How to Sell Anything to Anybody (Except Me)

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I don’t know who Joe Girard is, although I probably should. According to his website, he is the Deloitte & Touche-certified, Guinness Book of World Records designated “World’s Best Salesman.” I wouldn’t know that if I hadn’t been waiting in line at FedEx while sending off a package.

FedEx sells books in their stores. Yes, they do. Talk about an impulse buy. No one goes to FedEx to shop for books, so the titles had better resonate with those of us standing in line with nothing to do but scan the book rack. And the title that set me to vibrating was Joe’s book How to Sell Anything to Anybody.

Not vibrating in a good way, but shaking with irritation and frustration. The title is simply offensive to me. It demeans sales as a profession and makes us all look like sleazy tricksters who mesmerize unsuspecting people into spending their money on something they don’t want or need. In my case, Joe’s book. This is like Tolstoy deciding to call War and Peace ‘Bloody Love’ to sell more copies. Actually, he kind of did that. The first version of War and Peace was titled 1805. By comparison. War and Peace sounds downright Ludlum-ian (or Clancy-esque or Gresham-rific, take your pick).

The book lives up to my expectations. It’s a compendium of car salesman’s tactics from 30 years ago, and they’re what you’d expect – misleading (lying), seduction (liquor), and flattery (manipulation). And when he isn’t making sales professionals into ethically-challenged hucksters, he’s whining about hard his life was, as if that justifies his unsavory tactics.

And it’s badly written to boot. You might forgive the self-educated Girard if he only didn’t have a co-author/editor. But he did, and Mr. Brown, a Simon & Schuster published author, should have done more than put his name on the cover.

One area of agreement – Girard stresses relationships and repeat sales to happy and trusting customers. While that is somewhat incompatible with getting the customer drunk and twisting facts to suit the situation, he does have the right idea. Of course, this is a little dated – he recommends putting customer information on file cards and having them readily available and used in prospecting for repeat business. Hardly breakthrough advice today when your software will tell you the same thing, and remind you at the proper time as well.

There’s nothing useful here. But I should have known that from the title.

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