Picks and Pans Review: The Force

UPDATED 05/30/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/30/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT

by David Dorsey

Remember when America's salesmen were Willy Lomans, sad-sack foot soldiers chasing down the last sale even if it killed them? If David Dorsey's skillfully reported, insightful first book is any guide, those days aren't long gone, even if the sales pitch itself has changed dramatically.

A detailed narrative of a high-pressure year in the life of 40-year-old Fred Thomas, the major-accounts-sales manager of Xerox Corporation's Cleveland district office, The Force follows him and his seven-member team as they doggedly court, cajole and compete to press an astounding number of orders out of customers who often have no need for new equipment. We watch the force band together to meet its yearly quota—an endeavor that leads some to stomach ulcers and others to rocky marriages—and earn an annual three-day reward trip in Palm Springs.

The troops may rally under the latest corporate double-talk about Total Quality Management, but as Dorsey shows, all Thomas really needs to "make trip" is good old-fashioned selling techniques and charisma. "If you took it to its extreme," writes Dorsey, "a salesman really wanted what actors, singers, presidents, comedians, swamis and lovers wanted—to light up a room simply by walking into it." Dorsey lights up our vision of the American salesman with his own sharply reported eyewitness account. (Random, $23)

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