Sales Experts Reveal the Books that Impacted Them Most in Their Careers
July 2, 2018
Editor’s Note: This is a special encore post. It attracted the fifth-most traffic in the first half of the year of any LinkedIn Sales Blog post that first appeared in 2018.
If you had to choose one book that has most profoundly impacted your growth as a sales professional, which would it be?
We asked this question to several influential thought leaders who have authored exceptional sales books of their own. We’re always fascinated to learn what inspires the people who inspire us. And we certainly didn’t mind the expert help in prioritizing our 2018 sales book reading list.
Fortunately, a number of the field’s brightest minds were generous enough to contribute by sharing titles that have made an indelible impression on them along the way and why. It should come as no surprise that many of these writers are also avid readers, and a few couldn’t quite stop at one recommendation.
As you peruse the submissions below, you’ll likely find a few lesser-known texts you haven’t come across before. All of the titles listed – including those from the participating authors themselves – are well worth your time.
“There are soooo many amazing sales books, but given you asked for biggest impact, I have to go back to nearly the beginning of my sales career.
The Sales and Marketing Excellence Challenge by Jim Dickie and Barry Trailer, published in 2003.
#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.
If Social Selling Mastery by Jamie Shanks isn’t included, it should be!”
“At the beginning of my career, SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham was a game changer. It helped me understand why asking good questions was the key to sales success.
More recently, Your Brain at Work by David Rock was eye-opening. It helped me change how I worked so I could be more productive AND creative/strategic."
“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 TOSG. 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.”
“Selling to Big Companies by Jill Konrath 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.”
“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.”
“I would cite the collection of essays by Ted Levitt in The Marketing Imagination. Most are not directly about sales or selling. But he makes you aware that the most important thing about customer acquisition is the buyer, not the seller. And Ted discussed so well—eloquently and practically—the important things about understanding buyers, buying processes, and the implications for buyer-seller interactions and relationships.”
“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 followup 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.
Bryan is an important thinker in the social media, sales, and marketing spaces.”
“The book that had the biggest impact on my sales career was How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I was given the book by my mother when I was 12 years old and I was mesmerized by knowing how to frame an idea could increase receptiveness. That book 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.”
"I loved Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. 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!”
“The book that has had influence on me is by Napoleon Hill: How To Sell Your Way Through Life. It 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 neutralizing the mind of the buyer – way ahead of its time. It’s not just a fun read, it’s an insightful read.”
Indeed, “insightful” would be a great descriptor for many of the books listed here, and all of the folks who shared. Thanks again to those who chimed in and helped solidify this compilation of must-reads.
For plenty more sales guidance to supplement your book collection, we invite you to subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog. We’ll do our best to keep the insightfulness flowing.