Frank Cespedes: Senior Lecturer of Business Administration, Harvard Business School & Best Selling Author

My NativeAdVantage: Educator & Author


Frank Cespedes has run a business, served on boards, worked with many companies, and teaches at Harvard Business School. His most recent book is Aligning Strategy and Sales: The Choices, Systems, and Behaviors that Drive Effective Selling (Harvard Business Review Press) which has been called “the best sales book of the year” (Strategy + Business), “a must read” (Gartner Group), “a Top-50 Sales book” (Top Sales Magazine), and “perhaps the best sales book ever” (Forbes).

What do you do best?

I’d like to think that, with experience in both research and practice, I can separate signal from noise in business with some consistency. That’s important because managers are now inundated with context-free factoids, many myths and urban legends, and have little time for distinguishing fact from fiction before decisions must be made, especially in the areas where I work:  sales and strategy.

What makes you the best?

I’m not sure I am the best and I doubt there is “the” best in this area because knowledge here is very context specific. But I do know empirical research on these topics that many self-appointed guru’s do not. And when I left academia and ran a business, I had to meet payroll and sell. So I respect how context makes a difference and (I hope) am less prone to glib generalizations and fortune-cookie advice.

What are your aspirations: Personal & Business?

Pay it forward. My working-class parents sacrificed a lot for their children. I hope my kids have the confidence and curiosity to live their lives as fully as my parents gave me the opportunity to do. Similarly, in business, I’ve been fortunate to have mentors and colleagues who were generous with their time, advice, and efforts. I can’t re-pay those people at this point, but can do a bit for others.

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What fascinates you?

Buying and selling. These are core human activities, for millennia. They draw on some of the widest keyboards of emotions and capabilities, positive and negative, and are always changing because of demographics, technology, and other factors. Yet, most commentary on these activities is so reductive.

Favorite Motto: A line spoken by a character in a John le Carre novel: “A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world.”

Favorite People:

My wife, my family, friends, almost nobody in politics (second-rate talent, in my experience), and many novelists, poets, and composers: they create something out of nothing and some of it survives beyond quarterly earnings.

Favorite Places:

Fenway Park, the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, Jacob’s Pillow, the Staten Island ferry, Scullers’ Jazz Club in Boston, and a good delicatessen, among others.

Favorite Products:

Certain books, especially novels and history. I’m currently re-reading Middlemarch in tandem with Rebecca Mead’s moving memoir, My Life in Middlemarch. Talk about value for the money! My most recent history book was Gerald Nachtman’s Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. It reminds you of how tenuous free speech is, even in America. As the comedian Mort Sahl said years ago about Senator Joseph McCarthy and his type of mindset: “Those people really don’t care what you say; they just deny your right to say it!”

Current Passions:

Reading, hiking, and baseball occupy a lot of my time and energy beyond the work place.