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David has been writing and publishing since 2006.  

The Art of the Sale – Book Review and Notes

Nov 22, 2015 | Reflections

Author Philip Delves Broughton followed up his entertaining book about his time at Harvard Business School with his book “The Art of the Sale.” (Disclaimer – These are Amazon Affiliate links and pay a small commission to me for the referral). As Broughton notes, sales are key and core to every business, but little attention is every paid to the act of making a sale.  MBA students study marketing, which is an input to sales, but nothing discusses how you convince someone to buy your product.

Broughton’s book attempts to look at the deeper reasons that go into a great salesperson, and why people buy.

In all, it’s an entertaining read.  In my view, it could have used a tighter structure and editing, as it rambled a bit and often times made it difficult for the reader to see how the pieces fit together.  Below are a few key highlights and thoughts from my read.

  • The Master Salesman

    • Best example he saw was Majid – Salesperson in Morocco
    • Through presentation and storytelling and understanding the desires of his customers, he could create value and set prices beyond the dreams of neighboring stores
    • “You have to have loose robes” – never get upset
    • Do not avoid rejection, but see it as a vaccine that strengthens the ability to resist the personal battering inevitable in a life in sales
    • Avoid questions that can elicit the answer no
    • Accurately perceiving the motivations of a customer is just as important as understanding what product they want
  • The Pitch

    • 3 main steps in sales process
    • First – get your audience’s attention with an event or challenge that throws them off balance
      • This upends the everyday routine and a problem stands in the way
    • Second – struggle to solve the problem
    • Last – resolution – call to action
  • Soul of a salesman

    • Most significant predictor of performance in sales is role perception – how did a salesperson feel about what they did
    • The most complex sale and salesperson is someone who sells intangibles – advertising or education services, for example, where the product is not easily demonstrated and must be conjured up in the prospect’s imagination
    • Good salesperson does 3 things
      • Seduce prospect
      • Provide logical justifications for buying
      • Pressure to close
    • It is a wooing process
    • “Failure must act as a trigger – as a motivation toward greater effort – which with success will bring the ego enhancement they seek.  A subtle balance must be found between (a) an ego partially weakened in precisely the right way to need a great deal of enhancement (the sale) and (b) an ego sufficiently strong to be motivated by failure but not to be shattered by it
    • Profile of Mrs. Shibata of Dai-chi Life Insurance
      • Top life insurance salesperson in all of Japan
      • People buy life insurance out of love for their family
      • ‘this is how I contribute to society. If its just about the money – I have more than I can ever spend.  But families need the backup provided by insurance.  This is about me and how I can help people.’
      • ‘Selling is very hard to teach, because it’s about what exists in your head and what goes on in your whole life.  If you keep your friends and respect your parents, the benefits of that come back to you in this life.  It comes back as income you can see.  The objective in sales becomes the same as that in the rest of your life, to respect others and do the best for them.  Then you don’t have to be a salesperson about what you do.  Selling becomes an activity consistent with who you are.”
    • Norman Levine – another top sales person
      • The key to a sale is an interview, and the key to an interview is a disturbing question
      • A favorite line – “you’ll have the same problems when I walk out as you had when I walk in …unless you let me take your problems with me
      • Vary pitch based on what customer wants solved
      • You must know what they want – find via empathy
  • Other Misc Thoughts

    • Any industry where persistence is required to overcome adversity – a sense of optimism is vital
    • 4 steps –
      • Identify self-defeating thinking and the events that prompt it
      • Gather evidence to support or undermine the fear inhibiting us – decatastrophize the event
      • Distract ourselves from nose-dive of negativity
      • Treat internal criticism as if they have been uttered by an external rival whose mission in life is to make you miserable and to dispute that rival


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Nashville, TN