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The Art of the Sale: Learning from the Masters About the Business of Life Hardcover – April 12, 2012

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Editorial Reviews Review

An interview with Philip Delves Broughton about The Art of the Sale

What inspired you to write the book?

At a personal level, I wanted to learn more about selling because I’ve always found it so difficult myself. I considered it a necessary evil and wanted to discover a more positive way to think about it. The challenges in selling never seemed to me the techniques or the process, but rather the deeper psychological and personal challenges: resilience, optimism, the balance between service to the client and profit for oneself. None of this was addressed during my MBA program, and sales is absent from most MBA curriculums, which is an extraordinary omission. Then finally, I’m fascinated by the most human aspects of business, those moments when two people look each other in the eye and decided whether or not to trust each other, whether to buy or sell.

Sales, as one great salesman told me, is the greatest laboratory there is for studying human nature. After writing this book, I agree.

What role does sales play in our culture?

It’s everywhere, not just in commerce. We sell ourselves to each other for jobs and friendships. We sell our children on the importance of going to school. We are all selling all the time, so it’s important we get comfortable with selling well. This does not mean that capitalism has permeated ever aspect of our culture--that’s a whole other discussion--but rather that the back and forth inherent in selling, the importance of self-knowledge and the ability to persuade are vital to realizing our purpose, whatever that might be.

People have been bombarded with books and information on how to succeed or get ahead at their job--what is different about The Art of the Sale?

I hope this book helps whoever reads it to sell better, but it’s not a self-help book. It’s an examination of selling, the personalities who succeed at it and the psychological challenges it presents. I hope it helps people reflect on who they are and how they can make the very best of their talents through selling. But this is a very personal process. I hope that somewhere amidst the range of characters, stories and reflections in my book, each reader will find a few that deeply resonate with them.

You describe your book as the “Dale Carnegie for the 21st Century”--can you elaborate?

Dale Carnegie wrote about the habits and practices required to make friends and influence people. What he proposes is pure common sense. Why he’s still read is because, as the CEO of the Dale Carnegie company told me, “common sense isn’t common practice.” I think a lot of the secrets to selling are in fact common sense, but they get buried by our enthusiasm for quasi-scientific techniques and answers.

I hope that my book returns selling to a more intimate, personal level, which is where the hardest sales challenges must be solved. If you can wrestle the basics into place and develop the right mindset to sell, then it will spill over into the rest of your life with enormously positive consequences.

Were there some universal qualities you found in great sales people?

Resilience, persistence and optimism are the fundamental traits of good salespeople. They have high degrees of emotional intelligence and empathy, but also sufficient ego to deal with endless rejection and to push through a sale against the odds. They are great readers of people and tend to be highly creative in achieving their goals. Many are wonderful story-tellers. They really like people. I’ve yet to meet a great salesperson who wasn’t great company. These traits and qualities can come in all kinds of packages.

Is President Obama a good salesman? Is a good salesman what we need in the White House over the next 4 years?

Obama’s a brilliant salesman - as you must be to be elected President. Convincing the American people to put you in the White House is one of the greatest sales challenges. His particular gift is in making the great speech when it counts. He’s not an effortless glad-hander the way Bill Clinton was. But cometh the moment, cometh the man. In 2008, he created an attractive vision and mobilized a terrific campaign organization behind his ideas and personality to win against the odds. That was a great selling feat.

Once in office, selling is one of the President’s main jobs, as it is for any chief executive. Presidents need to be able to sell their policies to get them implemented. They also need to exude confidence in difficult times. No one wants to see a shrinking President. We crave one who deals ably with the realities of the present while providing a confident view of the future. So, yes, selling is a vital skill for any President, but particularly when the country needs rallying.


“Best book on sales ever? Who knows, but it surely is the best I’ve ever read. As a gazillion-mile traveling salesman (ideas) myself, I learned an amazing amount about who I am and what I do from this. We all live by selling: ideas or products or peace in our time. The Art of the Sale is perhaps unique—a marvelous book about selling, and life, and who we are and how we tick. And the case studies are dazzling.” — Tom Peters

“For the author, sales is where the rubber hits the road, where the deals are done . . . Broughton has met with top sellers around the world, traveling to Japan, Morocco, and the United Kingdom in search of the keys to success in sales . . . Entertaining, balanced, and provocative.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Broughton, promoting the idea that sales is a virtuous calling . . . makes an appealing, contrarian pitch." — The Wall Street Journal

"A descriptive account . . . long overdue." — The Economist

“Like Malcolm Gladwell, Delves Broughton is drawn to success stories where natural talent takes second place to hard work, but he’s also willing to explore the manipulative, deceptive aspects of the task, as well as the endless rejection salespeople must face. His enthusiasm and admiration for skilled practitioners of the art is contagious.” — Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; 1St Edition edition (April 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594203326
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594203329
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #570,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

