I’ve mentioned before that I love podcasts, especially those that share sales strategy. But I’m also a voracious reader, and always have been. At any given time, I’m likely reading two or more books. They are a staple in my pursuit of lifelong learning and professional development.
And I’m not alone. Statistics show that top business leaders read a book a week. They know… you are what you read.
In honor of World Book Day on April 23, let’s look at the top sales strategy books every sales professional needs to own.
As I consider my own library, there are dozens upon dozens of titles in it you’d recognize. Some that you wouldn’t. Out of all my books, a handful jump out as having made the biggest impact on me as an entrepreneur, sales professional and sales leader.
These are the 10 books I recommend for sales professionals and sales leaders. If you’ve heard me deliver a sales strategy keynote or leadership keynote or read my book The Modern Seller, you’ve probably heard me mention one or more of these books. Not all are technically sales strategy books, but all deliver content that helped inspire me to not only sell more, but to change the way I approach sales as a Modern Seller.
Selling to Big Companies by Jill Konrath is one of the first books I got when I branched out into consulting, because selling to big companies was exactly what I needed to do. While I had sold before in my sales positions at tech giants IBM and Lenovo, I had not sold as a small business. And I needed to learn how to better get the attention of large enterprises who would buy my training services.
Selling to Big Companies provides sure-fire sales strategies to crack into big accounts, shrink your sales cycle and close more business. It also provides an Account Entry Toolkit for ideas on how to apply this process to your own unique business.
This book was written in 2006, and I still reference it regularly. The sales tips I found most helpful were the messaging strategies for getting decision makers to return calls and emails. Jill helps you cut the fluff from your voice mail and email messages and edit them down to the exact words to use to break through. She helps you become more confident by learning to back your message with substance—of what you can do and what ideas you have. Selling to Big Companies helped me open doors and hone my message.
Daniel Pink is one of my favorite authors. In fact, I have every book he’s ever written. As indicated by the title, When is about timing. More specifically, it’s about the scientific secrets of perfect timing. It’s not a sales book, but every sales professional should read this.
If we were to apply Daniel’s concepts to sales, it is about understanding the timing around decision making, and what motivates people to make certain decisions at certain times. When helped me round out my thinking around simple things like when to schedule meetings, when to send or review proposals, when to deliver certain types of news and when to hold meetings. He even shares tips for timing around your energy (ex. most of us peak in the morning), which can help you make better decisions on what tasks to take on when.
Let’s face it. Closing gets a bad rap among sales leaders and sales professionals. It’s long been considered the most difficult part of sales strategy and the sales process.
In The Lost Art of Closing, Anthony Iannarino proves that the final commitment can actually be one of the easiest parts of the sales process—if you’ve set it up properly with other commitments that have to happen long before the close. The key is to lead customers through a series of necessary steps designed to prevent a purchase stall.
When we think of closing as linear approach, tacked on to end of sales process, it can set us up for failure. Anthony takes a different approach. He challenges us to think about different types of commitments that our clients and decision makers need to make internally and with us—and how to earn those commitments. This is an approach I’ve taken in my career, so a lot of what Anthony included in his book validates what came naturally to me.
He also gives suggestive language for helping you apply the concepts. You make the language your own, but he has sample scripts and sample language you can use readily.
One other important concept in The Lost Art of Closing: Anthony suggests the investment you charge for your product or services is one of your competitive advantages. It’s a wedge you drive between you and your competitors, because you provide greater value. If you hide the fact that you cost more, you are hiding that you are in fact better than you competitors. Often, closing comes down to price wars. If a prospect or client asks you to come down in price, take the opposite approach. When your fees are higher, own that. Your higher fees can be a competitive advantage for you.
In Million Dollar Consulting, Alan Weiss provides his time-tested model on creating a flourishing consulting business, while incorporating and focusing on the many dynamic changes in solo and boutique consulting, coaching, and entrepreneurship.
If you are a consultant or have a consulting arm to your business, then this is a worthwhile read. One concept that Alan talks about fairly early on in the book is that you are selling outcomes– and outcomes are what’s valuable to the prospect’s or client’s business. Not necessarily the deliverable or the skill. If I’m a consultant, I’m selling myself as much as I’m selling an outcome.
