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Jim lives in Ireland and has been in selling for most of his life. He has used that experience to write a book to help others in their selling. It’s not a typical how-to book and he uses stories of his experiences to teach his points.
Welcome to another episode of discovered wordsmiths. I’m so glad you’ve been coming and listening to these podcasts, there have been so many downloads and so many people making comments. It’s really cool to be doing something like this and having people appreciate it. Today, I’m talking to Jim Irving, who has written a book b2b selling guidebook. This is based on his decades of experience in the selling world. And he has an interesting story about how he got to write this book and everything he’s put into it. So sit back, listen to what Jim has to say. If you’ve been listening to this podcast and enjoying it and finding some good authors, please give us a like, give us a review. Help us out. let more people discover us that will help more authors that will help more people find books they want to read. So before I start rambling, here’s Jim. All right. Well, what Jim, thank you for coming on the podcast. I appreciate you take some time to talk to me today. To get to get started. Tell us a little bit about you a little bit about your background, especially where you live and what you’d like to do outside of writing. Sure.
So you can probably tell by my accent that I’m Scottish, although I know live in rural Northern Ireland with my wife. My background is is a very simple one. I was a post war baby. And my father was a school janitor. So we lived we lived beside the school. And in fact, that was an incredible life because of course when school broke up for the summer. I had the run of that school, the gym, everything. Actually, you know, not a well off family but a fantastic childhood. No, living in rural Northern Ireland and loving life. I spend my working time helping startups across the island of Ireland and working on my second book at the moment. So life here is very pleasant. I’m looking out onto beautiful trees and in the distance, a lock, which is actually officially the largest league in Europe a thing called lock knee
nice. While there’s nothing that can be countryside weather I I grew up doing a lot of outdoor camping, hiking, backpacking in scouts. And I sometimes miss that.
Yes, yes, yes. Well, I could understand that where you are for our weather. I’m not sure I will enjoy that anymore. grass. The grass is very, very green for a reason.
Right, right. Where I live Northeast Ohio. They always joke that if you don’t like the weather, just wait about five minutes and it’ll change. Yes, yes. Yes. Oh, you feel right over here that? Yeah. Yeah, that’s probably one of the reasons my son would like to move to Ireland because he enjoys weather and he enjoys the outdoors. And things Ireland’s beautiful.
It is it’s a it’s a beautiful country. I spend a lot of time camping traveling in Scotland before I moved here. They’re very similar. Scotland is perhaps more mountainous and more rugged. But Ireland is very beautiful, beautiful and has its own style.
Nice. So with all of this, and you mentioned you help startups like what type of startups are you working with?
mainly in the technology world. My working career started in Office admin, followed by working for what was the predecessor to British Telecom, the UK is largest telecommunications company. And, and this has happened which 10s my career dramatically and mentored. I spent the last 43 years in the technology business right at the sharp end selling marketing and then In leading businesses, and finally, when I left the corporate world, in that industry, I decided I would start to help startups. So mainly technology startups of all sizes. Literally the person who’s just had the idea to organizations that have been running for a decade and a half, maybe 20 or 50 people working for them.
So are you kind of like the Scottish Irish Shark Tank? Less unpleasant? We got it
in our in our country is called Dragon’s Den. And,
oh, even better?
Yes. There’s a lot of glowing and sharp comments. I tend to be supportive. But yes, I watched the program and enjoy. And quite often laugh, I have to say,
I’m going to have to start using Dragon’s Den in quotes rather than Shark Tank, or sharks and stuff. That’s just so so much cooler. Yes, as a great title. Absolutely. So, um, you help start out like the outdoors in the backpacking, anything else you’d like to do besides writing?
Well, my wife and I enjoy traveling. We have a small place in Spain. When the world is connected, we go there. Right, right. At the moment, we haven’t been there since beginning of March. Not certain when we’ll go back. But that’s something as well, a complete change of country and particularly for us climate is something which is really nice. Oh, and we do walking and a lot of sea swimming there. So that’s, that’s our sort of escape as it were.
Right. And that’s one of the benefits to living where you live. It’s easier to go to completely other countries, in where I live, you can go just as far and you’re still in the same country, though. There’s a lot of talk of several states wanting to break off into their own country. So who knows?
