1st Friday Favorite Guru: Neil Rackham

This month we start on the First Friday of January 2013 with another of my most favorite gurus…

Neil Rackham

Neil is simply the number one go to guy on Sales. And he has been for about 3 decades.

He is all about EBP – Evidence Based Practices.

I had a relationship with Neil due to my working at Motorola in 1981/2 – when I sat in a full-day workshop my first week on the job at MTEC – Motorola’s Training & Education Center – see a video of 56 minutes of that all day session below.


At MTEC I skip-level reported to Bill Wiggenhorn for the first 9 of my 18 months at MTEC as a Training Project Supervisor. And I sat in many meeting between Neil and Bill when I got assigned to a “Negotiations” training development effort – for Sales, Purchasing and the Product Management group doing Black Boxes for the US Government.

This became “Win-Win Negotiations” based on the Huthwaite Communications Behavior (my term) models that became SPIN and were used in other efforts. I traveled to Sheffield England to spend a few days with the staff back there – and with John Carlisle in particular – as John delivered short versions of what MTEC thought it wanted. During that trip John and I stayed at the Studly Priory – from the 14th Century. No big deal over there, of course.

But I digress.

When I became President of ISPI in 2003 I had the pleasant chore of picking the Keynote Speakers for my Conference – in Tampa in April 2004. I saw Neil in the packed booklets of the Speakers Agencies – but his rate was $20K.

So I called him. And told him I was calling to ask him to be the main Keynote (Day 1) and that I wanted him to play his medieval flute-like instrument as he had done in a meeting I had schedule with an important client-group of mine, the Motorola Manufacturing Operations Managers – the Moms (who were also called other names) in 1981. I guess he had done that lots and knew what I was talking about.

He offered right away to do this for free once I started to hint about seeking a discount from that speaking fee.


He came, did that and spoke about the importance of Research in creating success models to teach to and to enable using other enablers (not everything is all about T&D/ Learning, etc.).

He was informative and entertaining – and memorable. Just watch any of the videos available for free online.

I think he was one of the best Keynote Speakers at an NSPI/ISPI Conference of the 31 I’ve been to – out of 33. And that he had been involved with NSPI back in its early days.

“The Book” for Sales Folks

This is it…

Neil at MTEC in 1981 – On 10 Criteria for Training Design

Video is 56 minutes

Find 56 minutes to watch this video.

Hear me now, believe me later.

This is a great video for managers or anyone in the performance improvement arena. Not just Training/ Learning folks.

I was in the audience during this recording – done in 1981 and produced years later – and this was my first official week on the job with the new organization, Motorola Training & Education Center (MTEC) – but I had been on-the-job unofficially the week before as Bill Wiggenhorn had a Day with Geary Rummler followed the next week with a Day with Neil Rackham.

Lucky me. Indeed.

Lucky you – for you can watch this video now – or later – for a little asynchronous learning. Lucky you.


I had the pleasure and great experiences working with these two, Geary and Neil, as well as with Ray Svenson, and a couple of other gurus at that time, on the MTEC turf about their turfs/focus – Geary’s being organizational, process and individual performance analysis and improvement, and Neil’s being more Sales and key Sales Enabling Skills such as Negotiations (Win-Win of course!)!

Because both were firm in their use of data, measured results, I became a big fan.

One of the Many Things I Learned From Neil

… was about Communications Behaviors – and the importance of developing a valid success model – of that way of categorizing human interactions – and teaching to that.

His SPIN Selling model is based on that.

And of course, his best selling book: SPIN Selling.

Here it is available at Amazon. McGraw-Hill’s best selling business book – ever.

I’ve written posts in the past about what I learned from his Communications Behaviors models – here – and – here.

I adapted one of his early models within both SPIN and Win-Win Negotiations to:

  • Giving Information/ Seeking Information
  • Testing Understanding (a form of both giving & seeking)
  • Summarizing (a form of giving to elicit/seek)
  • Defend/ Attach

On another topic…

Here is a Post about a Neil article about Smiley Sheets – here.

What I Also Learned From Neil

That although the Socratic Approach – that I heard Bill Wiggenhorn refer to – in describing what Neil was doing – but doing with a valid success model – it can be used for wrong, hurtful, evil purposes.
And to not waste any time comparing Exemplar Performers (what I call Master Performers) to Poor Performers. To Moderately Successful Performers, yes. To see what truly differentiates the true Masters.

Some Great Resources for You

Neil has several books available via Amazon – and elsewhere – see the list – here.

  • There are many Videos of Neil – talking about various aspects of Sales and Sales Management and Sales Leadership – search for them using “Neil Rackham” – or go – here.
  • There are many Articles by and about Neil – search for them using “Neil Rackham” – or go – here.

Audio Podcasts – New! From 1981

I also have these 3 Audio Podcasts – from 3 audio cassettes from 1981 – that I have recently converted to digital artifacts:

Especially interesting to fans of SPIN Selling – the origins of SPIN in that first audio podcast.


I interviewed Neil in late 2003 for the run-up publications/marketing for that 2004 ISPI Tampa Conference – those used to be available in ISPI’s PX – but are no longer available.

My Favorite Memories of Neil

What a generous genius he was and is. He always shared freely. He, like many at ISPI, and he was a member in the 1970s, was another of my models for sharing.
neil rackham photo smalljpg
I recall a lunch with Neil and Bill Wiggenhorn – and testing out the new SPIN Chicken dish at a local Chinese Restaurant near the Huthwaite working farm and offices in the farmland of Virginia – way back in 1982.
Then there was dinner with him back in 2003 – where we talked about my “ask” of him… after he had agreed to speak at my ISPI Conference in Tampa in 2004. The tradition is/was that the President gets to pick the Keynote Speakers. As soon as I asked him and broached the topic of his speaking fee – he waived it. He also agreed to play a medieval wind instrument – as he had done in meetings I attended with him (on my projects) – a little demo within a story – that he used to explain about proper technique and the job of a coach to reinforce the correct behavior – despite the fall-off in results initially – until the results improve and reinforce the new behavior.
Too often new behaviors are taught without adequate practice and feedback – and when the Learner goes back to their job context and those initial – poorer – results show up in their performance – they revert back to the old behaviors.
Think of learning a new grip in tennis or golf. Initial results are not as good as your incorrect grip – which you have mastered to a point – not as good as you could be – but perhaps OK. You learn the new grip and lose initial control of where the ball goes. Learners would revert ASAP if not for the coach reinforcement.

Please Share Your Stories

If Neil has been a valuable influence and/or resource for you – please share your stories about that in the comments section below or provide links to what you’ve published or found elsewhere.

And thank you for sharing!

Huthwaite Today

Here is the current day Huthwaite organization web site – carrying on the traditions of Neil and company back in the early 1980s – into the future.

Neil’s Website

See Neil’s website – here.

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19 comments on “1st Friday Favorite Guru: Neil Rackham

  1. Pingback: Neil Rackham on Negotiations – Audio from 1981 | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

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