Archive for April, 2012
He quotes at length from the book, and also from Dr. Seuss:
Defending sales is, well, a tough sell. Mr. Delves Broughton might have quoted from “Dr.
Seuss’s Sleep Book,” a best seller that since 1962 has indoctrinated children to regard selling with suspicion: “Five foot-weary salesmen have laid down their load. / All day they’ve raced round in the heat, at top speeds, / Unsuccessfully trying to sell Zizzer-Zoof Seeds / Which nobody wants because nobody needs.”
Theodor Geisel (the real name of Dr. Seuss) may have ridiculed salesmen as flogging something that “nobody needs,” but he was a good salesman himself. He crisscrossed the country pushing his product, sometimes arriving for book signings in a helicopter. To date, the Seuss brand has moved about 200 million units. Mr. Delves Broughton, promoting the idea that sales is a virtuous calling, may have a harder time attracting customers, but he makes an appealing, contrarian pitch.
After watching the Leveson Inquiry unfold in London, I wrote this column for the Financial Times. It seems that the British public – and some sectors of the American press – want to see Rupert Murdoch do more than just apologize for the misdeeds of his British newspapers. They want to see him on his knees. And he’s not giving them what they want. He exercises power the way moguls have done for years, trading favors and using his influence, and being pursued by politicians far more than he pursues them. We seem to obsess about encounters between politicians and businesspeople, immediately assuming the worst, when they are just examples of networks at work, the age old and more often than not legitimate functioning of power.
It’s always great when people enjoy what you write, but even greater when very different seeming people have equally enthusiastic reactions.
“a fantastic, fun, and easy read. For anyone that is involved in sales or interested in selling, this is a great book… The book is motivation even for those not in sales who would like to develop salesmanship and confidence in presentation…Reading The Art of the Sale is like getting a glimpse into the successes and main lessons taught by history’s most famous entrepreneurs and salespeople. It is almost like a collection of short stories that keeps you flipping the pages. It’s a book that is great to pick up whenever you have a free moment or need a distraction because each anecdote is short and easy to read. I actually annotated the book with stickers to remind me of quotes that I liked! I haven’t done that since I was required to do that for my English class in high school. Hope you enjoy the book as much as did!”
Patricia, an ordained minister and lecturer behind patriciaswisdom.com, wrote:
“I could hardly put the book down, it was a great read and so well written…Selling is about understanding and using your own needs and emotions to find fulfillment…The Art Of The Sale is what we will need when we give up playing games and being entertained, it is about the art of living life.”
Thank you to both of them.
I’m deeply grateful to be selected and reviewed by Jack Covert, the founder and president of 800-CEO-READ, one the greatest booksellers in the business, and America’s leading retailer of business books to corporations and organizations. It’s great to be reviewed favorably, but doubly so by a great salesperson.
“Sales is complicated. No one seems to like it, whether they’re doing the selling or being sold to, yet it is one of the most common positions in the world and many sales gurus preach, “everyone is in sales.” Its ubiquity would seem to make it very clear to people, but it remains a slippery topic to understand.
Philip Delves Broughton’s new book, The Art of the Sale: Learning from the Masters About the Business of Life, examines this enigma in great detail. From high-level insurance sales, customer-focused antiques retail, and intense info-marketing to the nearly religious world of sales consulting, Delves Broughton reveals some of the fundamentals of this tricky business: storytelling, failure, persistence and, in essence, the human experience.
As Mrs. Shibata, one of Delves Broughton’s case studies and the most successful insurance sales person in Japan states:
“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.”
Clearly, not only is sales complicated, but salespeople also have to have a complex range of skills and intuition. They must have enough empathy to connect with people, but not so much that they cannot close a sale. Delves Broughton’s analysis of the process smoothly translates into his analysis of the people involved, where the most successful are often the most complex, all while exhibiting a patterned, learned, and simplistic message on the surface.
If sales, and salespeople, are complicated, it’s also all very fascinating, and this book is as entertaining as it is educational. There are incredible stories within it, from PT Barnum, Jeffrey Gitomer, and Donald Trump, to everyday people and products you might have never heard of… yet.”
Thank you Jack.