Yeah, yeah. So I’ve seen that in the press. But But you’re absolutely right. In my work, I’ve traveled. And I’ve not done an exact quote, but it’s well over 20, I think I’ve probably worked in about 30 countries. I’ve done almost every country in Europe, the Middle East, Australasia. And I’ve actually spent a fair bit of time in the US as well. But it’s interesting. It’s interesting doing that sort of travel and travel is something that we still enjoy.
Well, that’s good. My wife and I have talked about that. So with all of this, why did you want to write a book? Why did you want to start writing?
Well, it’s really straightforward. I fell into the world of selling, and then business leadership, absolutely, by accident, but found that I enjoyed it a lot. But also realized over the years that are a really high percentage of people do it badly. I mean, I’m sure you in your own life have been the salesman who’s too aggressive, or too pushy, or whatever. And I learned a lot, I got a lot of things wrong in the early years, and then started to get Okay, and then started to get very successful, and then started to lead businesses, and that salesman selling to me. And at the end, after a number of people had suggested, I thought, I want to get these stories down. And I want to get this experience down so that other people who follow don’t drop into the same traps that I fell into. And perhaps I can, you know, leave something as it were for the business community.
So you pick this up more recently, it’s not like something you wanted to do back in your 20s or 30s.
You know, I thought about it for about 20 years. But I wasn’t at a career point. And I was working pretty hard hours for that, that whole career. So it’s only recently that I started to sit down. And I don’t know how, how you do your work. But I started down with a blank sheet of paper and then thought of chapter headings because of course, it’s factual stuff. And then thought of stories that I could weave through that. And then step by step, build the structure of the book. And then one day woke up and said, Okay, I literally started typing into that format as
well. So So tell us a bit more about that book. Obviously, you write nonfiction. Tell us the title and what the book itself is actually about.
Okay, the book is called the bee bee. That’s the letter B number to be selling guidebook. b2b is an acronym used in the business world for transactions or marketing or selling from one business to another business, so not to the consumer. That’s where I spend all of my career. And the purpose of the book really is to talk about some of the basics to talk about a number of the areas that that people really get wrong, as it Were to talk about a better way to do it. And then to throw in, in every single chapter because the structure is quite unusual and has been commented on a lot. The idea, the principle or the question, or the problem, as it were an example from my life of what’s happened that’s gone really, really well in that regard, or really badly. And then a section on a lesson, and what to do and what not to do in the real world. So it’s very much literally, a guidebook, either for those who are in selling, or for those who in their business life, actually come across salespeople, you know, if you’re in a medium sized company, you’ll have the marketing department, you will have the finance people, you’ll have the legal team. And they all of course, interact with that sales team. But there’s typically a business’s very little understanding between those disciplines. So this is also an attempt to get a form of bridge, and to help people work together better.
So it’s not a typical, here’s how to do sales, here’s how to close here’s what to say, No, and that’s, you know,
what I have got, I have bought a lot of books over the years, as most people in my line of work, we typically have a very short attention span. So you’ll find a large number of books that are sort of 20 pages. And now I found some gems in there. And that’s great. But the dryer a burka is a lot of people have written about the theory of business and the theory of selling. And they’ve talked about what to do what not to do, really strictly and say this is the way to succeed, this is the way to feel. And once you get past a couple of chapters, you realize that they have found something that’s worked for them. And that structure and that formality is the way of writing it down. I far far prefer to tell either a funny or an interesting, or sometimes a difficult story that shows what happens when you try different approaches, or do things that are perhaps not standard, or where you follow the herd, and then just draw conclusions from them. So there are quite a few funny things in the book. And the other thing that makes it drastically different from from most of these business books, is that I’m very, very happy to acknowledge where I’ve got things dramatically wrong. And probably a third of the stories are stories where it’s gone badly. And I then explain what happened, and then apply a sales principle to that problem.
Yeah, that’s kind of the old adage, you learn more from failure in your mistakes than you do from everything going right.
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And you know, that’s, it’s just interesting. So much has changed. I started in the technology industry. And I sold things called electronic accounting machines. These were big, big boxes. They had a golf ball, if you remember that printhead on them. That’s
Yeah, yep, yep.
