An entertainingly different and generally useful management manual--disguised as ""fiction""--from a consultant who knows the frequently treacherous lay of the corporate sales landscape. Stevens (chairman of H.R. Chally Group) offers guidance via an anecdotal narrative that logs a year in the professional life of David Kepler--the new head of product development at Elemenco, a diversified high-tech enterprise whose revenue and earnings growth has stalled. Fate, in the form of a fortuitous heart attack, makes the 40-ish Kepler acting chief of marketing, a position that allows him to deal directly with the Chicago-based company's sagging sales fortunes. Working closely with the sales supervisor for the Midwest (an attractive divorcÃ‰e), the straight, arrow hero scraps an unproductive corporatewide scheme. To replace it, he devises a four-part approach that effectively slots round pegs in round holes. For instance, order takers whose idea of merchandising finesse is to cut prices are assigned to customers for commodity items like cabling and connectors, while hail-fellow superstars cultivate prospects for advanced systems. Other accounts are allocated among appropriate reps on the basis of a given product line's complexity and maturity. Thus, hardware and software that have evolved from state-of-the-art to cash-cow status receives proportionately less attention from sales engineers or rainmakers. Along the road to Elemenco's recovery, none of Kepler's decisions is clear-cut; indeed, most involve hard choices or tradeoffs that must be evaluated in contexts ranging from personal career goals, promotional campaigns, service considerations, and shipping schedules through the good of the parent organization. In like vein, Kepler is obliged to engage in political infighting when his ex-boss leaves the sickbed for the office. Fictive ease studies can be precious--or worse. For the most part, however, Stevens employs this device to advantage, giving his text continuity and a surprising amount of human interest. In the process, he provides relatively realistic perspectives on what life can be like near the top of a consequential concern. Masters of the sales-management game may also relish the archetypes and ambiguities that attest corporate governance remains more art than science.