published on Monday, November 14, 2005 in The Miami Herald
Pick up 'The Game' for a different kind of
new book on seduction may also have value as an unorthodox instructional
text for salespeople.
BY RICHARD PACHTER
Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. Neil Strauss.
Regan Books. 464 pages.
If you've ever taken sales training or read any books on the subject,
you know that the ultimate goal is, to put it indelicately, capitulation.
How the subject is manipulated to achieve this may vary according
to trainer and author, but most modern sales methods utilize a consultative
approach. Salespeople act as problem solvers; whatever it is they
are trying to sell will fulfill their clients' needs.
The idea is the salesperson is acting as an advisor to the customer
and recommending a solution to a problem.
That's the theory, anyway.
Some people may be regarded as born or natural salesmen (or women),
because their charisma or charm elevates them beyond the role of
mere consultant. Their sales methods are largely based on their
compelling attributes, which are leveraged toward establishing relationships
with prospects and clients. Those who innately lack this mysterious
ability to elicit positive feelings have to work at it, variously
employing true diligence and hard work, wining (or whining), dining,
schmoozing, cajoling, or even payola or graft.
Some may even attempt authentic magic and hypnosis. Sales is like
seduction; mysterious, and sometimes transcending need and reason.
Neil Strauss, a prolific pop culture writer, has crafted an extraordinary
chronicle of his two years spent within what he calls the underground
society of pickup artists. These are virtual salesmen (no women)
who literally sell themselves. Many of their methods are indistinguishable
from conventional sales techniques.
Though most sales people I've encountered are sterling examples
of humanity, a few may seem needy, unpolished or preternaturally
obnoxious. But the profession requires solid self-esteem, high confidence
and constant focus. Those who want to achieve success must either
possess those qualities or develop them -- quickly.
While some of Strauss' ''artists'' seem pathetic, they take active
roles in dealing with their situation and polishing their presentation,
not unlike deficient salespeople who also seek improvement.
The invocation by some of the PUAs (pickup artists) of the ''dark
side of the force'' is a bit creepy.
For example, Strauss mentions the use of hypnotic repetition and
something called ''neuro-linguistic programming'' (NLP), a controversial
set of practices developed at the University of California-Santa
Cruz in the 1970s. It utilizes linguistics to induce specific behaviors,
which seems far-fetched, though Strauss shows how it's done by several
practitioners. In business, subliminal advertising and other quasi-scientific
methods have been used with varying degrees of success for years.
Their efficacy and morality are open questions, however.
Strauss is an engaging writer and his facile charm mitigates some
of the scuzzy parts of his story, including an episode at Miami
Beach's crobar. The apparent amorality of some of his fellow PUAs
is balanced by the shallowness of the individuals on the other side
of the transactions, too
But this fascinating and cautionary tale, with colorful and unforgettable
characters, a surprisingly sympathetic protagonist and quite a few
interesting scenes, is packed with honesty, insight and humor. It's
also loaded with resources that anyone interested in manipulating
human behavior for personal or commercial gain might want to pursue,
if they can get past Strauss' frequently sleazy mise-en scene.
As a training resource for sales people, The Game is decidedly unorthodox,
but it might be the harbinger of a new wave of business training.
As of this writing, it's already No. 35 on Amazon.com's sales chart.
And though you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, special mention
must be made of the gilt-edged pages and faux-leather black jacket;
intended to evoke The Bible, apparently. Amen.
Like business books? Join the club.