Monday, April 09, 2012

'You Can Sell!'

Book Review
Khera, Shiv. (2012) You Can Sell. Chennai. Westland. Pages: 316. Price: Rs 275

For some strange reason, selling is referred to as the second oldest profession in the world. A number of other professions compete for the second spot including spying.  Designating selling as the second might be an attempt at disdain, ascribing to it associative notoriety with the first. Notwithstanding the fact that sales people are generally unwelcome and viewed with suspicion, they do have a useful function in the society. A successful sales manager was fond of saying, ‘the only person in the world who prays for your long life is your insurance salesman!’ Quite true! The reason is simple. An insurance salesman receives commission on a life policy as long as the insured person lives, but his heirs bequeath his property when he ceases to.

The lighter side apart, every human interaction has an element of selling in it. It need not be selling goods or services. It could be selling ideas. The obvious implication of this idea is that to get ahead in life, one has to sell oneself. Quite often we find the same attributes or prerequisites listed as factors for success both in self-improvement / success literature and selling skills manuals. They are a pleasing personality, a positive outlook, an ability to forge harmonious interpersonal relations and good communication skills. Conversely this is the reason why for sales people success literature has been a first manual.

Napoleon Hill’s 16-lesson The Law of Success (1928) was one of the earliest tomes on the subject in modern times. This was followed by Dale Carnegie’s How to win friends and influence people (1936). Since then there has been a steady stream of success literature, the most popular in recent years being Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. Some like Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) and Robert Schuller’s Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do (1983) had religious overtones embedded in them. Parkinson & Rustomji’s Business is People, Walter Veira’s booklet on salesmanship, revised and updated as The New Professional Salesman and Spencer Johnson's The OneMinute Sales Person deserve mention in this context as they are precisely and very well written books on the subject. There are hundreds of others, including biographies of great sales people and fiction, which among them must have covered every aspect of selling skills.

Therefore there is not much new ground left for Shiv Khera to cover in his (new) book, You Can Sell.  However one must give it to him for putting together a comprehensive manual for sales people which covers the entire range of mechanics from positive thinking to professional pride; from prospecting to selling; from goal setting to time management.  There is also a chapter on ethics. He has provided an exercise at the end of each chapter for self assessment of readers as they go along. The book is peppered with interesting anecdotes. Old salesmen’s jokes have been skillfully used to make points. For people in the profession they might sound jaded but planted in a context, make for interesting reading. Even the Rotary Club’s four way test is planted in the chapter on ethics

You Can Sell is highly recommended. For people in the business of selling it makes for a thorough revision of all that they have learnt over the years.  For others it is a comprehensive, useful primer on the subject.

This review is part of the Book Reviews programme at