Yep. And, and these things, in those days, costing at 5000 pounds for a small business and did the basic accounts, nothing else, almost unintelligent. And I go from there, and I’m talking way before email or voicemail was invented to where we’re sitting today. You know, you and I, okay, on that podcast, me switching on the TV and watching football, it’s happening live in Brazil. The whole world in which we live has now changed out of all recognition. But interestingly, the things that work, and the things that don’t work for the startups and the businesses that I’ve been helping, are still the same.
It’s human nature is still the same.
Absolutely. And, and while it is quite interesting, I have you know, I will go into a startup and I will be older than anyone else there by 14 years plus. And I sit there, and I listen to people talking, and they say, Oh, you wouldn’t understand our business. And after a little while, because of course, I’m an old hand and technology. So it doesn’t take me long to pick things up. But after a little while, we’re having a conversation. And I’m saying so tell me how many of the transactions the deals that you think that you’re going to close typically happen? Oh, well, we’ve got a big problem there. And we don’t know why it is. Well, let me guess. And off we go into the real conversation as it were. So it’s just that trust me, I’ve got this all wrong as well as perhaps we can learn together approach that I take.
And yeah, that probably wins them over much better than fighting against it.
Yes, yes. I mean, it’s interesting, you know, even if, if I go down to something as simple and as human nature oriented, as priorities, one of the first things I’ll ask people is, you know, tell me your core priorities for your business. And a number of times the person is on point six and accelerating. For they have to say, you know what, you can’t really have 10 top priorities. So even at that level, and of course, in the world of startups, you do see a situation where people have maybe come from having an idea themselves and a completely different discipline, or quite frequently from the academic world, then suddenly, they’re in the world of commerce, and doggy dog and trying to get their product marketed and things suddenly don’t seem to be working so well. And it’s there that I try to add value. But it is, it is quite funny, though, when you look at it, that no one would consider in a month of Sundays, hiring a doctor, or a dentist, or a plumber, who had no qualifications. Yet reselling is probably the single profession with the least specific qualifications. Most people fall into it. Most people learn it on the job. Most people get a very high percentage of what they’re doing wrong.
And that’s interesting. But again, it comes from experience and perspective. To know that type of thing.
Yes. And the one thing that’s been really pleasing to Me, I mean, you must have gone through this yourself, Steven, but you know, I wrote this book, I got into publication went out. And you see, right, is this a complete disaster? And I got nothing to add, you know, is there? Is there anyone that’s going to be interested in it? No, you know, it’s been a few months. So it’s on its tail, as it were, you’re tailing down. But I have had a phenomenal response. Every review on Amazon has been five star, the two main bodies that govern this this side of Commerce, the Institute of sales, management and the Chartered Institute of marketing, have both written positive reviews. And existing sales authors have said it really liked it. So suddenly, you go, oh, maybe I have got something to say. And to be perfect one. That’s why the work started on the second book.
Okay, so I want to jump back on that in two seconds. I did have one more question going back thing on the writing. You mentioned telling stories and that and it’s something I’ve been hearing more lately of people saying nonfiction books, when you tell them in a story like way you tell them as a story, that they’re accepted more and people like stories, they live their life with the stories? Do you think that that approach helped your book, you just said you got five star reviews? Do you think if you had done it, I guess in a more dry academic fashion, it wouldn’t have done as well? And do you think with the way you approached writing these that it helped?
I absolutely think that yes, I haven’t had this experience, I couldn’t know comprehend, writing down what I think in a dry academic manner, I just don’t think that would work. I think your average sales person or business person will get 20 pages, then an NCR come back to that sometime. Where there are stories, and they’re human stories and their stories that people can really understand and appreciate and compare with, then I think people are far more likely to move forward with reading the book. And by the way, the chapters themselves, you know, that introduction of a concept, the story for good or bad, the learning from it, and a lesson at the end, are each stories that can be read each chapters that can be read in between five and 10 minutes all up. So they’re designed to be short, easy, late, but with a big punch in them.
Something you can read waiting in line at the bank or the doctor’s office.
Yeah, one of the reviews said you can have this as you’re drinking your coffee waiting to make an encore. And that’s exactly what I wanted to get something that people could always refer to, but could just look and scan through the chapter headings and say, oh, I’ve been having problems with that. And 10 minutes later be seeing right now I’ve got a different ways to look at things, a different attitude that I want to take
a little bit like Chicken Soup for the Soul books, little snippets.
