In the best possible sense of the word, Harry Maziar is the consummate salesman. Not only is he charming and charismatic, but he is also kind, funny, interested, interesting and engaging.
He treats others as he believes you should and as he would like to be treated himself. In the form of a compliment, he made note of my timeliness for our interview. I suspected he would.
A native Atlantan, Maziar has been making sales, acquaintances and friends for over 60 years, and, although completely responsible for his own success, he considers himself lucky, and he lives his life with gratitude. That is one of the reasons he plans to contribute all proceeds from his new book, “Story Selling,” to charity. He regards it as a form of recompense because he has “benefited from so many people over the years.”
For the book, he culled a lifetime of experiences and stories, pulling largely from the weekly sales letter he wrote during his long tenure with ZEP Manufacturing. (ZEP stands for Zaban, Eplan and Powell, the founders of the company.)
He started as a city salesman and rose to president, leading the company for 27 years. Each letter, distributed to his sales force of over 2,000 people worldwide, typically had a story or sales subject, a “Whisperings in ZEPland” section, and a box at the end containing “Harry’s Hint,” a life lesson, “pithy statement or axiom.”
In “Story Selling,” Maziar stresses the importance of relating to people through stories, which he says are more effective and tend to be remembered far better than basic facts and figures. About one-third of the stories in the book are “pure Harry stories,” one-third he does his best to accurately attribute to others, and the other third, “who the hell knows?”
He said he “went through reams of information” and chose 50 of his favorite items for the book, some with a specific sales focus and some containing general, useful, resonant truisms.
“It’s really about life’s lessons and being the best you can be,” Maziar said.
Although he compiled the book in about six months, Maziar said it took him over 60 years to write. At the frequent urging of friends and former employees, he “finally got around to it.”
Maziar sent an advance copy to a friend in Israel, Ahavath Achim Synagogue Rabbi Emeritus Arnold Goodman, an author himself, who replied, “Shalom, Harry. It’s an amazing book! Easy to read. Chock-full of lessons for life. More than a manual for would-be successful salespeople, it’s a guide for anyone whose goal is to serve the public. This would include clergy, lawyers, doctors, accountants and maybe even Indian chiefs. As I read on, I marveled how pertinent your stories, hints and observations are to a pulpit rabbi. Rabbis in their wisdom teach that a mitzvah that can be performed today should never be delayed until tomorrow. You captured this very succinctly: The best time to plan for your future is between yesterday and tomorrow. The book is full of wisdom that succinctly captures many of our traditions. Lessons for life.”
In what promises to be a delightful evening, Maziar will present his book at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center in conversation with center CEO Jared Powers on Nov. 7.
At the publisher’s estimate of 76 minutes of read time, “Story Selling” is a gift you can give to yourself. It is definitely one I will give to others.
“Is it going to change the world? No,” Maziar said. “Is it better than ‘War and Peace’? Oh, it’s better than ‘War and Peace.’ ”