‘Sell – The Art, the Science, Witchcraft’ Subroto Bagchi


“People who sell well are a joy. They sell without needing to sell.”

A few weeks before I got to see ‘Sell – The Art, the Science, Witchcraft’ by Subroto Bagchi, I had seen Zig Ziglar’s famous quote “Stop selling. Start helping,” in a newspaper. It had puzzled me for a few second but I had moved on to read something else. When I saw the title ‘Sell’, I was sure Subroto would have taken the much- feared act to selling to a newer dimension.

I must confess that this is the first complete book I’ve read on selling. I wanted to read this for two reasons – one, it was by Subroto Bagchi. I’ve enjoyed reading many of his books, and the other, for ‘witchcraft’ in the sub-title.

I knew sales is the heart of every organization, yet I’ve been postponing reading books on sales or marketing. Whenever I wanted to pick up a copy, the titles and subtitles seemed threatening. They looked more like self-help books for salesmen. After reading Subroto’s ‘Sell,’ I’m happy I had not read sales books before and I don’ think I need to read them anymore.

I knew Ziglar was a very big name in the motivational literature space but didn’t know he was such a giant among sales gurus – 29 books on sales and motivation. He was 86 when he died in November 2012. While combing through reviews of best-selling books on sales I felt I could have read ‘Soft Selling in a Hard World’ by Jerry Vass. John Naisbitt of Megatrends had said this was the best book ever written on sales. I also learnt that Neil Rackham was the first to turn selling from an art into science. He has examined hard evidence of actual sales performance and codified what works–and what doesn’t–in real world sales situations.

Subroto has taken selling to another level – to ‘witchcraft’. In his inimitable anecdotal style of writing, he’s pushed the boundaries of selling to a new level – To that of joy as the ultimate measure of success of a business relationship.

This book is for hardcore salespeople. It’s about the trade secrets, not about the trade itself – which the author assumes every sales person knows. The interesting thing is – it’s the rare secrets that help win sales contracts, not how best one knows to pitch or impress potential customers through stylish presentations.

Subroto has chosen dozens of people he has worked with over a three-decade journey to tell him their success mantras. These are rare secrets learnt from years of hard work, by being authentic even during trying times and from having fun at the same time.

Here are a few secrets I could pick from the book:

  • Most companies field top guys in pitching a deal. This is a folly. When you put junior employees forward to place the deal, make them the front end of your presentations, it gives the buyer the chance to know what is really on offer.
  • A company’s culture is no longer a fringe issue. Customers want to buy products and services from a certain culture.
  • Salespeople should be committed to practicing gratitude to all those who helped in clinching a deal.
  • Adversity is often the test that singles out the trusted advisors from the salespeople. What matters most is authenticity, timeliness, assurance and follow-through.
  • Learn how to handle loss with tact, poise and brilliance.
  • Asking questions requires deep, reflective listening, and a clear mind space. The more you listen, greater will be your power to persuade.
  • Persuasion is a higher power than trying to convince.
  • Everyone from CEO to the junior-most executive must know the basics of the laws that govern a business.
  • Salespeople often push content about themselves instead of what they learnt about the potential client’s needs and how they can address them.
  • Your product must mean a world to you. If you cannot get yourself to be proud of it, do not sell it. You will be doing a bad job of it.
  • Salespeople should be truly invested in the customer’s success and not just in winning the deal.
  • Customers love weirdness – if you have it, don’t ever lose it. In fact, use it.
  • Sales is about physics, chemistry and math. It is the chemistry that is the most important.

This book is heavy on secrets to success in business-to-business selling space. Although there will be overlaps with B2C, the customer in a B2C world is a very different animal. Since B2B is the author’s domain he has stuck to it.

Weakest link

It’s surprising how sales and marketing is still the weakest link in most Indian companies. Even as a country India does poorly in marketing its strengths in tourism, wellness such as ayurveda, its unique handicraft and textiles. If done well they have a huge potential in addressing our scary unemployment problem.

Subroto says selling is his core skill. In a way, selling doesn’t end even when one becomes a CEO or the Chairman of a company. Only the venue changes – from a potential client’s conference room to the board room or shop floor where one has to sell dreams and visions and during bad times, hope.

‘Sell’ is Subroto’s tenth book in ten years, a book a year. That’s insanely prolific. His secret is his discipline. Remember, he has been doing this while building and nurturing MindTree which is heading to be a billion dollar IT services business.

Subroto is one of the very few Indian business leaders to have both the gift of the gab and the gift of writing business books with panache. The others I can think of are R Gopalakrishnan, former Director at Tata Sons and Gurcharan Das. Between them they have covered quite a lot of ground in the last ten years. They have made Indian writing on business truly world class while being highly relevant to Indian business ethos.

By Benedict Paramanand

Benedict is the Editor of SustainabilityNext (www.sustainabilitynext.in) and CEO of Bangalore Business Literature Festival (www.bangalorebizlitfest.org). He is the author of C K Prahalad – The Mind of the Futurist

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