Yes, yes. I mean, it’s a very different extra bit of very similar approach. Yeah, it’s late. It’s simple. It should make you smile. And on the flip side, the other thing that I’ve done, the that people have commented on, and I took a real gamble with this. Because I finished the book, and I was sitting looking at this transcript. And I sit and I thought to myself, I’m not actually done. I put down on paper, everything that I thought I wanted to put down. But then I thought completely opposite to all logic and thinking that I wanted to add two more chapters, one about ethics and attitude in your business life, and one about attitudes and priorities in your personal life. And funnily enough, those two chapters are the chapters that I’ve had the most comment.
That’s not the first time I’ve heard that somebody said, you know, at the last minute, I added this, especially in like the music industry, you hear a lot of hit songs that weren’t even supposed to be on the album.
Yes, yes. And you know, what, when I look back at it, it’s the only business book that I can think of where there’s been that content, you know, I’ve had all these years. And the purpose of the book was to pass on the lessons. Why would you not also pass on the lessons of what you’ve learned about life, and what you’ve learned about success and failure, and putting family first, and all of the other things that come to you, after those really hectic years of the start of your career, and the sort of main thrust of the career for your 30s 40s 50s? So, so that became a big focus? And yeah, there’s been a lot of comments about that. So I did that. And as I say, I can’t think of any other business book that’s just said, flat out. Here’s what I’ve learned about ethics and approach and standards and business. Here’s what I’ve learned about the same things and priorities in your personal life, and put it down and somehow it resonated with people.
And I can understand that, like you said, with your writing the little stories, I think that would be a good reason to resonate, people pick up on that, and they don’t like the dry as much. And when you catch them and then had these other topics with the ethics, then they get they get some trust in you, and they believe you, I can see how that would be a whole package of a benefit for people.
Yes, yes, yes. And you know what, as I mentioned already, I’ve tried to read many, many business books, I’ve only succeeded in right, reading in reading a few of them. So when I look at when I look at that I wanted to make something that someone could read. But that would involve them in the same way as a good fiction story does.
Without the dead body or some Yeah.
And no terrorists. But what I do want is to get something where people go, I like that, I want to find out more. And then steps are next.
So it sounds like with five star reviews, which is enviable that the people that are getting it, reading it really enjoy it. What are you doing to get the word out? Get the marketing out for the book?
Yes, there. There I am. way behind myself. That’s what I have to make a confession. So what have I done, I have launched I have created a website because of course, I knew a lot of people in this space. I’ve done the first video, but I’ve still yet to launch on YouTube. I have created a blog. But because of my audience, I have become very active on LinkedIn. So either common and that makes sense. Yeah, commenting, sharing reviews, commenting particularly on other writers. And that was that’s one of the most joyous things that’s happened to me is a couple of successful sales authors reached out to me and said they liked the book and had conversations I’ve become friendly with a couple of them. But now what happens is if I talk about something, other authors who have weight will also comment on it. So it creates a community and a real sort of camaraderie, which I didn’t know existed I just presumed that each author wrote on their own and then existed on their own. So in to answer your question. That’s what I’ve done so far. It’s, it’s working for me, but I still got far more to do. And I’m actually planning to do far more as I move towards the publication of the follow up book.
And that sounds like the the ideal marketing for what this book is. You always hear the it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and writing a book that other sales People other business people say, Hey, this is a great book. Definitely. Your that’s your marketing, you know, now they tell the 500 people they know or whatever it happens to be yes. And that that’s
exactly what I’ve done. So I’ve not done the traditional stuff. I’ve not done advertising, Amazon, Google or on on any of the other sites. I’ve not stepped away yet. But I have been enjoying what I’ve been doing. And as I say, unbelievably, I have actually made new friends in the process. So that was something I never thought when I started.
And that’s worth its weight in gold right there.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So yeah, so. So I’ve got a lot more to do in terms of podcasts, this one in terms of YouTube, zero activity. So I still got a lot more that I can later on. But, yeah, I’ve not taken those steps yet.