Post-Instagram, a great post by Sarah Lacy at her brilliant Pando Daily on how Mark Zuckerberg sells smaller companies on the idea of being bought by Facebook. It’s not just the money. It’s the chance to be part of something bigger. Other entrepreneurs and programmers WANT Zuckerberg’s blessing. He is the classic Ace salesman, who is able to sell because he’s at the very top of his game. Everyone wants to buy from the best.
“Mark Zuckerberg personally goes to visit with the entrepreneurs and actively sells Facebook — something very few CEOs at his level do…The smaller the company, the more he makes time for it, we hear, because it’s that much more effective…Facebook considers itself an engineer paradise, because it has relatively few engineers compared to other Web giants. Facebook has hundreds; Google has thousands. Or as it’s usually expressed: The ratio of page views per engineer. The message is that one guy can do a lot at Facebook. They aren’t (as much of) a cog in a machine, and that plays to the exact fears of a small team about to be absorbed. In other words: Their code reaches people. It matters.
But what is so staggering about this relatively unique playbook is how obvious it is. Of course, you’d want to sell to a CEO and not a biz/dev guy. And of course you’d rather your code mattered. Those are the things that drive people to work at startups to begin with. To the right hires, those two things would be more important than money. But somewhere along the way to becoming a big company, many entrepreneurs forget that. Zuckerberg apparently hasn’t.”
“Best book on sales? The best I’ve ever read.”
- Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence and The Little Big Things.
“The unsung heroes of capitalism are unsung no longer…Buy it and be enlightened.”
- Adrian Wooldridge, Schumpeter columnist, The Economist.
Delighted to be reviewed in The Economist’s Business Books Quarterly this week, alongside Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World’s Sales Leaders, by Thomas Baumgartner, Homayoun Hatami and Jon Vander Ark of McKinsey.
“Without sales companies would not exist. So it is curious that departments such as strategy or marketing are endlessly analysed by theorists whereas the front-line of business is often ignored…These two books, which finally give the field some proper attention, are long overdue.”
The comments suggest there’s an important debate to be had over how far sales can be turned into a scientific discipline – and to what extent it remains an art.
In October 2010, Kevin Systrom founded Instagram.
Today, Facebook announced it was buying the company for $1 billion in cash and stock.
This is the stuff of start-up dreams.
It happened because smart people who knew the right people came up with a simple product and scaled its user base like crazy. Instagram acquired users at a faster rate than Facebook.
Fast Company published this profile of him last June. It explains that:
- Systrom was a Stanford undergrad when he met Mark Zuckerberg and Adam D’Angelo soon after they arrived in Palo Alto, via his fraternity Sigma Nu.
- He then joined Odeo as an intern. Odeo’s founders went on to found Twitter.
- Then he worked at Google.
- His investors included early employees at Facebook, Google and Twitter.
“Everyone has their Facebook story, so I won’t say that’s necessarily unique. What I mean is that everyone has their story about how they had the chance to work at X, Y, or Z. But being at Stanford, I was given the opportunity to be in the middle of a ton of innovation, and meet some of the smartest people doing the coolest stuff in the world. When I finally did it [myself],” he adds, “It just felt so right.”
“Products can introduce more complexity over time, but as far as launching and introducing a new product in to the market, it’s a marketing problem,” Systrom tells Fast Company. “You have to explain everything you do, and people have to understand it, within seconds.” For Instagram, that meant cutting out the clutter. Systrom refers to Burbn (Instagram’s first iteration) now as a “science experiment,” a way to test “just about everything to figure out what stuck.” That meant experimenting with check-ins, posting photos and videos, adding comments and Like buttons, incorporating game mechanics, and tinkering with a feature called Plans, which related to future check-ins.
“When you’re introducing a mobile app, you look around and say, we could be doing 15 different things, but how do we communicate to someone why they would want to download and even sign up for this thing?” Systrom says. “In the mobile context, you need to explain what you do in 30 seconds or less because people move on to the next shiny object. There are so many apps and people are vying for your attention on the go. It’s the one context in which you’ve got lots and lots of other stuff going on. You’re not sitting in front of a computer; you’re at a bus stop or in a meeting.”
