Saturday, July 21, 2012

New Book: The Art of the Sale

I am taking a road trip from Columbus, Ohio to Madison, Wisconsin. It is a 9 hour drive from Columbus to Madison, and I stopped for the night at some good friends' house in Champaign, Illinois.

The Art of the Sale
I  have been listening to The Art of the Sale, a new book by Philip Delves Broughton. I have been a big Broughton fan since reading his book Ahead of the Curve, in which he describes his experience earning an MBA in the Harvard Business School. (I've actually read Ahead of the Curve several times - it is very insightful and entertaining and I highly recommend it.) In The Art of the Sale, Broughton shares great stories, addresses academic literature, and sums his findings up in clear, often humorous ways.

According to Broughton, some assert that there are two essentials to being a great salesperson: (1) the ability to empathize, and (2) a strong, unflappable ego. This crucial combination allows the salesperson to understand the potential client - background, desires, needs, and feelings - while at the same time possessing a great deal of confidence in the ability to to provide something useful. This ego also provides a healthy dose of resilience in the face of rejection, which is likely a big part of the life of the salesman.

I would probably rate myself fairly high in the empathize category and somewhere around average in the ego category. I am certainly not a salesman by title, but as in most every profession, I find that I must sell a great deal to the people around me. For me, a vital key to maintaining confidence amid the difficulties of selling is a firm belief in the product I am selling. I am currently the interim program chair for the MS Degree in Instructional Design and Performance Technology at Franklin University. Part of my duty is to promote the program to potential students, and if I didn't have a strong belief in the product of education in general and the degree specifically, I would not do too well at promoting the program. Luckily, I do believe in the "product" of education - I believe it raises sights and expands human potential in a way that many other things cannot.

Broughton also notes that the way a person interprets failures is vital. Is my failure due to my internal shortcomings, or simply due to external circumstances? Does a single instance of failure become interpreted as evidence of my global incompetence, or was it just specific instance of failure in a life of overall success? I have personally found that successfully enduring difficult experiences in life and having succeeded at other rewarding pursuits has given me a positive perspective on my own abilities as an individual, and those experiences serve as a foundation for moving forward with confidence in the face of difficulty. I try to think about negative, or difficult experiences as formative (something I can use to improve myself) instead of summative (like a final "grade" or statement of value that is assigned to me by someone else). As a friend  and coach once said, "There is no failure, only feedback."

I have listened to the first half of the book and will continue to listen as I move forward on my trip.
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