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Speaking and corporate writing

I frequently give speeches and take on corporate writing projects. My writing clients have included Apple and The Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship and Education. I have spoken at private corporate events and conferences, to business school students at Oxford and the LSE, and at literary festivals. I’ve appeared on broadcast media from the BBC television and radio to Charlie Rose, CNN, CNBC and many others.

I have four major topics for speeches.

The Art of the Sale

Without a sale, there is no business. Yet for all the science applied to business and management, sales remains a stubbornly human discipline. Why? Despite the new opportunities in social media, marketing and measurement, selling still frequently comes down to two people looking each other in the eye and deciding how to sell and whether to buy. Business continues to need great salespeople and all the creativity, tenacity and optimism they bring. This talk draws on the case studies in The Art of the Sale: Learning From the Masters About the Business of Life to explain both the art and science of selling, and why both remain necessary to succeed in this most human of business disciplines.

The Greatest Salespeople in the World

Great salespeople come in very different packages. Some are best at high volume transactional selling, others thrive at building long-term relationships. Some are motivated by rejection others by an urgent desire to win other people over. Some are natural showmen, able to create value around works of art or movies, while others do better tenaciously selling products to make your white whiter. What kind does your organization need? This talk presents several different kinds of sales archetypes, using well-known examples, from the Wooer to the Outsider to the Happy Loser. Every salesperson will recognize themselves in one of them, and managers will develop a clearer understanding of whom to hire for specific sales.

The soul of the salesman

Most top business schools don’t teach selling. But it should be the first thing they teach, as everything in business flows from the sale. It requires creativity, to come up with a product or service to sell, intelligence, to understand the customer’s needs and willingness to pay, and optimism, to keep selling in the face of endless “no’s”. It is also the business activity which throws up the most intense ethical and personal challenges. What are you willing to do to close a sale? What are you willing to say? Who are you willing to be?

When non-business people look at business, salespeople are often the first people they see. When Arthur Miller wrote about the corrosive effects of capitalism on a man’s soul, he did so through a salesman, Willy Loman. David Mamet depicted salesmen as sharks in Glengarry Glen Ross. When the business and non-business worlds no longer understand each other, the effect on society can be ruinous. By better understanding selling, and the many challenges it involves, we can build invaluable bridges between these worlds.

What’s the point of a business education?

In 2004, I gave up a career in journalism to attend Harvard Business School. Three years later, I published the New York Times bestseller Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School, in which I described and questioned the value of a business education. Business schools remain a growth industry. Countries, states and cities across the world hope that teaching business and entrepreneurship will lead to more start-ups and better businesses. Is their hope justified? This talk will examine those aspects of business which can and cannot be taught, those which must be taught better, and those not worth teaching at all. It will draw on my experience at business school, designing corporate curriculums, and studying and writing about the start-up world, to offer ideas on how businesses, educators and policy-makers should teach business as a means to improving the rate and quality of economic growth.

For speaking engagements in the US contact Erin Simpson at the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau.; tel. 212.366.2263

For speaking in the UK, contact Leo von Bulow Quirk at Chartwell Partners.;  tel. 0207 7928000



“Defining and communicating a company’s culture is essential. Philip brought his skills as a reporter and writer and his deep knowledge of business to NetQoS to help us record and share what we as a company have done and who we are. Philip is an easy person to talk to, tactful and discreet yet direct. His writing reveals his rapid grasp of the personalities and challenges in the business. The story of NetQoS he created was both interesting and informative, providing a compelling way to capture and communicate what made NetQoS unique. I highly recommend Philip’s story-telling method.”

Joel Trammell – founder and CEO, NetQoS, Austin, Texas.


“Philip’s address brought the debate alive It was almost as if his words allowed the audience of businesspeople, academics, graduates and students the space to step back and look at their experience with greater detachment. He achieved this through irony and humor, but gets across his points unequivocally. In discussion, he gives as good as he gets. He is, in short, ‘good value’. Philip spoke fluently, from simple notes – and engaged with the audience from the start.”

Chris Russell, chairman Oxford Business Debate, Association of MBAs


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