Okay, so the other thing I hear a lot about is the best marketing for your book is to write the next book. And you’ve mentioned writing a second book, what’s the second one going to be? The second one,
you won’t be shocked to know that this matter. So I looked at doing a second one more stuff about selling the b2b selling gay book to or whatever in film style. But when I look back on my career, I had with a number of companies, the typical progression that people would hope to have, I started off as a trainee, I began to learn to sell, I became able to sell larger and more complex things, I was put in charge of a branch. Cut that short, after 40 years, I am the UK Managing Director of a very major US software company. And so when I looked at dividing up the time, I realized that 20 of those years had been leading and managing either small groups, or anything up to large corporate organizations. So the second book is going to be something like I’ve not finalized the title, but it’s probably going to be the b2b, business and sales leaders guidebook. So it’s to help all of those who run a small business, all of those who run a startup, and anyone who’s running a sales organization or a sales team, or working alongside a sales organization or sales team to understand about that side of the world, so managing leading, and you won’t be surprised to know after what I said, was a fair bit in there about leading ethically and doing the right thing and all the rest of it as well.
And it sounds like they go together quite well. So that’s perfect. Yeah. And
you know, what my experience of business has been, I have taken a different path from the vast majority of people that I’ve worked with in leadership. And you must have experienced this, I’ve seen the leaders who lead by shouting, I’ve, I’ve seen the managers who lead by bullying. And you know what, sometimes you get results, but it’s very short term. You want people to look back and say, I learned in that company, and I enjoyed working for that person. And by the way, we were really successful. So that’s, that’s what my focus has been on as, as I’ve written the second book, trying to look for what it was, again, with absolutely no science, that I managed to learn and understand partway along that journey, and how all of that came together.
Okay, well, let me ask, ask us a semi related question. I guess. You you’ve got these books coming out that are about sales in that. What are some of your favorite books, favorite authors that may have inspired this that you’ve read? Because you mentioned you’ve read a bunch that you’ve got a few little things out of? What are some of the good ones that you like, besides your own? Oh, yeah.
there’s a there’s a company called Miller Heiman, their stuff is quite dry. But But what they do is, is yet very, very clever. Of late one of those people that I’ve mentioned is a gentleman called Patrick tinny. He’s from North America. And he’s quite a famous author who’s done a lot in the in the field of negotiation, and all that work that has to be done before you get to the sort of meat of the sale. In other words, the prospecting as it’s called to try and establish how things were forward. I’ve really, really enjoyed his work and just commented on recently. And then what I found is that there’s a there’s a 10 1520 books, where there’s been sort of one or two ideas in there that I thought Oh, I like that. But the vast amount of the book has not been sort of powerful for me. So there’s a whole lot of things in that area. But But in terms of the selling and seeing, there’s a kindred spirit, and they’re something that that I understand and can appreciate, probably patentees work has been the stuff that I’ve appreciated most I would say,
Okay, well, that’s, that’s a good thing for any listeners to check out your book, check out Pat tinnies books, got a couple things from people then. So do you have any advice for new authors, someone that’s just getting started, or somebody that may even say, you know, I’ve worked my whole life and my career? I I’d never be able to write a book and get to get a book published? Well, I
think yes. So that’s a great point. You know, what a couple of friends have said that to me. And my, my responses are not experiences that you’ve learned from other not stories that you’d want told? Is there not something that you would want to leave behind for the next generation, so they don’t make the same mistakes you make? And every time I’ve said that people say, Oh, yes, there are. So I think the first thing is to get a sheet of paper, and start to write down lessons or stories, or areas of activity, and whatever it is that you do. And then think about the big things that have happened, the people who’ve influenced you, the things that have gone really well, the things that haven’t gone so well, and then step back, and that that’s what I did. And when I wrote that first book, I wanted to write it for a length that was manageable. And I was cutting out chapters rather than adding in chapters. Because by a certain stage in your career, there’s a lot to talk about. So if you’re sitting and thinking, Oh, that sounds great, but I don’t think I could do it. Get a sheet of paper and start to write down headings or things that you know about, or understand, or I’ve struggled with. And I’ll bet after half an hour, you’ve got the makings of a book.
