The Art of the Sale: Learning from the Masters About the Business of Life

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From the author of Ahead of the Curve, a revelatory look at successful selling and how it can impact everything we do

The first book of its kind, The Art of the Sale is the result of a pilgrimage to learn the secrets of the world's foremost sales gurus. Bestselling author Philip Delves Broughton tracked down anyone who could help him understand what it took to achieve greatness in sales, from technology billionaires to the most successful saleswoman in Japan to a cannily ...

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The Art of the Sale: Learning from the Masters about the Business of Life

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From the author of Ahead of the Curve, a revelatory look at successful selling and how it can impact everything we do

The first book of its kind, The Art of the Sale is the result of a pilgrimage to learn the secrets of the world's foremost sales gurus. Bestselling author Philip Delves Broughton tracked down anyone who could help him understand what it took to achieve greatness in sales, from technology billionaires to the most successful saleswoman in Japan to a cannily observant rug merchant in Morocco. The wisdom and experience Broughton acquired, revealed in this outstanding book, demonstrates as never before the complex alchemy of effective selling and the power it has to overcome challenges we face every day.

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Editorial Reviews

The Economist
"A descriptive account . . . long overdue."
The Wall Street Journal
"Broughton, promoting the idea that sales is a virtuous calling . . . makes an appealing, contrarian pitch."
Tom Peters
“Best book on sales ever? Who knows, but it surely is the best I’ve ever read. As a gazillion-mile traveling salesman (ideas) myself, I learned an amazing amount about who I am and what I do from this. We all live by selling: ideas or products or peace in our time. The Art of the Sale is perhaps unique—a marvelous book about selling, and life, and who we are and how we tick. And the case studies are dazzling.”
Publishers Weekly
Though we normally don’t think of Nelson Mandela as a salesman, persuading white South Africans to end apartheid was one of the great sales campaigns in recent history. Journalist Delves Broughton (Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School) thinks salesmanship deserves more respect, though he freely admits that the few times he was called upon to sell, he hated it. Integral to any successful business, selling is seldom taught in business school, perhaps because M.B.A. programs prefer to paint a less brutal vision of business life. This exploration of the nature of salesmanship begins in Morocco, where Delves Broughton meets Majid, a world-renowned antiques dealer, who suggests that the art of the sale lies in patience and the ability to instantly read people. For infomercial-king Tony Sullivan, the art lies in the ability to tell an irresistible story, while Japan’s top life insurance salesperson, Mrs. Shibata, credits her conviction that she’s performing a valuable service. Like Malcolm Gladwell, Delves Broughton is drawn to success stories where natural talent takes second place to hard work, but he’s also willing to explore the manipulative, deceptive aspects of the task, as well as the endless rejection salespeople must face. His enthusiasm and admiration for skilled practitioners of the art is contagious. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Delves Broughton's New York Times best seller, Ahead of the Curve, detailed his MBA studies at Harvard (after years as a journalist). Here he visits a merchant in Morocco, a Zen-inspired Japanese saleswoman, and art dealer Larry Gagosian, among others, to explain that we're all into sales—whether we're selling ourselves to a boss or our children on the virtues of homework—and how we can do a better job of it. Intriguing and possibly useful.
Kirkus Reviews
Sales was not part of the curriculum at Harvard Business School. Former Daily Telegraph journalist Broughton (Ahead of the Curve: Two Years At Harvard Business School, 2008) explains why that's a big problem.

For the author, sales is where the rubber hits the road, where the deals are done. If a business can't sell its product, of course, it won't survive. More Americans are employed in sales than any other line of work. Not to be confused with marketing, the author's definition of sales goes from his sons' lemonade stand to the Dalai Lama representing the Tibetan people against Chinese repression. Broughton has met with top sellers around the world, traveling to Japan, Morocco and the United Kingdom in search of the keys to success in sales. In addition to his interview research, he examines academic studies, history, self-help literature, academic research on the psychology of selling and the character attributes of sales people. He explores the differences in theory and practice, and he draws from the history of the field, by way of P.T. Barnum and Joseph Duveen, who brought fine-art sales to the U.S. Broughton does not exclude the seamy underside—e.g., pharmaceutical companies recruiting college cheerleaders to "sell" their products to the country's doctors, who "buy more and prescribe more to please ex-cheerleaders than they do for salesmen who look like themselves"—but he supplies plenty of success stories, including Ted Turner, casino magnate Steve Wynn and former AOL executive Ted Leonsis.

Entertaining, balanced and provocative.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143122760
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/26/2013
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 644,552
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Delves Broughton reported from more than twenty-five countries as a foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph (London) before getting his MBA at Harvard Business School. He is the author of the bestselling Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School and lives in Litchfield, Connecticut.

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Interviews & Essays

An interview with Philip Delves Broughton, author of The Art Of The Sale: Learning from the Masters About the Business of Life (The Penguin Press)

What inspired you to write the book?

At a personal level, I wanted to learn more about selling because I've always found it so difficult myself. I considered it a necessary evil and wanted to discover a more positive way to think about it. The challenges in selling never seemed to me the techniques or the process, but rather the deeper psychological and personal challenges: resilience, optimism, the balance between service to the client and profit for oneself. None of this was addressed during my MBA program, and sales is absent from most MBA curriculums, which is an extraordinary omission. Then finally, I'm fascinated by the most human aspects of business, those moments when two people look each other in the eye and decided whether or not to trust each other, whether to buy or sell.

Sales, as one great salesman told me, is the greatest laboratory there is for studying human nature. After writing this book, I agree.

What role does sales play in our culture?

