Is your goal for this year to increase your sales, bring in new clients or customers, and grow your business?
If so, consider taking some time to learn from the experts—starting by putting together a reading list.
Here you will find a list of the best sales books to read this year, updated for 2018. This list covers a wide range of sales topics, from overall sales strategies, key closing tactics, how to successfully manage a sales team, and how to incorporate psychological principles into sales.
What would you consider the best sales book of all time? Leave a comment and let me know!
The best sales books for entrepreneurs and small business owners
The basics: Sales tactics and strategies
The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson
This book challenges (no, really) the notion that good salespeople are fundamentally relationship builders. Rather, it posits that a good salesperson is someone that challenges their customers. The book is based on studies of thousands of sales reps in varied industries; based on their findings, authors Dixon and Adamson categorize salespeople into five distinct types. However, only the “challenger” type is consistently highly successful.
The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results by Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, Pat Spenner, and Nick Toman
A follow up to “The Challenger Sale,” this book dives deep into the idea that it’s not just about being a “challenger” salesperson—you also need to find “challenger” customers. The book argues that instead of just going after customers that are “low hanging fruit” and have clearly expressed needs for your product or service, salespeople should be approaching customers who are initially skeptical and don’t consider themselves in desperate need of your product or service. Again, a counterintuitive approach, but worth a read based on the volume of salespeople, marketers, and buyers interviewed alone.
The Sales Bible, New Edition: The Ultimate Sales Resource by Jeffrey Gitomer
It’s called the “sales bible” for good reason; originally published in 1994, it has stood the test of time and sold over 200,000 copies. A comprehensive resource, “The Sales Bible” covers Gitomer’s 10.5 commandments of selling, as well as tips on how to get “hard to set” appointments, how to ask the right questions, and updated information on how to leverage social media to generate inbound leads. It’s up to you to determine whether or not this classic is still applicable in your industry, but as it is a classic, it’s a good one to add to your reading list.
Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness by Jeffrey Gitomer
If you are looking for more from Jeffrey Gitomer (and perhaps a more lightweight, fast-paced read), check this one out as well. A Wall Street Journal Business bestseller, “Little Red Book of Selling” hopes to explain the “why” behind sales in an accessible, fun way. When it comes to sales, Gitomer is enthusiastic, passionate, and clearly knowledgeable, and has created an easy read full of useful sales tips, and lays out an interesting discussion on why people buy.
Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler
Learning from the success of others is arguably the best strategy you can take when it comes to sales, and Salesforce is certainly a fantastic example of a company with an impressive sales track record. Salesforce’ outbound sales process contributed to the company adding over $100 million in recurring revenue—with zero cold calls. The book, which bills itself as “an entirely new kind of sales bible for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and sales VPs,” focuses on creating predictable revenue through an outbound sales process that isn’t reliant on cold calling.
If you are someone who likes reading about processes in a metrics- and data-driven way, “The Sales Acceleration Formula” should be on your reading list. MIT alum Mark Roberge discusses the formula for creating predictable sales revenue and offers sales techniques and strategies that businesses of any size can implement, from hiring practices to how to best leverage current technology available. Roberge also draws on his experience as SVP of Worldwide Sales and Services at Hubspot; so, if you needed more proof that he’s a reputable source to learn from, that would be it.
Though finding new leads is likely an ongoing process for most entrepreneurs and small business owners, if you are a newer business, where to find new sales prospects is probably even more of a current concern. Likewise, if you are just starting out and new to sales, this book is a good one to add to your list. Filled with anecdotes and actionable advice, “New Sales, Simplified.” gives insight into not only how to bring in new sales, but how to close deals and build relationships.
The difficult thing about sales advice (or really most advice) in our current climate? Best practices change frequently and quickly. To combat this, the agile approach to selling focuses on learning new things efficiently and being able to switch gears just as quickly. Konrath discusses how salespeople can have an “agile mindset” that enables them to keep apace with a sales space that changes rapidly, and how salespeople can leverage this ability to their best advantage.