And obviously, once you get going on one, getting a second one seems to come easier. Well,
I’m glad you said that, because any authors about the second book, the dreaded second book, the first one in writing terms took me a couple of months, I actually enjoyed the writing process. I found it straightforward. And the stories were real stories that happened to me. So it wasn’t something that took a lot of research. The second book is longer, and it’s taken about a month. Wow. So So yes, so I mean, first of all, I’m lucky on my first Tetris. But besides that, I’ve actually found the process to be interesting and enjoyable. Now, of course, the one thing that does happen, as I’m sure happens with you, Steven, is that you started to write it, you’ve got a certain order. And you’re on chapter seven, and you are Hold on a minute. I need to reorder this, you know, but but that’s all happening after the fact you’ve made the start, things are moving along, and you’re going, I can see where this will go and wrote that you can craft whatever you want. Now I have zero skills I have presented, I have talked I goodness, I’ve been on BBC Breakfast time, I’ve done all sorts of things like that. And I’ve told a lot of stories and done a lot of big presentations. But I’ve never done any work in preparation for writing a book. And I just looked at all of those books that had touched me or not the vast majority not and realized that you know what, I actually saw something in those books. And I want to take that same approach. And that became the simple method that then created the chapters that created the content that created the book.
I love that. And I think other people hopefully listening that might sperm say maybe it’s not as hard as I thought.
Yeah. It’ll take a while. The hard part for me was the, the whole process around the final format to the production, the the Amazon stuff, the whole sort of, after the creative part, the process part was, was an interesting challenge for for a newcomer with no supports at all. But yeah, that’s not so hard either. So if someone is out there thinking, in my area, in fiction or nonfiction, I think I might like to have a try, but I’m not sure. Don’t overthink it. Get your idea for the fictional book. Or think about your area of expertise in your working life. And just start writing down notes. And those those notes will become chapters. You order them Then you’re able to start the creative process.
That’s great. And one question on yours. You are a tech guy, software guy. And you were talking about reordering things. What software do you use for your writing? Well, here, I
have to tell something, I use Microsoft Word I just typed a note in format. In a very rough format and the structure, each chapter, I decided would have a quote from someone famous associated with that subject to start, and to finish was a top to top until it’s chapter. But I’ve actually used nothing. Now, I am very fortunate, and I appreciate that I should have done that. But I have a wonderful son in law, who is an award winning graphic designer. I pass it over for him, and a beautifully laid out boot camp, thanks to Christian and his work, so and not a number of people have commented on how good that is, as well. So I take no credit at all for that. I didn’t none of that. So I created the words. And then he did the magic.
That that’s pretty nice. Yeah, I keep telling all my kids, they all have to get jobs in some place or industry that it’ll help me and benefit me. My oldest works at a vet. So we’ve got four dogs and three cats. So we get discount. I’m trying to convince someone to work at Dairy Queen. Yes. Well, I the Dairy Queen or a plumber, you know, and that’s the thing, right? Oh, yes. Yeah.
No, and that’s absolutely right. So that’s worked out. But I do appreciate that had I written all the text myself in Word, and they wanted to self publish, there will be a whole other step. But I didn’t have to go through that step.
Well, that’s nice. And what was his name? Is he does he someone that other people could hire if they’re interested in looking? It’s
not his speciality. He tends to do work for sort of larger corporates. His name is Christian lubac. And the he works in in a three man partnership. And all words. It’s we are seven, three.
Got it? Yeah.
We are seven three.com. But But yes, but as I say, he doesn’t do it for books. He wanted to do that. Because it was an interesting,
right? Yeah. Well, that was That’s nice. Yeah. All right. Well, Jim, before we get going, tell us again, the name of your book and where we can find it. And where we can find you. You mentioned LinkedIn.
Yes, so I’m on LinkedIn. lucky enough. I’ve been there early. So I’m just Jim Irving. So that’s straightforward enough. I have a website, all the W’s, B to B as Kat letter B, number two, letter B, selling guidebook.com that has everything in there, including a blog. And, yes, I’m delighted to speak to people, whether it’s about the process of writing, or whether it’s about the book itself. I have a number of conversations running, and happy to do that. The group itself is published. hardcopy, as is quite common, I know understand is Amazon. Its Amazon who are printing soft copies pretty well, all of the major players ebook, and it’s also available on audiobook through audible.
Nice. Great. Well, Jim, I appreciate you taking the time. It was great talking to you today and learning about were a little bit more about Ireland and about your book. I appreciate it. Thank you.
That’s great. Listen, thank you for your time. If you’re interested. It’s been a really enjoyable conversation.