I was drawn to this book when I saw Jason Fried of Basecamp and Hey had written the forward, and, while reading in his forward an anecdote about his experience selling sneakers (if the shoes don't feel good in a customer's hands, they don't even make it onto their feet; customers want to avoid shoes that hurt them versus shoes that feel great; they don't care about the technical details of the cushioning or the materials) and how Bob Moesta--the author of Demand-Side Sales 101: Stop Selling and Help Your Customers Make Progress--helped him in the case of Basecamp to better sell not software but a suite of jobs to be done, from giving transparency to project managers to individuals more clearly planning their household projects.

"People rarely buy what the company thinks it's selling." – Peter Drucker

If I can try to describe the book in a sentence: This book is helping people take a closer look at the demand side of their sales process, to pay more attention to their customers, to sit with them, to listen to them, to understand what jobs they are trying to get done.

From that description, the subtitle's suggestion to Stop Selling is merely provocative. Salespeople remain incredibly important for companies. The ability to sell remains central in many forms of communication, from a workplace decision to figuring out with friends what restaurant to order takeout from.

Jobs To Be Done

Bob Moesta and Greg Engle position the book in the context of the Anthony W. Ulwick's Jobs To Be Done framework.

Moesta and Engle start with this thread that people rarely buy what the company thinks it's selling. How true that is, when you think about it.

They go on to develop a framework for demand-side selling that emphasizes pulling customers instead of pushing them, where pulling refers to the progress the consumer is trying to make and where pushing refers to what the company can deliver.

You may arrive at Home Depot looking for a drill, to make a hole, to fit a plug, to light a lamp, so as to read better in a dark room. But if I knew you were hoping to read better in dimly lit environments--that's your job to be done--I might be able to sell you a Kindle.

But it isn't quite that simple. Since customers are not always the consumers, the Kindle may not be appealing. Consider that the man at Home Depot trying to buy the drill in this case knows his wife enjoys reading print books and wouldn't accept an e-reader. Products must be designed for the people who buy them and for the people that use them. But even there, a new lamp to be placed in a new unexplored reading space in the home may not yet be out of the question. Home Depot sells those too.

Of course, exploring the struggling moment--which, in the JBTD framework creates the demand which precedes a purchase--can go quite deep. Maybe, in the above example, the man's wife wants to read more as a lifestyle change, and has suggested that a reading lamp in this particular corner (which is at present missing an electrical outlet) would do nicely as a reading spot in the half hour before bed (she otherwise, if already in bed, falls asleep too soon, after only a few pages).  

In this scenario, if the job to be done is to read more in an already busy day, one approach might be to create more time. Well, creating more time is hard to do, outside of science fiction, so this husband and wife duo have gone a different direction. But they might buy a wall calendar to better collaborate on household chores, change certain other habits, and so on. In other words, better coordinated time management might serve them well. Or, maybe there is a great reading spot just outside their back stoop--maybe even a garden!--where there is ample afternoon light and a welcoming atmosphere merely lacking a comfortable chair.

The Salespeople at Barnes & Noble

I once considered being a salesperson at Barnes & Noble, and I do hope--even plan--to open a neighborhood bookshop in Minneapolis, and while I haven't been in their shoes, I have wondered how they could hope to help me--a perfect stranger--find a book I don't know I want yet. But browsing and discovery are not the only jobs to be done in by those finding themselves in a bookstore.

In Washington D.C. in March 2017, a bookseller promptly brought me to Just Kids by Patti Smith when I mentioned I was looking for a book to gift my brother--an amateur composer and musician himself--for his imminent birthday.

I remember him studying me, listening to what I said, how I said it, crinkling his brow and then gesturing for me to follow him through the bookstore directly to the book. "Here, I think your brother will love it."

Of course, the job to be done was to reduce my anxiety about finding the right book for my brother, which was accomplished brilliantly. Is it my imagination or do I now also remember my brother telling me later that he even liked the book?