By Porisma P. Gogoi
Title: Sell — The Art, the Science, the Witchcraft; Author: Subroto Bagchi; Publisher: Hachette India; Pages: 244; Price: Rs 499
Selling is not just a mundane act of going from door to door and handing out products in return for money, or nagging people to buy and try out stuff — as it is often perceived to be. Selling is more of a meticulous job, which requires prospecting and skill. It is an acquired art and witchcraft in action.
The act of selling is not restricted to products alone. Subroto Bagchi, management-guru and co-founder of Mindtree — one of India’s first software services start-ups — asserts that a person should know how to sell even in a profession that involves exchange of ideas or vision. In fact, everyone, from the Prime Minister of the country to a fund manager of an investment firm, is religiously engaged in believing in his or her own idea, explaining it, gaining approval and delivering the final goal, which is, basically, selling.
In his latest offering of books on business, “Sell — the Art, the Science, the Witchcraft”, Bagchi redefines the act of selling as a three-legged stool that stands balanced on the pillars of art, science and witchcraft. The perfect salesman is made of a balanced blend of the art and science of selling, with a perfect portion of magic added to it.
Bagchi, who is now full-time Chairman of the Odisha Skill Development Authority, explains the title of the book thus: “In sales terms, the phenomenal ability to sell is a combination of vast knowledge of the art and science of selling processes, intuition and personal character traits, which help cast a spell (in a good way, of course) through powers of persuasion and the story that is created around organisations and ideas, products and services.”
What Bagchi refers to as “witchcraft” is the whole process of how a narrative is put together, how engagingly it is delivered, how it is used to build anticipation and eagerness — so as to move on to the actual act of selling.
Bagchi’s work is not a dull management book with uncompromising advice for salesmen. Instead, the author, who considers himself a career salesman of products, services and ideas, applies his own skills to get his book selling — organising the subject matter into lucid chapters, each beginning with a crisp introduction which involves personal encounters or stories gathered from “Druids” he has met during his career, and ensuring his readers are not bored.
“Many salespeople prefer to have qualified, ready leads fed to them by their organisations so that they can simply convert the ready prospect into a customer. But the best salespeople never give up prospecting and cold calling because the process keeps their spirit of inquiry alive; they know that every bit of knowledge they glean from the process will add to them as people and professionals,” Bagchi writes.
Through a narration of his experiences, Bagchi identifies the fact that while all the basic concepts of selling — the need for it, the cycle of prospecting and reaching out to customers — remain the same, the access to information has changed. He says that the seller is not the only one who does the prospecting today, buyers are even more well-informed.
However, the most important thing that has not changed in the world of business is that people buy from people. That is why, as Bagchi rightly emphasises, “selling is not a pushy, winner-take-all, masculine act; rather it is an empathy-led, process-driven and knowledge-intensive discipline”.
Bagchi, who takes immense pride in his basic ability to sell, declares that people who sell well are a joy because they can sell without needing to do so. Overall, “Sell” abounds with enriching anecdotes written in simple language, capable of instilling the required skills in young professionals by dispelling a narrow view of the act of selling.