The Best Sales Books (and Non-Sales Books) You Can Read Right Now
In this article, I’ll share my top sales books with you. They’ll help you understand how and why people buy. But they’ll also help you understand people, full stop.
I researched other articles before writing this — most promise volume. I could’ve produced a list of the top 2,000 sales books, but that wouldn’t be useful to you. Not at all.
Instead, what follows is a list of some of my favorite sales books. The ones that have most influenced my thinking and point of view. The ones that have most influenced my sales training.
I’ve included fields outside of sales, too. Sales is about so many things: strategy, creativity, hard work, relationships, conversation, empathy. No one book can give you all the answers you need, though I’d appreciate you email me the title if you ever find it!
I organized the list into sections for your convenience. Use the “find on page” function on your browser to jump to a section. The sections are:
- General Sales Books
- Sales Development and Prospecting
- People Skills and Self Help
- Behavioral Economics and Psychology
- Management and Coaching
Best Sales Books: General Sales Books
If you asked me to recommend one single sales book for you to read, I’d say that’s impossible. If you said you’ll only ever read one sales book, I’d tell you to read this one. The book was written back in 1988, and was well ahead of its time and still sells well over 30 years later. It has a nice mix of big idea and how-to, heavily actionable advice. I include some of it in my own sales training program.
Getting Naked is one of two novels on the list. Lencioni tells the story of one man’s journey from high-pressure to consultative seller. You get to see what happens along the way. The main character is a management consultant, a perfect service for consultative selling.
Published in 2011, this book is an instant classic and falls into the big idea category. That big idea? Salespeople who challenge the client’s status quo are more successful. The idea flies in the face of typical sales advice that emphasizes the importance of friendly relationships. Solution selling advocates weren’t thrilled by it, many of whom published articles challenging the challenger. It all falls into the category of semantic debate. If you agree that your client isn’t always right, then stand up and tell them what they need. This book will tell you how.
This title is obscure, but it’s a gem. About 50 pages into reading, it reminded me a lot of my Price Theory course in undergrad economics. That’s a good thing. Browne writes in everyday language while explaining why people buy. You see, understanding how and why people buy is the secret of selling anything. 100% worth the read, and it’s one of my top sales picks.
This book is organized into two sections, which I appreciate: mindset and skill set. Clever how he did that, right? Iannarino does an excellent job of distilling the basic requirements of being a complete human in sales. That’s a good thing. He also exposes you to a diversity of ways of thinking as well as tangible skills that you’ll need to thrive.
Rack the shotgun. That one concept alone is worth the price of admission. But the book solidifies a simple idea: a tiny number of our clients make up the majority of our revenue. Marshall applies the Pareto Principle here. He urges you to focus your efforts on your highest-value opportunities. While it’s not a how-to book on sales, it may change the way you think about your clients and planning your time.
I was on the fence about whether to include this title in the general sales or prospecting category. It’s quite relevant to both. The first 19 chapters are about account planning and entry. Still, Konrath emphasizes managing the corporate selling chaos. There’s plenty to think about and apply.
The Sandler Rules: 49 Timeless Selling Principles and How to Apply Them by David Sandler and David Mattison
As the title implies, this book is a collection of 49 rules that create the basis for Sandler Training. It’s one of the most popular sales methods. I’ve taken their training and found it useful, though there are plenty of updates needed. Some of the advice is timeless – “no mind reading.” Some of it doesn’t quite pass the sniff test – “answer every question with a question.”
This big idea gave birth to a whole line of branded books by Burg, including The Go-Giver Leader, Go-Givers Sell More, and…you get it. Burg contrasts takers with givers, written in the form of a novel. The parable is useful, but Burg offers no concrete evidence that a go-giver is more successful than a go-getter. No matter – he’s right.
Pink may as well have named this book “There’s No Guilt In Selling.” Throughout the read, he spends time giving examples and telling stories about situations in which we sell. All while giving the reader permission to accept the fact that selling is a natural and inescapable aspect of life. We all sell to some degree, so there’s no need to feel guilty.
The merging of marketing sales is felt and known by just about everyone these days. Zhivago’s book was one of the first I read that argued for a focus on revenue rather than sales and marketing separately. If you work at a huge, slow-moving company, you probably won’t be able to implement much here. But it’s good for smaller and more agile organizations.
