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Dion Dimucci

Lester Bangs in Buffalo

Lester Bangs in "Almost Famous"

The Cure In Concert

Peal Jam In Concert

History of Warner Brothers Music

Creolina's Cajun/Creole

People's Bar-B-Que and Soul Food

Penn Dutch Food Center


Originally published on Monday, November 14, 2005 in The Miami Herald

Pick up 'The Game' for a different kind of sales training.
A new book on seduction may also have value as an unorthodox instructional text for salespeople.

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. Neil Strauss. Regan Books. 464 pages.
Buy The Game
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.

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