10 top sales authors on the books that inspired them

The most important sales wisdom doesn’t usually have a best before date – and the value of these classic recommendations proves it

February 6, 2019

10 top sales authors on the books that inspired them

Sales wisdom doesn’t usually have a best before date – and the most effective sellers know it. Their success depends on integrating the fundamental art and science of persuasion with the modern techniques, tools and data now available to them and their teams. Many of these top sales people have gone onto become authors in their own right – sharing ideas for how to prosper in today’s buying landscape. However, that doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned the principles and the advice that inspired them to sell in the first place.

We asked ten of today’s most influential sales authors about the books that most influenced their own careers. They were incredibly generous with their responses. The result is a list of 20 books that it’s worth anybody engaged in sales and marketing reading this year. Half of these are current books about modern selling challenges and techniques. Half are classic pieces of sales thinking that are well worth revisiting today. Together, they’re a great combination to set you up for success in 2019:

1.    Jill Rowley recommends The Sales and Marketing Excellence Challenge by Jim Dickie and Barry Trailer:

“There are soooo many amazing sales books, but given you asked for biggest impact, I have to go back to this one form nearly the beginning of my sales career – for three reasons:

#1: A book about sales AND marketing – understanding how aligned, connected, and unified the two need to be has been key to my success.

#2: The book includes first-hand interviews with 39 accomplished real world executives from a variety of industries and company sizes on how to increase the effectiveness of sales and marketing teams. This helped me understand the importance of “in the context of the customer,” and that not all customers are alike.

#3: The book covered the range of responsibilities and diversity of challenges sales and marketing leaders tackle on a daily, quarterly, annual, and multi-year basis. This helped me better understand the world in which my sales and marketing buyers live.

Oh – and if Social Selling Mastery by Jamie Shanks isn’t on your list, then it really should be as well!”

Jill is the author of Jill Rowley on #SocialSelling: 140 Tweets on Modern Selling the Social Way

2.   Jill Konrath recommends SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham and Your Brain at Work by David Rock:

“At the beginning of my career, SPIN Selling was a game changer. It helped me understand why asking good questions was the key to sales success. More recently, Your Brain at Work was eye-opening. It helped me change how I worked so I could be more productive AND creative/strategic."

Jill is the author of More Sales, Less Time: Surprisingly Simple Strategies for Today's Crazy-Busy Sellers

3.   Anthony Iannarino recommends SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham:

““The book that had the single biggest impact on my sales career was Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling, but not for the reason you might think. Even though the model is powerful, especially implication questions, the few pages before the model is introduced changed the way I sold. In those pages, Rackham describes the difference between salespeople who succeed at high levels and those that struggle. The difference is that the high performers continually gained a commitment that moved the sales conversation forward, something he called an advance. Once I decided to never leave a meeting without a commitment, my sales improved dramatically.

The commitments that make up an ‘advance’ are all found in Chapter 11 of my book, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need. They’re so important, I wrote The Lost Art of Closing to give salespeople and sales organizations a deeper dive into how to gain those commitments.”

Anthony is the author of The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need and founder of The Sales Blog

4.    Trish Bertuzzi recommends Selling to Big Companies by Jill Konrath:

“Selling to Big Companies has had the most profound impact on my career to date. Why? Because when I finished reading it, I was so grateful for the knowledge imparted that I picked up the phone and actually called Ms. Konrath to share both my gratitude and enthusiasm. Best call of my life. Jill is now a friend and a mentor. She was the driving force behind my publishing a book. Sometimes a book can change your life. You just have to look beyond its cover.”

Trish is the author of The Sales Development Playbook: Build Repeatable Pipeline and Accelerate Growth with Inside Sales

5.    Daniel Pink recommends INFLUENCE by Robert Cialdini:

“Cialdini’s book is a classic. More than anything, he shows that influence and persuasion are as much science as art.”

Daniel is the author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

6.    Frank Cespedes recommends The Marketing Imagination by Ted Levit

“Most of the essays in this book are not directly about sales or selling. But Ted makes you aware that the most important thing about customer acquisition is the buyer, not the seller. And he discussed so well—eloquently and practically—the important things about understanding buyers, buying processes, and the implications for buyer-seller interactions and relationships.”

Frank is the author of Aligning Strategy and Sales: The Choices, Systems, and Behaviors that Drive Effective Selling

7.    Mike Ellsworth recommends There is No B2B or B2C: It's Human to Human #H2H by Bryan Kramer:

““The book that has had the biggest impact on me is Bryan Kramer’s There is No B2B or B2C: It's Human to Human #H2H. While it’s not strictly a sales book, Bryan lays out how human connections trump typical marketing and sales approaches. Humans, not machines, buy things, but most sales and marketing approaches are mechanical and somewhat cynical. A salesperson knows if he or she dials enough phone numbers, some sales will fall in their laps. Bryan thinks sales and marketing approaches should involve more than just sight and sound and repetition. They should involve listening, and conversations, and human connection, not just huge volumes of pushed messages or cold calls.

When he released the book, I actually joked with Bryan that he stole ideas from my Be a Person book series since much of the advice in those books was congruent with his H2H concept. His follow-up book, Shareology: How Sharing is Powering the Human Economy expands on these ideas and shows how the human instinct to share is disrupting and transforming entire industries. He’s an important thinker in the social media, sales, and marketing spaces.”

Mike is the author of Infinite Pipeline: How to Master Social Media for Business-to-Business Sales Success

8.    David Hoffeld recommends How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie:

“I was given this book by my mother when I was 12 years old and I was mesmerised by knowing how to frame an idea could increase receptiveness. It inspired my fascination with how influence is achieved. The perspective I learned from that book, years later prompted me to invest nearly a decade studying and testing how to apply research studies in many scientific disciplines to the process of selling.”

David is the author of The Science of Selling: Proven Strategies to Make Your Pitch, Influence Decisions, and Close the Deal

9.    Chris Smith recommends Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss:

"I loved it. We are so often in sales going for a yes and Chris breaks down why you should often go for a no. Former FBI negotiator who knows his stuff!”

Chris is the author of The Conversion Code: Capture Internet Leads, Create Quality Appointments, Close More Sales

10.     Jeffrey Gitomer recommends How To Sell Your Way Through Life by Napoleon Hill

“This book was published in 1939 – if you buy a hardcopy original it can cost you as much as $500. They didn’t print a whole lot of them. A crappy copy is $150. I’ve collected a bunch over the years. It’s about the principles of not just selling, but humanity. It’s about believing and neutralising the mind of the buyer – way ahead of its time. It’s not just a fun read, it’s an insightful read.”

Jeffrey is the author of The Sales Bible, New Edition: The Ultimate Sales Resource