It's everywhere, not just in commerce. We sell ourselves to each other for jobs and friendships. We sell our children on the importance of going to school. We are all selling all the time, so it's important we get comfortable with selling well. This does not mean that capitalism has permeated ever aspect of our culture - that's a whole other discussion - but rather that the back and forth inherent in selling, the importance of self-knowledge and the ability to persuade are vital to realizing our purpose, whatever that might be.

People have been bombarded with books and information on how to succeed or get ahead at their job - what is different about The Art of the Sale?

I hope this book helps whoever reads it to sell better, but it's not a self-help book. It's an examination of selling, the personalities who succeed at it and the psychological challenges it presents. I hope it helps people reflect on who they are and how they can make the very best of their talents through selling. But this is a very personal process. I hope that somewhere amidst the range of characters, stories and reflections in my book, each reader will find a few that deeply resonate with them.

You describe your book as the "Dale Carnegie for the 21st Century" - can you elaborate?

Dale Carnegie wrote about the habits and practices required to make friends and influence people. What he proposes is pure common sense. Why he's still read is because, as the CEO of the Dale Carnegie company told me, "common sense isn't common practice." I think a lot of the secrets to selling are in fact common sense, but they get buried by our enthusiasm for quasi-scientific techniques and answers.

I hope that my book returns selling to a more intimate, personal level, which is where the hardest sales challenges must be solved. If you can wrestle the basics into place and develop the right mindset to sell, then it will spill over into the rest of your life with enormously positive consequences.

Were there some universal qualities you found in great sales people?

Resilience, persistence and optimism are the fundamental traits of good salespeople. They have high degrees of emotional intelligence and empathy, but also sufficient ego to deal with endless rejection and to push through a sale against the odds. They are great readers of people and tend to be highly creative in achieving their goals. Many are wonderful story-tellers. They really like people. I've yet to meet a great salesperson who wasn't great company. These traits and qualities can come in all kinds of packages.

Is President Obama a good salesman? Is a good salesman what we need in the White House over the next 4 years?

Obama's a brilliant salesman - as you must be to be elected President. Convincing the American people to put you in the White House is one of the greatest sales challenges. His particular gift is in making the great speech when it counts. He's not an effortless glad-hander the way Bill Clinton was. But cometh the moment, cometh the man. In 2008, he created an attractive vision and mobilized a terrific campaign organization behind his ideas and personality to win against the odds. That was a great selling feat.

Once in office, selling is one of the President's main jobs, as it is for any chief executive. Presidents need to be able to sell their policies to get them implemented. They also need to exude confidence in difficult times. No one wants to see a shrinking President. We crave one who deals ably with the realities of the present while providing a confident view of the future. So, yes, selling is a vital skill for any President, but particularly when the country needs rallying.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Fun, Charm­ing and Edu­ca­tional

    The Art of the Sale by Philip Delves Broughton is a non-fiction book in which the author shares sto­ries and the­o­ries about what makes a sales­per­son. Mr. Broughton believes that we are all sales­peo­ple and could use sales skills every­day of our lives.
    I’m in agreement.

    Using exten­sive research and per­sonal expe­ri­ence, the author writes about sales tech­niques from a Moroc­can souk to Wall Street financiers, from street ven­dors to sell­ing we all do each and every day.

    The Art of the Sale by Philip Delves Broughton is a fun, charm­ing and edu­ca­tional book which gives one a glimpse into the world of the sales force. The book can be read in parts as every chap­ter gives anec­dotes from suc­cess­ful salesman.

    One of my biggest regrets is not learn­ing how to sell. My friend Tripp Braden told me a long time ago that if I knew how to sell I'd never have to look for a job. The more I get immersed in the busi­ness world, the more I see how right he was. I con­vinced myself I was a bad sales­man, from some unbe­knownst rea­son which I'm not will­ing to dwell on for my emo­tional well being and my con­stantly empty wal­let. How­ever, I can tell that this is not the case — as a web devel­oper I spent hours upon hours with mar­ket­ing per­son­nel and sales per­son­nel. While I cer­tainly don't think I can do the high pres­sure sale, I can cer­tainly use peo­ple skill, patience and power of per­sua­sion to make a few extra bucks.

    I remem­ber walk­ing with my beloved wife, may she live a long life, through the souk in Jerusalem. As an Amer­i­can, she was ner­vous and a bit fright­ened by the aggres­sive­ness of the ven­dors. To be hon­est, I was on edge as well. How­ever, we quickly dis­cov­ered that we could prob­a­bly get all our gift shop­ping done that day in one place.

    We found a ven­dor (or did he find us?) and I tried to bar­gain a pack­aged deal for a whole bunch of stuff (crosses, stars of David, camels, and what­not…). What the ven­dor didn’t know is that I’m not bad at math and fig­ured out the total sum. After about 40 min­utes of hag­gling, punch­ing num­bers into a cal­cu­la­tor and promis­ing to give me the deal of the decade he came up with a num­ber which was extremely close to…my orig­i­nal esti­mate. At this point my wife’s nerves were quickly com­ing to an end and we just paid and left.
    But I could have knocked it down by at least 20%.

    The book tells about fas­ci­nat­ing and hyp­o­crit­i­cal aspects of the sales per­son. The innate abil­ity to believe what­ever BS you’re sell­ing, the good sales can do (get­ting a job, sell­ing a book) and the bad (know­ingly sell­ing bad stocks), about rejec­tion and suc­cess, per­se­ver­ance and fail­ure. While almost no-one likes sales to the point where busi­ness schools don’t even teach it, our econ­omy wouldn’t be what it is with­out the one-on-one pitch.

    How many of us can hon­estly say that about sales­peo­ple we meet?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 6, 2013

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