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Book Reviews

Making the Technical Sale
I came upon this book under very odd circumstances, to say the least. I am a developer first and foremost, so the suggestion by my employer that I sit through a half-day seminar on the art of making technical sales was greeted with less than enthusiasm.

Thankfully, the speaker turned out to be a fellow techie - none other than Rick Greenwald, author of several highly technical O'Reilly books about Oracle database technologies. Once I knew this, I was prepared to at least listen.

Rick shared with us numerous tips and tricks about making technical sales, and my attitude quickly changed to one of absolute fascination. For the first time, here was all of the genuinely important information about selling, which technical people - whether we are completely "behind-the-scenes" developers or sales consultants traveling to customers' sites - need to know in order to succeed in our careers. I read this book cover to cover during a train ride back from a conference.

The book primarily addresses sales consultants - but one of the most important lessons that I took away from it is that developers are involved in making technical sales virtually every day. For example, you might spend a great deal of time "selling" your proposed solution to a technical problem to fellow employees. You might also have to "sell" your supervisors on your plan and its resource requirements in order to implement your solutions.

One of this book's key points is that you must always strive to understand your buyers and their motivations. Buyers are divided into three main categories by this text: technical buyers (interested in features), economic buyers (interested in benefits versus costs), and end users (interested in seeing their specific problems solved).

Once you have correctly identified your type of customer, the book goes on to provide tons of great real-world tips about how to keep them happy and interested in buying what you are selling. These tips are organized into cardinal rules, maxims, and red flags. Cardinal rules give concrete suggestions for your actions in various circumstances. Maxims help you understand what is really going on in certain situations. And, finally, red flags provide you with warning signs that your sale may be in jeopardy.

My favorite cardinal rule, as just one example, says that you should always respond to customer requests in a timely fashion - even if only to say that you are still working on them. If you wait too long without giving any kind of response at all - you're in trouble, regardless of how wonderful your ultimate response may be!

Now how many of my fellow hard-core, leave-me-alone-until-I'm-finished-coding developers ever realized that?

Title: Making the Technical Sale
Authors: Rick Greenwald et al.
Publisher: Muska & Lipman Publishing
List Price: $34.95
Rating: *****
Reviewed by
Andrew Montgomery

Instant ASP.NET Applications (with CD)
If you want to get a good idea of how to develop simple ASP.NET applications using ADO.NET, then this is the book for you. Mr. Buczek creates some simple database models using SQL Server and Microsoft Access and shows you how to use them in conjunction with ASP.NET. He has included many good ideas at a very basic level. The user can get these applications up and running very quickly, hence the name Instant ASP.NET Applications. He states in his introduction that the examples provided are a stepping-stone to help you open your mind and consider how to mold these ideas to your own needs.

The book is divided into two parts. The first two chapters introduce the reader to some ASP.NET concepts. The author shows you how to create an ASP.NET Web application in IIS (Internet Information Server), as well as how to use the Global.asax file and application and session objects. He explains how certain aspects of the Request and Response objects, such as the response.redirect method and the request.querystring collection, that were so widely used in classic ASP still play a vital role in ASP.NET. He continues by introducing some database data retrieval concepts and some of the ASP.NET controls.

The other chapters in this book present one or two projects per chapter on a wide array of topics. In particular, I found that the sports site, room rental, e-mail blast tool, and chat room examples were quite good and solved some interesting challenges.

In order to work with these examples you can use any text editor or Microsoft's ASP.NET Web Matrix tool, which is available as a free download from Microsoft at www.ASP.NET.

I would describe this book as an advanced beginner's book because there is no discussion in the book about stored procedures, the SQL client classes, web.config, or classes in general. In addition, in many examples if there is a need to retrieve the ID of a newly created record, the author makes another call to the database using the MAX function to retrieve the ID. It seems to me that in a real-world situation, it would be better to introduce stored procedures and return the ID via @@identity, or SCOPE_IDENTITY() if you are using SQL Server 2000. Also, there is a lot of code on many pages to determine if an employee ID session variable (for instance) has been set. I think it would have been more useful to create a library method to accomplish this.

The book is easy to read and comprehend and offers well-thought-out charts, diagrams, and figures. If you are just starting out with ASP.NET and want to get up and running quickly, then this is the book for you.

Title: Instant ASP.NET Applications (with CD)
Author: Greg Buczek
List Price: $49.99
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Osborne Media
Rating: ****
Reviewed by
Steven Mandel

More Stories By Andrew Montgomery

Andrew Montgomery is a freelance technical writer based in the Chicago area.

More Stories By Steven Mandel

Steven Mandel has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years designing databases using Microsoft Access and SQL Server. He has developed Web and Windows applications using VB.NET and has written numerous articles and reviews about ASP.NET and VB.NET.

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