Talent matters – talk about a jobless recovery.
Divide valuation by number of employees to see what is happening at the vanguard of the US economy:
- Instagram’s worth $1 billion and employs 12 people. Each hire is worth $83 million.
- Facebook: $30 million per employee.
- Google: $7 million.
- General Electric: $700,000.
Scaling product reduces external coordination costs. Scaling team increases internal coordination costs. Ratio of the two is leverage.
Successful presidential candidates have a deep personal need which is realized through selling themselves into the White House. Mitt Romney evidently wants the Presidency, but it’s not clear that he needs it in the way the great ones do.
Ann Romney made exactly this point with her unfortunate offer last week to “unzip him and let the real Mitt Romney out” to show the world that he’s not as stiff as he seems. “You know, it is so funny to me that that is the perception out there. Because he is funny, he is engaging, he is witty,” she said. “He is always playing jokes. When I met him as a teenager, he was the life of the party. And yet, he is also a very serious person and an accomplished person. And I think a lot of times, people see him in the debate setting.”
What does your audience need?
BBC Radio 3‘s Night Waves program recently hosted a great discussion on the role of selling in American culture, touching on Death of a Salesman, Glengarry Glen Ross, and starting with selling by politicians.
Eli Attie, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton and Al Gore, a writer for The West Wing and producer of House, said that writing entertainment was relatively easy. Your audience wants to be entertained, whether with humor, drama or shock.
But what are the needs of an audience of voters? “Very contradictory and complicated,” says Attie, who wrote speeches for the fictional President Josiah Bartlett. They want a presidential candidate to be authentic, and to share their values, but they also want them to be better than them. Candidates must connect with people but also seem above them, be both an average guy, and a person worthy of the trust given any president.
And they must do all this in the most inauthentic settings imaginable, in convention centers and on TV shows.
It’s not the words – it’s you.
“You could give Bill Clinton the phonebook and he could sell it like the Gettysburg address,” says Attie.
Most presidential candidates say very similar things, as they try to meet this strangest of selling challenges. They try to sound lofty but real, practical but inspiring, universal but specific. So what makes one sound more convincing than another? Why Clinton, but not Al Gore?
Attie suggests that Clinton “wasn’t fully realized in private”, he was a cold and distant figure, and that he “didn’t really come alive unless he was in front of an audience.” Gore, by contrast, was much warmer and entertaining in private and so “was already fully realized and didn’t have room within himself for a new version of himself” when he appeared in public.
This tallies with what Robert McMurry, an industrial psychologist from Chicago, wrote in his classic HBR article The Mystique of Super Salesmanship. I write about this in The Art of the Sale:
“McMurry suggested that the single most important trait in a salesperson is “the wooing instinct.” The habitual wooer is “an individual who has a compulsive need to win and hold the affection of others.” This trait is the product of their early environment; the wooer is “characterized by the conviction that he is really unloved and unwanted” so must use every means at his disposal—charm, flattery, even deception—to win others over. He has a high degree of empathy, which makes him compatible with whomever he is selling to. But there is an underlying hostility to everything he does. He uses people and ends up despising those who fall for his tricks.”
Etch-a-sketch vs. oil on canvas
When Romney’s aide Eric Fehrnstrom said that Romney’s campaign would eventually erase itself and start afresh, like an Etch-a-Sketch he said something that is true about most campaigns. The first imperative is to win. Only then can you do the great things you promise.
Voters understand this, but they don’t want to hear it. It’s too cynical. What they want is for a candidate to paint a picture they can’t later erase. They want consistency, because its suggests authenticity. And because once they’ve elected a President, he’s lodged in power for four years – immovable, barring criminality.
In the private equity business, which Romney came from, it really is Etch-a-Sketch. You do what you need to do to get your hands on an asset, beat it around for cash, then move on. People don’t remember the promises you made or kept. They remember how much money you made.
The Etch-a-Sketch reference suggested that Romney’s team see the election as a one-day, everything must go sale. They see the campaign as leading up to this one-off transaction. But that’s a half-understanding of campaigns. Voters understand the political realities but they also want a candidate with enough respect to sell them a relationship which will last long beyond voting day.