Your skills may become obsolete, or dated, faster than you think.
Skills needed for sales, success, and professional growth are rapidly changing. Said another way, the skills you possess today may lose relevance before you know it.
According to one survey, people in sales and other vocations, such as software engineering, marketing, and law, expressed a need to redevelop their skills every 12–18 months.
Know what this means?
You cannot be passive about your personal development.
Based on this survey and many others, employee tenure continues to decrease and the life expectancy of companies on the S&P 500 is barely 15 years.
The takeaway is that it pays to take ownership of your personal development. If not, there’s a good chance you’ll be left behind by peers or competitors in 1–2 years.
I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news. Instead, I’m trying to get your attention, wave smelling salts beneath your nose, and encourage you to learn new skills.
Before you get ahead of yourself and sign up for whatever course, certificate, or program, there’s one thing you should consider first: reading (a lot) of the best sales books.
Why you should read (a lot of) books
There are many ways you can learn new skills and grow professionally, including:
- College Degrees
- Sales Training
- Sales Certifications
- Graduate Certificates
- Personal Coaching
- And more ...
At times, one or more of these options may be worthwhile to pursue. If I’m being honest, I’ve obtained a variety of certifications in marketing, enrolled in online courses, and worked with a coach.
But one of the best, most affordable, and flexible ways you can improve yourself professionally is by reading books.
Reading books may not appear on your resume or LinkedIn profile. But the benefits you reap from what you read will.
There are many science-backed reasons why reading books are beneficial. Reading books will help you to learn new skills, improve your decision-making abilities, and, according to one study, they may even provide you with more professional opportunities. Reading books can also help you to avoid costly mistakes and reduce your learning curve.
Need help better relating to your prospects?
There are a ton of books available that will help you better understand human psychology and how to be more likable.
Interested in closing more deals?
There are countless books on this topic as well.
Pursuing a promotion within your organization or another company?
There are a handful of books that’ll walk you through sales management, building teams, and whatever else you need to know to make the leap.
Assuming I’ve piqued your interest in reading sales books, before hitting you with specific book recommendations let me share a few ways to learn as much as possible from what you read.
6 steps to absorbing a book into your bloodstream
In a book I co-authored called Read to Lead, we laid out six steps you can take to better comprehend and retain what you read. Here they are in-part:
- Get an overview
- Ask questions
- Write in your book
- Take notes
- Review your notes
- Take action
Let’s briefly look at each step.
#1. Get an overview
Before reading one of the sales books below, fight the urge to sit down, open it, and start reading from beginning to end. Instead, take a few moments to preview what you are about to read. This one step will place you in a position to better comprehend what you’re about to read.
To do this, limit yourself to a few minutes, read the back cover copy, familiarize yourself with the table of contents, and skim the introduction and conclusion. In doing this, you’re giving yourself a better idea of what you’re getting into.
#2. Ask questions
Reading a book is like having a conversation with the author. In making the most of your time with the book you’re about to read, it’s best to have some questions prepared ahead of time.
For example, what question is the chapter you’re about to read attempting to answer? What problem does this book or chapter want to solve? What questions would I like answered by what I’m going to read?
There are more questions you can and should ask. But these will at least get you going in the right direction.
#3. Write in your book (or take notes in your e-reader)
Find the answer to one of your questions?
Great! Write it down in the book you’re reading.
Come across something inspirational?
Make a mark to come back to it later.
Uncover a solution to a problem you’re facing?
Again, make a mark in your book or e-reader so that you can revisit it soon.
Actively reading in this way will help you to recall key points in the book, and prepare you for the next step.
#4. Take notes
Whenever you're reading a chapter or an entire book, go back through it, find the marks you made, and turn them into written notes. Then move these notes onto index cards or jot them down in a word processor or note taking app. This keeps them organized and easier to reference and review.
#5. Review your notes
Here’s the thing about taking notes:
They’re not super helpful if you never look at them.
Sure, studies show writing down notes will help you to better recall whatever you wrote down. But, over time, you’ll slowly lose your grasp on your notes—in particular, the ideas you encountered that you believed were important enough to remember.
How often you review your notes is up to you. Whatever you do, make an effort to review your notes from the sales books you read every so often. You’re bound to find some “gems” every time you do. These reminders are incredibly helpful and will serve to solidify the wisdom in your brain.
