and large organizations on how to first, become more effective leaders and second, to make their people more effective. There are not only big-picture lessons, but lots of little tricks that come from the author's many years of experience and learnings.
    • The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers by C. K. Prahald & Venkat Ramaswamy, 2004, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. At most companies, "customer intimacy" is more rhetoric than fact. To turn the wish into a reality, managers need to adopt sophisticated approaches to both understand customers and implement programs which do a better job of meeting their needs. This text sets the standard for "customer centric organizations. It also identifies the opportunity and effect for adopting these types of programs in BTB organizations.
    • The Firm of the Future: A Guide for Accountants, Lawyers, and Other Professional Services by Paul Dunn and Ron Baker, 2003, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey. This book is all about how professional service firms can become more customer focused. It is a blend of deep history, theory and practice with numerous examples of how big and small professional services firms can improve their top and bottom line by following "Baker's Law": bad customers drive out good customers.

Posted Steptember 24, 2004

    • The Trusted Advisor by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green & Robert M. Galford, 2000, The Free Press--To build great relationships with customers requires trust. The things we do to create trust are sometimes the exact opposite of the things we need to do to close an order at the end of the month. This book provides excellent insight into how to develop better relationships with customers. A word of warning: not all customers wanttrusting relationships with suppliers.
    • Sprout: Four Steps to Sales Success by Alan Vengel & Greg Wright, 2004, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, CA. Ok, a book that connects selling with gardening might leave us all skeptical but the fact is that Vengel and Wright offer some good tips that salespeople can use to improve their performance and how they feel about their jobs. You might call this book: successful selling: framing for success. How salespeople think about the things they do can lead to greater success. Cold calling is the process of seeding--and not all seeds sprout quickly. A quick read and a valuable one if you apply some of their simple lessons.
    • The Delta Project: Discovering New Sources of Profitability in a Networked Economy by Arnoldo C. Hax & Dean L. Wilde II, 2001, Palgrave, NY, NY. I will be the first to agree that there are too many "strategy models" out there. This book does provide a great way to look at levels of customer integration in driving business strategy, how to benchmark, drive channels and a host of other structural issues that need to be considered. Where The Value Discipline suggests being able and capable of dealing with price, value and loyal customers, this books provides an in-depth model for the product focus required for price buyers, the total solution approach for dealing with value buyers and a system lock-in approach for dealing with relationship buyers.
    • The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni, 2000, Jossey-Bass Publishing, San Francisco, CA. Good organizations begin with good leadership teams. Their focus should be on applying some of the basic principles in this book that lead to "healthy" organizations. To quote Lencioni "A Healthy organization is one that has less politics and confusion, higher morale and productivity, lower unwanted turnover and lower recruiting costs than an unhealthy one. Too many times, senior managers push their respective organizations in directions that are conflicting other parts of the firm. The results are often devastating. Lencioni presents four very simple rules of engagement for senior leadership teams to drive superior results.

Posted August 24, 2004

    • LaSalle, Diana & Terry A. Britton Priceless: Turning Ordinary Products in Extraordinary Experiences, 2003, Harvard Business School Press. While this book is primarily directed at B to C products it gives the B to B marketer a good way to conceptualize the customer experience. The framework presented provides a solid check list of possibilities to be a hero or a villan to customers.
    • Lencioni, Patrick, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, 2002, Jossey-Bass. Senior managers who are not well connected and trusting of their peers unleash devastating politics and misdirection into organizations. In these environments, strategies are impossible and implementation is a hodge podge of silos and conflicting goals. Lencioni presents five simple principles to guide team goals and behaviors--it really should be this simple!
    • Lencioni, Patrick Death by Meeting, 2004, Jossey-Bass. Meetings can be a waste of time for a number of reasons: no agenda, poor discipline, no follow-up, and no focus. This book presents five different meeting formats to follow and gives us a good understanding of when each is appropriate. A good read in Lencioni's typical "fable" format.

Posted July 23, 2004
Reviews by Dr. Reed Holden

    • Hurd, Mark & Lars Nybers The Value Factor: How Global Leaders Use Information for Growth and Competitive Advantage, 2004, Bloomberg Press: In the words of the authors “the number one risk factor in any organization is lack of accurate information. This applies to assessing communications strategy customer costs and customer profitability. This book also contains an excellent list of value metrics for different parts of the organization.
    • Davidson, Bill Breakthrough: How Great Companies Set Outrageous Objectives and Achieve Them, 2004, John Wiley & Sons. Bill Davidson presents an excellent vision of how senior teams can work together and develop breakthrough strategies and objectives for firms.
    • Thaler, Richard H., The Winners Curse: Paradoxes and Anomalies of Economic Life, 1992, The Free Press. This book is a must read for any firm that is getting involved in reverse auctions or aggressive bidding situations with customers. It outlines how many firms win the order but lose in the long run.
    • Cross, Robert G., Revenue Management: Hard-Cord Tactics for Market Domination, 1997, Broadway Books. Bob Cross is the father of yield management. This books describes his early work with the airlines and how the tactic has evolved with use.
    • Gladwell, Malcom, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, 2000, Oxford University Press. This book outlines the basics for making programs “sticky” in organizations, a great way to avoid the “program of the month” syndrome.
    • Day, George S., The Market Driven Organization: Understanding, Attracting and Keeping Valuable Customers, 1999, The Free Press. George Day outlines the differences in “top down” vs. bottom-up strategic process and which is needed for various market conditions.
    • Wheatley, Margaret J. Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World, 1999, Brett Koehler Publishers. This excellent book reviews the basics of organic organizations and why they are needed in today’s fast-moving competitive markets. This is the second read for firms evolving to a bottoms-up strategic process.
    • Schwartz, Peter, The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World, 1991, Doubleday. One of the best firms in long-term “contingency planning” is Shell Oil. This book provides an inside view on what Shell did to achieve such ground-breaking capabilities.