Sales and Marketing Legend – Ron Willingham’s Newest Book Review, Authenticity

Authenticity, The Head, Heart and Soul of Selling is Ron Willingham’s newest book published by Prentice Hall Press. If you don’t know Ron personally, or of his legendary status and story of success, now you can help me share the story and newest work by this amazing man.

My dear friend, Terry “All In” Hamlin invited me recently to meet the legend himself, Ron Willingham. When I received the invitation to attend the closing session of Ron’s recent training program at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Phoenix, I was thrilled to be able to meet such a living legend in sales, marketing and business.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ron just prior to the small group of business owners and professional men and women gathering for lunch. They were there to learn how to facilitate Ron’s newest sales training program based on his new book, Authenticity, The Head, Heart and Soul of Selling. Ron is warm and friendly, dressed in a conservative, dark suit and tie; a consummate sales professional and legend, there in the flesh. As it would turn out, I was to be seated at the “right hand” of the man himself for lunch. What a bonus that was!

Years ago, Ron founded Integrity Systems, Inc., a Phoenix-based training and development company with more than 1.5 million graduates in 80 nations including the Who’s Who of business: Johnson & Johnson, American Red Cross, IBM, The Guardian Life Insurance Company, Principal Financial Group, Franklin Templeton, and more than 2,000 others. He sold the company to retire several years ago and bask in the warm of a legacy he had built from his humble roots in rural Texas where he grew up. In addition to Authenticity, his most recent book, Ron is the author of Integrity Service and Integrity Selling for the 21st Century. In short, Ron is a living legend in sales and business.

I just finished reading the book I suggest you should also, if you care about being more successful in business and as a sales professional. It’s a great read, broken down into three parts; Laying A Strong Foundation, Practicing the Six-Step System, and Deeper Drivers of Sales Effectiveness. There are twelve chapters in all, each moving quickly to the point with the stage set by compelling quotes from the likes of Dr. Carl Jung, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alert Schweitzer, and other great thought leaders Ron clearly admires and role models his own behavior and personal style; gracious, warm, and caring. The stories Ron shares are relevant, authentic and paint a vivid picture of the challenges we face when selling.

What I love most about the book is Ron’s ability to bring “Spirit” and God into the sales, marketing and business conversation. He makes a compelling case for integrating what he calls, The Three Levels of Consciousness, into our daily awareness when selling. These three levels include Knowing (I Know), Feeling (I Feel), and Being (I Am). This is significant for me and everyone attending the program that day because Ron is one of the few men I have met who does a great job of making it comfortable to talk about this stuff in a business context. It’s time to talk about being better human beings at work in a conscious way, not religious, but a universally safe way of bringing people together around their personal story, brand and each of those elements for the brand or company they represent as sales pros. It’s about purpose and meaning; finding a way to serve others, first. It’s about time more people start talking about this stuff at work. Ron has a long history of being a thought leader and change agent. This has not diminished any with his age. In fact, his Servant Heart is on fire!

This is all very refreshing because we all carry our own, heavy and near toxic images of sales people gone wild. Ask the average human today what they think of sales people and what do you get? A snarl on a good day. Why is this so? Because clearly most people who sell cars, appliances, software, or anything to us face-to-face or pitching it from a boiler room usually have one and only one thing in mind; selling us stuff we can’t afford, don’t need and don’t want!

This is the source of Ron’s genius as he weaves readers through each chapter starting with the first section of the book, which to me is the potentially transformative aspect of this book for anyone who reads it and embraces these principles in all their affairs; being a better human being. Imagine that. Sales people who are decent, caring human beings seeking only to make a difference in your life. Is this even possible?

Yes, is the short answer. Ron walks the walk. So did all the people in the room that day celebrating their new found knowledge and wisdom, now certified to take the message to the masses.

You can just tell that this man, now in his early ’80’s, slender and sharp with his wit, really cares about not just people in general, but you. You because when you meet him his very presence puts you at ease. He’s not trying to sell you something. He’s listening, watching, exploring a way he can genuinely make a difference in your day, in your life. That’s being human.

In the second part of the book we discover the Six-step client-focused selling system which is the core of Ron’s selling program. He starts with Connect, which is all about gaining comfort, trust, and rapport with people. He then goes on to describe Listening and the other five steps of his sales process including Illustrate, Evaluate, Negotiate and Transact. Six steps. Good. I can handle that and so can most people. It’s all good stuff and refreshingly easy to follow for any of us bludgeoned to sleep by Professional Selling Skills and Strategic Selling BS 101 back in the day. Forget about that stuff … Authentic Selling is here to stay.

The third and last section of the book touched my heart and my soul, as did the man himself. Ron reveals what happened to him since he sold his company, Integrity Selling, after all the years of success to build his fortune and legacy; he loses it all. In a refreshingly direct, honest and humble tone, you can tell Ron is a man of God because of the way he tells his story and how he handles it. Every entrepreneur I know has their own cross to bear by virtue of the tough road we take to start, fund, build, market, grow and sell a business. Some of us bear this cross better than others. Ron displays a grace that is hard to describe other than being Divine. He not only displays it as a human being when you get the privilege to shake his hand and look him in the eye, it comes across on almost every page of his book.

Ron Willingham is today a living legend in business, sales and marketing. More important than anything else he’s done in business is the role he plays today in showing us how to fearlessly pursue our purpose and vision until the day we leave this place.

It is an honor to have met and know more about Ron Willingham, author of the new book, Authenticity, The Head, Heart and Soul of Selling.

To your success and happiness.

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