The Essential Sales (Summer) Reading List

As you lie on the beach and try to finish that frozen margarita before it becomes too watery, why not absorb some information that’ll help you get back to this happy place sooner?

“Read 500 pages like this every week. That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.” – Warren Buffett when asked how to become smarter.

Vacations — and other OOO moments — provide sales professionals with a unique opportunity to gets some needed relaxation but also to enhance their job-related knowledge base.

Don’t panic. We’re not going to recommend reading business school textbooks or selling guides. The purpose of this list is to entertain and motivate as much as it is to educate.

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman 

Sales Reading ListSales is a study in motivational psychology. Good sales professionals have an idea of how to turn opportunities created into deals won. Great sales professionals understand the why as well.

Daniel Kahneman is a world-renowned psychologist and a Nobel Prize recipient in Economics. But, if his academic and professional achievements don’t win you over, his ideas will.

Thinking, Fast and Slow explores two key decision-making functions in humans: the impulsive and emotional side vs. the deliberative and logical one. More importantly, the book explains how the halves work separately, and together, to inform our decision making processes.

This book serves as a great introduction to the science of persuasion. Sales pros will improve their own personal decision-making while gathering ideas on how to convince hesitant leads.

The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg 

sales reading listSticking to the popular science genre, Charles Duhigg is a 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner who knows how you can become the best version of you.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, explores the relationship between our actions and the rewards they bring. However, the main focus is on the “in-between” moments.

The key to achieving the desired outcome — in health, work, or hobbies — is adjusting our habits, in a very literal way. The problem is, both bad and good habits become reinforced over time. (But they can be changed!)

“Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.” ― Charles Duhigg

As with most behavioral science books, The Power of Habit will help sales professionals understand consumer motivations better. But, the real advantage may come in the form of increased productivity, more sleep, and less stress in the day-to-day. A personal win.

OpenView Labs

Departing briefly from the long-form media, here’s a recommendation for those looking for some quick knowledge with their morning coffee and toast.

As a venture capital firm, OpenView Partners promises to provide funding to promising startups (of course) but also a wealth of knowledge to lead businesses through expansion and other obstacles.

[Disclosure: Aircall is unaffiliated with OpenView other than being a big fan of their informative blog.]

As a content resource, OpenView Labs checks boxes for both breadth and depth. If what you’re looking for is a 30-second Top-6 list, perhaps you should search elsewhere. If you’re looking for a curated selection of original research and opinions from industry experts, stick around.

A lot of the content on this blog isn’t directly related to sales. There’s high-quality content about marketing, management, and growth as well. This is all still relevant to ambitious sales professionals.

The Sales Acceleration Formula, by Mark Roberge 

sales reading listVacations are amazing, but the first week back can feel like your brain is still walking through sand. The Sales Acceleration Formula is a great way to segue back into work-mode without missing a beat.

Roberge is a mechanical engineer by training, who in his turn as SVP at HubSpot increased revenue by over 6000%, growing the sales team from 1 to 450 employees.

His bestselling book on sales management applies his unique, quantitative lens to the subject of building a sales team. Specifically, Roberge focuses on using a formulaic approach to hiring the right salespeople and training them in a way that encourages repeatable success.

Filled with thought-provoking ideas which are backed by numbers, this book provides inspiration and guidance to sales and operation managers who aim for exponential growth.

The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson 

sales reading listBehavioral psychology, management tactics, and growth hacking are all honorable reading subjects. What if you just want to win more deals though?

Dixon and Adamson’s answer to this question is The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation.

The idea is conventional sales tactics that focus on relationship building don’t close deals as much as you’d think. What does work consistently, however, is a “push back” method.

Sales reps start by tailoring their pitches to a prospect’s specific use case. So far so good.

Where things get interesting is when they make a demand or objection. Traditional sales tactics would tell an agent to be accommodating, but the “Challenger” approach endorses respectful confrontation. This puts the sales professional in control of the conversation.

Of the varying sales-agent-personas discussed in the book, the challengers routinely outperformed the rest. As a professional tool, this style can be especially helpful for B2B sales, where cross-company relationship building tends to fall short.

Stealing Fire, by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal

sales reading listHave you ever felt a lack of motivation at work? Do you sometimes wonder why some colleagues seem to have boundless energy, ideas, and ambition?

Stealing Fire is less about “how-to” achieve these things than it is “look and see what’s possible.” For a more complete description, here’s the full subtitle:

How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work

This motivational read discusses high-achieving individuals’ quests to accomplish more than they thought possible through an altered, higher-level of cognition. How they achieve this is where it gets interesting.

Could the secret be meditation? Adrenaline? Even psychedelic drugs? There’s something about this altered state of thinking that Kotler and Wheal think they have found the formula to.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, By Dale Carnegie 

sales reading listIn terms of self-help and popular psychology, every other book on this list owes a debt to Dale.

How to Win Friends and Influence People was first published in 1936, and has since become one of the best-selling books of all time. In it, Carnegie summarily explains how to increase ambition, gain professional success, and become more popular, among a number of other enviable traits.

The book is divided into six sections, each highly applicable to sales professionals.

  1. Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
  2. Six Ways to Make People Like You
  3. Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
  4. Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
  5. Letters That Produced Miraculous Results
  6. Seven Rules For Making Your Home Life Happier (absent from some editions)

Compared to the other books on this list, HWFIP conjures a sense of nostalgia rather than “breakthrough!” When reading it, however, you’ll see where the fundamentals of many classic sales strategies come from. Even though it was written over 80 years ago, the advice is still fresh today.

Sales-related or not, reading will make you better at your job

There are a lot of numbers floating around the internet about how many books Fortune 500 CEOs read each year (on average). Some say 50, others 60, and you can find sites that claim as many as 70.

The truth of this stat aside, reading with any regularity makes you a more informed, empathetic, and well-spoken person. It improves concentration, comprehension, and communication.

And even if you want to stay away from job-related thoughts (as white-capped waves crash in the background), reading fiction can have sales-boosting side effects as well.

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