This is an idea that I also expand upon in my own book, The Modern Seller. To be successful, we must be recognized as a differentiator and seen as a competitive advantage for our client. That all comes to the you the PERSON as much as to what you are selling. Million Dollar Consulting reinforces the idea that as a modern seller, you are an important part of the sales equation.
Virtual Selling: A Quick-Start Guide to Leveraging Video, Technology, and Virtual Communication Channels to Engage Remote Buyers and Close Deals Fast by Jeb Blount
Overnight, the pandemic threw us into a virtual world. And it’s likely it’s here to stay, at least in part. Successful sales professionals and business developers adapt to build virtual relationships and improve their sales results.
In his book Virtual Selling, Jeb Blount shares a complete system for blending video, phone, text, live chat, social media, and direct messaging into your sales process to increase productivity and reduce sales cycles.
I appreciate Jeb’s actionable tips and tricks you can put to use, along with his bonus content.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed.
If this book sounds familiar, it’s because I reference it in The Modern Seller. What I love about The Power of Habit is how it’s organized into how you create habits as a person, as an organization, and as a movement.
A concept I come back to frequently is what he calls “the habit loop.” Charles describes how our brain formulates habits. When we can become aware of the habit loop, and know which habits are productive for us and those aren’t, we can insert new routines into the habit. The right routine creates the right outcome. To be successful sellers, we need to learn to develop the right routines.
While this book contains a lot of research, it’s very readable. He shares interesting stories about applications of habits. If we can understand our habits, we can create better outcomes.
How to be a Power Connector: The 5+50+100 Rule for Turning Your Business Network into Profit by Judy Robinette
Other people have the answers, deals, money, access, power, and influence you need to get what you want in this world. To achieve any goal, you need other people to help you do it.
In How to Be a Power Connector, Judy Robinette teaches you to create a personal “power grid” of influence to spark professional and personal success. This is another book I reference in The Modern Seller.
What I like about this book is that she delivers specific, actionable strategies. Also important is the idea of understanding your own network. Have you built a network of powerful people in terms of being able to accomplish your own significant goals? Judy tells us to create our top 5, key 50 and vital 100 connections.
Other intriguing and helpful concepts in this book are the “power connector mindset” and “mental barriers to power connecting.” The book busts some of the myths that stop us from having courage to build bigger relationships. And as sellers we know, the challenge is to turn connectivity into valuable relationships — and then into sales results.
A frequent resource of mine, DISCOVER Questions sits on my desk, complete with bookmarked pages and notes in the margins.
This book by my friend and fellow Women Sales Pros colleague Deb Calvert, is written for any seller in any industry, B2B and B2C, inside or outside, so long as that seller believes in connecting with buyers in meaningful ways. The book is divided into three parts, so it is accessible and relevant to sellers at every level of experience.
DISCOVER is an acronym for different types of questions. It lays out a strategy for which type of questions to use get to a better outcome in various situations. As a seller this means that instead of you coming in to a pitch with all the answers, you come in with better questions.
Many other fellow members of the Women Sales Pros are authors as well. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the insightful ideas and strategies that they’ve all shared. For the full list of sales books by Women Sales Pros, visit the WSP “Learn from Leaders” page. Another great list of 2018’s best sales books is published by Top Sales World.
A book by fellow Central Ohio sales leader Brandon Bornancin. If you follow Brandon on social media, you know he’s always enthusiastic, and always watching trends, and always sharing best practices.
I’m one of the “1 percent” who shares secrets in the book to help you learn from the best and generate more revenue today. Be sure to check it out.
She Sells by Lori Richardson
Lori Richardson has made it her mission to connect and raise up fellow Women Sales Pros. Her new book, She Sells, comes out later this week. You can bet I’ll be picking up a copy!
Many other fellow members of the Women Sales Pros are authors as well. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the insightful ideas and strategies that they’ve all shared. For the full list of sales books by Women Sales Pros, visit the WSP “Learn from Leaders” page. Another great list of 2020’s best sales books is published by Top Sales World.
If you haven’t already read The Modern Seller, here’s an offer for you. Download a free chapter now, and learn how The Modern Seller is Social.