The Business of Photography Book Review: Sell of Be Sold by Grant Cardone

Sell or Be Sold: Cringefest

Welcome to the February 2021 Book review! Last month we reviewed James Clear’s fantastic Atomic Habits. In February, we’re looking at Sell or be Sold by Grant Cardone.

Running a photography business is hard! To make your business viable, perfecting your sales method is crucial while you are either approaching new commercial clients or getting the project is key. Sell or Be Sold talks about the psychology behind selling with some truly strange advice. 

I went on Amazon and got this book without looking too much into Grant Cardone. It was recommended by a popular photographer whose name is purposely withheld. I figured I would go in blind and avoid poisoning the well with other people’s thoughts on Grant. I was looking to learn what was the hype behind Grant and his techniques. 

I wasn’t ready for what was next.

Get your copy here…if you dare.

Sell or Be Sold: Inside the Belly of the Beast

I thought this would be a great technical read on how to create great relationships or a great sales funnel and pipeline but this is not it. It’s far from it. This is a marketing book. But not just any marketing book, a marketing book primarily on Grant’s success. The book is solely focused on the psychology (psychology is a strong term here) behind the limitations people put around the word : Sell. If you are a photographer struggling with this concept - well, this MIGHT be useful. Although…30% in the book and very discouraged, I decided to look into the character that is Grant Cardone before giving up completely. Well, my answer was there

Who is Grant Cardone? 

Born in Louisiana, Grant has a great story on how he overcame drug addiction, poverty and tons of odds stacked against him. Truly, it’s an inspiring story - he might be in his best light in London’s Real interview.

I never had any drug addiction or faced as much adversity as Grant Cardone so it’s hard to pinpoint how I could relate to him. But Grant has a very interesting story. He also has a way to insert his opinions that are, let’s just say, controversial… 

Grant Cardone’s Sketchy Opinions and Stories

Here is one where Grants inserts his opinion when arguing to avoid negativity. Avoiding negative environments and people is not bad advice, but this is strange:

I mean, I don’t know anyone who voluntarily hangs out at hospitals or sees them as a health centers. If you do know someone, that person knows something we don’t.  “Avoid hospitals” is ignorant advice at best.

The strange opinions are just one portion. 

The portion that cannot be passed over are the personal stories. Now stories are an effective communication tool. Ask any writer worth his salt. 

But Grant stories are self-aggrandizing. Mr. Cardone only has stories but the deal he closed, the 144 condo units he bought, the times that he tripled his investments in 2 months, when he bought this, sold that blah blah blah…

Sell or be sold must be at least 20% of Grant’s accomplishments (not measured, don’t @ me). I felt a little dirty reading this, as if I was getting getting lectured by a drunk greasy old chap at a sketchy bar . Not my jam.

Sell or Be Sold: The breaking point

The story that made me question his sanity is when he was demonstrating on what on surface is good advice: build trust. 

Again, “building trust” is great and sound advice but this story Grant used to reinforce that fact is too strange to be ignored. 

On page 144, he has a story where he sold something to his friend without telling his friend what it was. He just made him sign the order and, according to Grant, the friend was happy ! Excerpt below.

I hate to be negative but it’s terrible, terrible advice. I had to take a shower after reading that.

It’s hard to extract the good ideas from the veneer of Grant’s grandeur and accomplishments. It was especially glaring during an interview with Wolf of Wall Street’s Jordan Belfort. Jordan pressed Grant on basic sales techniques and Grant looked absolutely clueless. YouTuber Spencer Cornelia did a great analysis of that fiasco.

Side Note: I mean, when the best salesman in the world asks you the basics, come prepared.  

Sell or Be Sold - the Good

So let’s remain positive, I don’t perceive bad intentions from Grant’s material. I think he’s just very passionate about what made him successful and from what I understood from his interview what helped him overcome his drug addiction. 

More power to him. 

Also, who is this book for then? I would lend this book to a photographer that don’t believe the basic principle that selling is important. It’s very motivational if you are in that sort of thing. Sell or be Sold has very little technical advice and filled with grand stories, American Style. Kind of like Gary Vaynerchuk but way way worst and with a couple of lawsuits tacked on.

Final Verdict Is this any Good

If you haven’t figured out by now this book gets a hard pass from - I can’t recommend it. I cannot see the value for any photographer out there, unless you are allergic to the idea of being a sales person. 

What I can recommend on the other is another book on sales from Ian Altman called Same Side Selling. Same Side selling is filled with practical advice on how to approach clients and build relationships. The audio book is also fantastic and I listened to it over a road-trip (yeah I’m THAT terribly boring).

So that is it! In March, we’ll review a classic book from the daddy of all internet photogs so make sure to check out my socials!