I'm the son of an English clergyman and a Burmese mother, was born in Bangladesh, grew up in the UK, have lived in London, New York, Paris and Boston and now live in Northwestern Connecticut. I graduated from Oxford with a BA and MA in Classics, then spent ten years as a newspaper reporter mainly for The Daily Telegraph of London. From 1998-2002, I was the paper's New York correspondent and from 2002-2004 it's Paris Bureau Chief. During that time I reported on scores of events from more than 20 countries, led our newspaper's coverage of the 9/11 attacks on New York, and interviewed politicians, movie stars, religious conservatives and libertines. In 2004, I decided to leave Paris and go to Harvard Business School, where I received my MBA in 2006, an experience I wrote about in Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School. Since then, I have worked at Apple, developing an internal executive education program, as a writer at the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship and Education, and as a contributing columnist to the Financial Times. In 2012, I was a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome, when I had the extraordinary experience of meeting and interviewing Silvio Berlusconi. I am married and have two sons and a dog.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Chris on April 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an absolute must-read for anyone who has to sell anything. The author has interviewed all sorts of fascinating salespeople all over the world, trying to understand what drives them to succeed.

The reason that I especially loved The Art of the Sale is that it celebrates the day to day tenacity needed to keep selling - and at the end of the day that's what really drives the economy. I went to a business school that tended to ignore selling, concentrating on 'strategy' and more consultancy-type skills. This was a real omission, and this book rightly rectifies it.

I also enjoyed Philip Delves Broughton's other book on HBS, so it is great to see him delivering another winner. He is one of the best writers around - his style is very readable and intelligent.

All in all a great book that rivals anything by Malcolm Gladwell; actually, no - that exceeds it.

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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Diverse on July 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The intro caught my attention with the claim "No Ivy League schools teach sales, yet sales is the lifeblood of business." So he sets his goal to fill that gap.

Unfortunately, his approach is to interview successful sales people, and then try to gleam principles from their narratives.
This approach isn't too useful for anyone looking to learn sales. Why? Because losers often use the same techniques.
A key problem with the book is that it portrays each person as completely independent of their situation, a sales person who sells anything, under all conditions, a self-created, self-willed person, completely out to be in complete mastery of their
entire situation, someone who identified the goals, identified the difficulties, created a strategy to achieve the goals despite the difficulties, and then accomplished the goals through single minded determination.

But there is another way to interpret this: The author only selected winners for his analysis.
The author selected winners, then derived attributed successful due to technique.
This is survivorship bias.

The author never researched whether the steps used by the winners were used by losers. The author never talked to sales people who weren't thriving.

And since he doesn't test his theories on "what works in sales" in all conditions, his conclusions aren't useful.

At one point he's interviewing the CEO of The CEO's bookcase was full of sales books. "Most of those books are worthless. You can't teach effective sales. Either you have it or you don't." Yet, he claims to be presenting a 'master class'.

This point that "sales can't be taught" is communicated multiple times through the book. So why should I read this book?
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. F. Malcolm on April 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I first learned about The Art of the Sale last Friday, I knew I had to read it. I downloaded it immediately to my Kindle and finished it on Saturday morning somewhere between California and Florida. It's that good.

There are three key messages in this book:

The overlooked importance of selling in business and life

The book is useful for sales professionals and non-salespeople alike. I wish everyone in business who is not in sales would read this book, because it explains why nothing in business would happen without the special talents, tenacity and hard work of salespeople. Business is fundamentally about two things: a) producing goods and services and b) selling them. Guess which one of those two is almost never taught in the typical MBA program? "All over the world, from the most basic to the most advanced economies, selling is the horse that pulls the cart of business."

In spite of this, "Many supposedly well-educated people in the business world are clueless about one of its most vital functions, the means by which you actually generate revenue. The absence of knowledge about sales has opened a class division between salespeople and the rest of business." If you want to contribute to closing this class division, give copies of this book to your leadership team.

And it's not just business; in life, you are always selling or being sold to. Unless you're a hermit, most of what you do in life has to be done through others, and selling is the vehicle of interpersonal relationships.

Examining the dilemmas and tradeoffs of selling

Broughton also helps to put into perspective and clear up some misconceptions about the motivation and integrity of those who sell for a living.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Buffy on June 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The jacket claims that the author set out to 'assemble his own master class in the art of selling' with this book. Unfortunately what you get are broad range of short biographies and general (at best) selling 'techniques' but very little that is in-depth. This book comes across as an aggregate of information in printed form. In the "Art and Commerce" chapter covering art dealers the first section talks about Joseph Duveen and uses S.N. Behrman's book "Duveen" as its source material. The next few pages talk about Leo Castelli but you're much better off buying the full length biography on the're not going to get a 'master class' in a few pages. The next few pages on Larry Gagosian pull from an interview done 'some years ago' and reveal nothing of the dealer's selling techniques. And there you have a chapter that reveals nothing. The rest of the book follows suit: mostly background information about the master seller, and only vague surface glimpses of actual selling and the 'art' of selling. Save your money. This book will be remaindered in a year and this will be one of the one cent books in the used section. Definitely not recommended. 0 stars.
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