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

Book by Philip Delves Broughton

REVIEW: The art of the saleWhy buy a book about selling if you don’t want to sell, and the very idea of salesmen makes your skin crawl? Ah, my friend, because you need this book. It’s the key to a better life. And, if you order now, for one easy payment of $29.50, the publisher will include absolutely free, a paper cover decorated in tasteful woodgrain!

Sold yet? Well, consider your prejudice against sales. Perhaps, as the author notes, it’s rooted in probably the only sales-related book you read in school: Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller’s sadly brilliant play about the crushed dreams of door-to-door peddler Willy Loman. And when sales isn’t being denigrated, it’s simply ignored. Delves Broughton, a journalist, was baffled during his time at Harvard Business School to find that sales wasn’t even on the curriculum, though he considers selling the very engine of capitalism.

He set out to find out what makes sellers tick by talking to the best: a rug merchant in Morocco, infomercial whiz Tony Sullivan, Japan’s top insurance salesman. But wait, there’s more! He looks at the strategies of master salesmen like the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela whose products are big ideas. The author admits to a certain ambivalence about the tactics of selling but he ultimately finds something ennobling about the ability to overcome the diet of rejection that is the salesman’s lot. Selling ourselves to an indifferent world is a skill we all need to acquire, he concludes, “as much a part of growing up as learning to read and write.” What is life really, but one big sales pitch?