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Do you have an affinity with a particular business book that has guided you in your business and life decisions? Yesterday I was speaking with Arlin Sorensen, founder and CEO of Heartland Technology Solutions and also the creator and founder of the peer groups Heartland Technology Group (HTG). He told me that members of HTG are asked to read a book called The Go Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann.

It’s a set of five principles packaged into a very short novel that I was able to read in its entirety last night. The basic principle is this: give. The protagonist of the book – a go getter – is mentored by a retired successful business leader who has followed that principle, and the protagonist, Joe, switches his mindset from being a “Go Getter” to a “Go Giver” over the course of the book.

For five days in a row, Joe is given one lesson per day on the principles. He doesn’t quite see how these concepts would work when they are presented to him, but his mentor tells him he must DO the concepts to understand them, and that is a condition of their working together.

The concepts remind me very much of many of the ideas behind consultative selling – that you want to establish relationships with people and talk to them about the issues they are facing and think about how you can help them rather than just sell stuff to customers. Sometimes that may mean referring them to your competitors who may do a better job of helping them than you can right now. That seems counter-intuitive. But the belief is that what goes around comes around. There’s a leap of faith required here. That’s probably why the mentor tells the protagonist he must DO each thing rather than try to understand it without doing.

(The approach certainly seems to have worked for Sorensen’s solution provider business, Heartland Technology Solutions, which has grown from a single location to six locations in five states over the past 10 years.)

The Go Giver was one of the books featured in Channel Insider’s list of top 21 business books, all of which were recommended by IT solution providers. Interestingly, The Go Giver appears on the list right ahead of The Art of War by Sun Tzu (which I’ve read a little bit of, but not the whole thing). These two books would seem to be in conflict, with The Art of War offering advice from a military leader on how to exploit the weakness of your enemy, protect yourself from them if you are weaker, and other tactics to ultimately win the conflict.

What do you think? Do these two approaches conflict with each other? Have you tried both? Do you prefer one of these approaches above the other? Which have you found more effective in your business?

And if neither of these books does it for you, is there another one that you would suggest?

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