If you are feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of sales strategies out there, ‘The Ultimate Sales Machine” should be on your list. Holmes advises that instead of trying to do everything, entrepreneurs and sales professionals implement a more focused approach, zeroing in on a few key skill areas that can make all the difference.
If you are looking for a sales book that is a little cheeky but still heavy on takeaways, check out “The Sales Survival Handbook.” Kupchik does not sugar coat the less enjoyable aspects of selling; instead, he approaches them in a humorous way while offering tangible advice on how to handle them. The book includes quizzes, advice, real-world examples, and a much-needed dose of levity.
Pitching and closing
Maybe it isn’t the process of finding sales prospects that challenges you, but rather the act of actually delivering a sales pitch. If so, you aren’t alone—delivering an effective sales pitch can be one of the most difficult aspects of selling. Oren Klaff has relied on his sales pitch method to raise over $400 million over the past 13 years, and he distills his process into a formula that can be adapted to a variety of different situations—from pitching for investment to the traditional sales pitch.
On a similar note, if you are feeling increasingly comfortable with your pitching skills but still have difficulty closing deals, it might be a good idea to focus on improving your closing. If that sounds like you, check this one out—it is entirely devoted to improving the sales close. Best of all, Muir focuses on how to close deals in a way that feels natural and avoids the “pushy salesperson” dynamic that many entrepreneurs are afraid of.
If you are interested in what makes your prospects tick and how to approach selling from a psychological standpoint, this is the book for you. Based around the promise to help readers increase the ease and speed with which they close sales, Tracy describes the methods, techniques, and processes he has used over the years as a consultant to thousands of businesses.
Influence: Science and Practice (5th Edition) by Robert B. Cialdini
Another great sales book for those interested in the science and psychology of sales, “Influence: Science and Practice” delves into the “psychology of compliance”—in other words, what causes someone to say yes. By looking at the reasons why people are likely to offer an affirmative response (and drawing from the behavioral principles of reciprocation, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity), Cialdini illustrates techniques salespeople can use to increase the likelihood of a closed sale.
To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink
While one in nine Americans may work in sales, Pink argues that it’s not as clear-cut as that—the other eight of us work in sales as well. According to Pink, sales is all about moving others, and that is something we all engage in every single day. Drawing on this idea, “To Sell Is Human” focuses on how salespeople can tap into the fact that we are continually convincing (and therefore “selling”) each other on ideas all the time. This book offers a fresh take on sales strategies and would be a great sales book to check out if you’re a bit wary of the old-school sales playbook, and want to approach your sales strategies from a different angle.
Sell or Be Sold: How to Get Your Way in Business and in Life by Grant Cardone
If you are intrigued by the idea above, “Sell or Be Sold” is another sales book to check out. Similar to “To Sell Is Human,” “Sell or Be Sold” argues that selling a product or service can be thought of in a similar way that we think of selling oneself on a new diet, habit, and so on. Cardone illustrates sales techniques that can be applied to a variety of avenues, and teaches tactics for turning around negative situations, dealing with rejection, and more.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” strictly a sales book? No, but the takeaways in this classic can certainly be applied to a sales context—and appears on plenty of lists of the best sales books for that reason. At its heart, selling is about relationships and influence, and these topics are clearly front and center here. As a bonus, since this one isn’t limited to sales advice, you’ll learn strategies that will benefit your business outside the sales arena.
Are you familiar with the concept of emotional intelligence? It’s a topic that has seen plenty of coverage in the entrepreneurship and small business space (I’ve even written about how emotional intelligence can make you a better entrepreneur right here on the Bidsketch blog). “Sales EQ” discusses how emotional intelligence relates to sales, and how tapping into (or further developing) your emotional intelligence skill set can improve your ability to close deals, and why, when it comes to selling, it’s important to close the “human relationship gap.”
