Book Review: The Unintentional Salesman by Glenn Coe

Glenn Coe chose to sub-title his book: “Lessons from a life on the road. The essential guide for a sales career”. In that respect, the book delivers – lots of solid advice, based on real experience. It’s chapters are structured as a series of questions, starting from the very basics, for example: What is Sales?, What Does it Take to be Good at Sales?, How Do I know if I’m Cut Out for It?, and so on, including, later on, Should I Buy a Porsche?, and Why Do My Colleagues Hate Me?

Yes, it’s fair to say that this book, very much written in the vernacular, is both helpful and humorous, sincere and irreverent, but above all, I think it is one of the most honest books I have ever read about the sales profession.

There are countless multitudes of books on sales, and frankly I have become somewhat jaded by the attitude and content that many of them are peddling. There is no shortage of sales books that will claim to offer the foolproof path to success, the killer formula that you have to adopt today, written by self-styled sales gods or gurus that smashed their number quarter after quarter, year after year. I have to say that in my experience most of them are just really good at self-promotion, selling books, and possibly follow-on consulting services to the avid readers. OK, maybe I’m being a little unkind, but if you’ve been in the profession for any length of time, you’ve probably come across these yourself, and you’ll know what I mean.

Glenn Coe is different because he’s happy to admit that he’s not perfect, and has had many challenges, and some failures. But he had the humility to see these as learning experiences, opportunities for personal growth, and did his best to hold his head high and stick to his principles, knowing that sometimes events beyond our control can and do have an impact on the outcomes we seek.

It’s worth noting that Glenn Coe is now retired, and this book represents his reflections on a long and varied career going back 40 years or so – so almost by definition, some of the situations, approaches and practices to which he refers can come across as a little dated. Let’s face it, the sales profession is moving forwards into the 21st century. Sales people are, to varying degrees, becoming dis-intermediated by the changing technological, professional and cultural landscape in which we find ourselves. What this means is that to continue to be relevant, us sales people need to evolve, and some of the old “tricks of the trade” will necessarily be confined to history. Having said all of that, I believe much of the advice in this book will stand the test of time.

The bottom line: if you read this book, there’s a very good chance that you’ll learn a few useful things and have a few laughs along the way. Well worth the cover price. Buy it on Amazon here.