I don’t like most business books. I try to, but once I get through the first 50 pages and the first six charts and graphs my eyes glaze over. I always wonder how any of what’s in them applies to the building material industry.

So when I find a book that is easy [and quick] to read, I am one happy consultant.

Such a book is Hug Your Customers by Jack Mitchell. It’s hard to believe that a two-unit clothing store can generate over $65 million in sales. But in Mitchell’s operations it is done with intense, unyielding customer service with a foundation in concrete numbers and best in class customer relationship management software.

For example, Chapter 33 explains the three P’s: plan, prepare, and practice. Plan means knowing all your coworkers’ names; memorizing the names of your top 100 customers; knowing the top-line sales for the day, month, and year; knowing the gross margin for the day, month, and year; and knowing the pretax profit for the day, month, and year. Prepare includes creating a customer and prospect playbook so you have a sales objective in mind. And practice includes not only training, but role-playing an actual sales scenario with a real sales opportunity.

How many of you do the above? I know the answer: Not many.

My favorite story from the book is one of the sales managers showing up for a sales meeting wearing only a suit and vest--no shirt, no tie, no socks, no shoes. Mitchell says: “This is what a customer bought from us recently. Do we sell shirts? Yes. Do we sell ties? Yes. Do we sell shoes. Yes. And do we sell socks? Yes. Why didn’t we sell all those items to that customer?”

This is called opportunity management. Some of you may remember older versions of this term, such as the truth chart or ten-by-ten selling. It identifies those product categories you are and aren’t selling to your top customers. I have worked with a few leading-edge dealers using this tool, and in all cases they have identified opportunities equal to their existing sales volume. One company more than doubled its sales by quoting all its product lines to all customers all the time. How often do you quote the framing package but your kitchen department never ever knows of the job?

Read this book. I can even send you a homework assignment as you read. Then let me know what you think at Sandysawyer007@gmail.com.