Sales team management
Cracking the Sales Management Code: The Secrets to Measuring and Managing Sales Performance by Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazzana
Do you plan on hiring salespeople this year? If so, add this one to your reading list. If your plans include managing sales employees within your company, it’s essential that you understand how to both manage sales employees effectively, and accurately measure their performance and success. “Cracking the Sales Management Code” lays out five distinct sales processes, and discusses how to determine which process is right for your desired business outcomes. A research-driven, metrics-forward read, it’s not necessarily one for entrepreneurs who will be dipping their toes into sales for the first time, but if you’re considering hiring sales help, it’s a good one to add to your list.
In the same vein, “Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions” will be right up your alley if you are entering into the world of sales management by hiring a sales staff. A bit more of a light read than “Cracking the Sales Management Code,” Rosen’s book is built around his coaching methodology, and positions the book as a step-by-step playbook for sales managers to help them get the most out of their sales people and build a powerful selling team.
Beyond traditional sales advice: Sales tips for e-commerce, brand identity, and beyond
Of course, selling isn’t just about cold calling, pitching, and closing deals in the traditional sense. If you are in the process of setting up (or improving) your website, product descriptions, or other written material, it’s a good idea to assess the language you are using, and optimize it to improve sales. Here’s where “Words that Sell” comes in—this book focuses on sales messaging, and offers extensive lists of words that will help you create more persuasive sales copy.
Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
Without a cohesive story, it will be hard to sell your product or service to customers. Similarly, if your product or service does not have a strong brand identity, you will have difficulty standing out from the competition. “Building a StoryBrand” digs deep into the reasons people buy, and the ways that brands can use storytelling to tap into customers’ desire to purchase. This book also discusses how to optimize your messaging so that it tells a cohesive story across your website, printed information, social media, and so on.
It is hard to talk about sales in a way that accounts for the huge variety of entrepreneurs that are hoping to fine-tune their sales process. Classic sales advice, while it might be applicable to certain industries, will not be as useful to those small businesses that generate most of their sales via online channels. So, “The Conversion Code” is a valuable addition to this list of best sales books for that reason alone—after all, there isn’t one size fits all sales advice, unfortunately. Smith’s book focuses on how internet-centered businesses can capture the attention of an audience that has more options than ever before, and gives a blueprint for how to secure leads and convert them into customers.
Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy
Sometimes effectiveness is not about having a special technique or secret, but rather buckling down and putting in the grunt work. Bossidy has collected insights from his 30-year tenure at General Electric, and later as the CEO of AlliedSignal (later Honeywell). If you’ve ever felt like you have a difficult time delivering on the things you’ve set out to do, or that your ability to execute a task could use work, this is a book to add to your list.
The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Scott Galloway
You really can’t find a set of more successful businesses to learn from; these massively influential companies each have mastered their own formula for success, and it’s something most businesses would love to replicate. While Galloway can’t promise to deliver that kind of success, “The Four” distills key lessons that any business owner can apply to their own business.
Want to stick to articles?
While I’d certainly recommend that you seek out advice from the experts above, if you’d like to continue improving your sales knowledge, you can do that right here on the Bidsketch blog. We’ve gone in-depth into the key essentials that entrepreneurs need to know when it comes to sales.
After all, most startup founders and small business owners don’t necessarily start their business with a strong sales background—but if you want your business to succeed, it’s necessary to become a good salesperson.
If that sounds like you, be sure to check these articles out:
- Sales Definitions: The Ultimate A to Z Guide
- The 11 Best Sales Techniques [Plus Formulas You Can Use Today]
- How to Deliver a Great Sales Pitch
- How to Close a Sale: 5 Tips to Help You Secure More Business
- The Sales Pipeline, Explained
- How to Write a Follow up Email That Clients Will Respond To
- Hiring a Sales Team: What Roles to Fill (and How to Decide If You Really Need One)
- 31 Sales Questions to Help You Hire a Salesperson for Your Team
- Sell Me This Pen: Why You Should Always See Potential Sales Hires In Action
What do you consider the best sales book for small business owners and entrepreneurs? Is there one you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.