#6. Take action
Do you know the one thing a book cannot do you for you?
A sales book cannot make you do anything—only you can do that.
As the proverb goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
You may have found a winning idea or a solution to a problem in a book. But if you don’t actually do something about it, you’re still stuck. The author’s role ends in laying out the steps or framework for action. The rest is up to you.
As you read one of the books below, do yourself a favor and challenge yourself to put into action their advice if it’s relevant to your situation.
Now that we’ve set the stage for the value available in sales books, and how best to take advantage of it, let’s get down to some recommendations.
Without further ado, here are 12 must-read sales books broken down into eight categories:
How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Someone gave me a copy of this book during my first internship selling life insurance in college. Frak covers everything you need to know to succeed in selling—nearly anything. From self-management, psychology (more below), and a treasure trove of ideas and tactics you can immediately implement, it’s covered in this book. If you purchase one book from this list, I’d suggest starting here.
Likability is an essential soft skill in sales. What it means to be likable differs between people and contexts. In other words, being likable doesn’t always look the same with everyone. This is why Dale Carnegie’s classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is a must-read. The lessons he shares will help you adapt yourself to whomever you’re speaking with and whatever context you’re working in.
Influence, New and Expanded: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
Having sold over five million copies, this book really needs no introduction. From marketing and sales, and a host of other vocations, when it comes to understanding how to persuade someone, this book has been the go-to resource for years. In fact, it has a prominent place on my bookcase. This way I can easily refer to it, which I believe you’ll do the same after ordering a copy.
The first two books I mentioned above will provide you with a general foundation, whereas Brian Tracy’s book, The Psychology of Selling, practically applies psychology to the area of selling. If you only have the time to read one book in this category, I’d suggest starting here.
The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Stanier
Let me state the obvious: This isn’t a book about specifically coaching salespeople. Even though that’s the case, this book about coaching is relevant for anyone in a position of leadership or interested in influencing, or motivating, others. Personally, this book has been a game changer for me.
As a sales leader, one of the best ways you can improve your team’s performance is by coaching them. When coaching your team, you’re not providing lessons. Instead, you are pulling out lessons by working with them one-on-one. Both are necessary and needed to build a world class sales team of any size. Read this book to uncover an actionable playbook for coaching sales professionals.
Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness by Jeffrey Gitomer.
This book comes highly recommended from two veterans at PhoneBurner. It’s a book you’ll want to read from cover to cover and keep on your shelf to refer back to time and time again.
True to its title, The Science of Selling is full of tips based on … you guessed it … science. Drawing from a breadth of research in different fields, this book is a foundational read for anyone in sales. From exploring how people make decisions to looking into the role of emotion in the buying process, this book will help you to adapt the way you sell to the way people buy.
Outbound Sales, No Fluff: Written by Two Millennials Who Have Actually Sold Something This Decade by Ryan Reisert and Rex Biberston.
Let me first disclose that one of the co-authors, Ryan Reisert, is a friend of PhoneBurner. Does his relationship influence my opinion of his book? Perhaps. But its place on Book Authority’s “best sales books of all time” list should tell you I am far from alone. The lessons and tactics shared here are real-world, easy to digest, and highly actionable. Buy a copy for yourself and put them to work right away. Like others have said, the proof is in the pudding.
Your sales pipeline can be filled with more than a prayer. Here’s how to create a repeatable and scalable process to generate demand, hire and train sales people, and close more deals. Read this book and let Mark Roberge, the former Chief Revenue Officer of HubSpot’s Sales Division, open your eyes and help fill your funnel.
Know what you need to close more deals? Opportunities. Know how to get more opportunities? By prospecting. Don’t know where to start? No sweat. Get this book and Jeb will show you how.
Secrets of Closing the Sale by Zig Ziglar.
No list of the best sales books is complete without recommending at least one book by Zig Ziglar. From rock-solid, unchanging sales principles to a variety of closing techniques, you’ll find yourself going through a few highlighters and multiple notecards to keep track of everything you’ll learn. Be prepared to learn, memorize, and adapt the techniques you’ll learn in this book.
Over to you
What sales books are on your bookshelf or virtual library? If you have any favorites, old or new, share them in the comments below.