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Speed Review: The Art of the Sale

Speed Review: The Art of the Sale

Speed Review: The Art of the Sale

Learning from the Masters About the Business of Life

by Philip Delves Broughton

The Art of the Sale is the result of a pilgrimage to learn the secrets of the world's foremost sales gurus. 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 demonstrates as never before the complex alchemy of effective selling and the power it has to overcome challenges we face every day.


The Heart and Soul Of Sales

His name is Majid and he is a salesman of fine objects and furnishings deep in the heart of the Medina (old town) of Tangiers. His customers range from the suspicious and clumsy cruise passengers who sweep through the city on the lookout for the quick and the cheap, to interior designers and antique dealers from around the world looking for treasures for their clients, to the rich and famous themselves — Elizabeth Taylor was a customer — who trek to Majid’s store to shop for themselves.

For Majid, who dominates the first chapter of The Art of the Sale by Philip Delves Broughton, the key to successful sales is "loose robes." The phrase came from Majid’s father who advised his son on the importance of maintaining a state of calm, regardless of a customer’s rudeness or ineptitude. "Majid’s loose robes are a form of resilience, an essential trait for salespeople, and for any of us who hope to succeed in life," writes Broughton. "It is the ability to maintain an emotional equilibrium in the face of bad events."

The Masters of Sales

Broughton was a foreign correspondent for London’s The Daily Telegraph for many years before getting his MBA at Harvard Business School and, in many ways, The Art of the Sale is a series of fascinating dispatches from the front lines of sales. For example, Broughton follows Guillermo Ramirez, a high-energy Mexican immigrant who’s built a flourishing 50-employee contracting business in Baltimore, through a typical day that begins with a 4:30 a.m. 45-minute run, come rain or shine. Broughton then watches as Ramirez, known as Meme to all, deftly handles the problems and questions of his clients, showing empathy and insight into the mindset motivating the renovation projects.

Broughton also writes of past masters of sales, from P.T. Barnum to Joseph Duveen, the British-born art dealer who helped such early twentieth-century industrialists as Henry Frick and Andrew Mellon acquire the extraordinary art collections around which museums would be built.

Readers are even invited to accompany Broughton on some of his pre-wedding purchases, which reveal both the good and the bad of sales. A sales clerk at vintage jeweler Fred Leighton refuses to sell him a box in which to put the engagement ring he bought at auction. On the other hand, the salesperson at Manhattan clothing store Paul Stuart earns his special praise. "He didn’t do what everyone else I met in the course of preparing for marriage did — try to upsell me on the grounds that it was my wedding day, and how do you put a price on that?" Broughton writes. "He alone did not try to exploit the commercial opportunities of my wedding."

Portraits and Theories

Broughton’s portraits of a wide range of fascinating salespeople from around the world are interlaced with relevant studies and theories of selling going back to Benjamin Franklin. In one chapter, Broughton juxtaposes the negative assessment of salespeople by Professor Guy Oakes, the author of a book called The Soul of the Salesman: The Moral Ethos of Personal Sales, with empathetic stories of two life insurance salespeople: a flamboyant Japanese saleswoman Mrs. Shibata (no first name is ever given), and one of the most successful life insurance agents of all time, Norman Levine. Oakes was disgusted, according to Broughton, at the willingness of salespeople to always be selling, even to family and friends. "What Oakes abhorred, Levine and Mrs. Shibata describe with pride," Broughton writes.

Broughton has written a unique sales book, one that not only explores surprising perspectives on sales, such as its religious undercurrent, but also reveals the heart and soul of the best salespeople. He uncovers the determination, the love of the job, and the sense of doing something right and important that keeps salespeople motivated and serene no matter how many rejections they may face. As Broughton points out, everyone is always selling, whether they realize it or not, which is why The Art of the Sale is, in truth, more about life than it is about the profession of sales. Readers will enjoy the wisdom of these tales and the benefits of applying that knowledge on the job.