The promise this book makes is a lofty one: “how to sell your product or service in 3 seconds or less.” Now, that’s not very practical in the Internet age, but there are plenty of useful nuggets in this book. It blends a diligent focus on what buyers want and how to package it to be both honest and effective.
If you’ve ever heard the term “lumpy mail,” it may well have been in reference to Holmes’ book. He covers a lot in the book, and his coverage of prospecting and marketing systems are the highlights. Don’t miss Chapter 11 on follow up either – it’s one of the least-talked-about but most important things you can do.
Best Sales Books: Sales Development and Prospecting
Stu begins with a story of the greatest sale he ever made: a hall-of-fame cartoonist (Stu) marries a model through sheer persistence. So sets the tone of this book that advocates for low volume, high focus prospecting. This book will only apply to you if you enjoy the creative aspects of getting someone’s attention. You’ll also need a high client lifetime value (say at least $50k per client).
Mike appears twice on this list because of his no-nonsense, practical, and actionable writing. He has a useful and quite simple template for attracting new business. You won’t get much sophisticated tech here. Instead, Weinberg will tell you where to start – and you should listen.
The title is amazing and descriptive. This book may be responsible for the professionalization of the sales development role. Ross documented some of the most powerful tactics he used during his time at Salesforce. He captured them in Predictable Revenue and many of the lessons still apply. If CRM and email is an important part of your prospecting strategy, this is a must-read.
Somehow Trish manages to pack 37 chapters into a 264-page book about sales development. She raises and answers essential questions about building your SDR team. This book is written for managers and entrepreneurs who want an edge in their prospecting. It delivers on the promise. Trish’s Bridge Group also puts out the indispensable SDR Metrics and Comp Report every year.
Prospecting is the lifeblood of some sales organizations, and Blount’s book takes an honest look at what’s required. He’s also honest about just how hard it is. Look for the 32ked inside: Blount’s assertion that your prospecting over the next 30 days will predict your pipeline 90 days from now. It’s true, and the same is true of marketing. Take your foot off the gas, and the car will2 come to a stop. That’s why Jeb’s so fanatical about prospecting.
Best Sales Books: People Skills and Self Help
The lessons of 7 Habits are useful far beyond sales. Habit #4 alone – “think win-win” – is a life-changing approach to getting what you want. Just as Habit #5, “seek to understand, then to be understood,” will forever change your interactions and relationships if you can apply it. I recommend reading this one a few times, just to let the lessons sink in, reflect on them, and check back every few years.
“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” This and many other useful gems are packed into this self-help classic. It’s the basis for Carnegie training, too. Many of the pages call you to responsibility for yourself. They’ll also challenge you to interact with people as they are, rather than as you’d like them to be.
The amount of information coming at us in any given moment is enormous. An instant may contain more raw data than we could ever absorb in a lifetime, and most of it is lost. Many of us miss it, but bodies say things that people don’t. Navarro, a former FBI agent (and one of two on this list), breaks down what we can – and can’t – learn from observing body language.
There are two important lessons to take from habit formation: 1) it’s hard to form habits in yourself, especially the ones you most want, but it is quite possible; and 2) it’s hard to break others’ habits, so it’s best to fit what you sell into existing habits. Duhigg’s distillation of habit formation is based on model created by BJ Fogg, also written about in Nir Eyal’s Hooked, may seem a bit sinister with the rise of digital addiction, but still proves the point: we’re creatures of habit. It’s important to understand how habits work.
Deep Work and Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
We live in an age of endless distraction. The ubiquity of the Internet has made it difficult for us to concentrate and do our best work. Newport writes extensively about how to meet the challenges of distraction and “shallow work” in these two titles. These books are important works that’ll seem head-slappingly obvious ten years on – read them now.
It may seem strange to include a book about emotion on a list of sales books, but it’s a pretty emotionally-charged endeavor. Goleman says understanding and coping with emotions is more important even than intelligence. He may be right. The smartest people aren’t always the most effective. The good news is that we can all learn to better deal with our emotions.
This title isn’t self-help, but it will give you some added people skills. It’s the one book I recommend you read if you have trouble assessing the value you bring to your clients. It’ll help you understand – you guessed it – how to measure anything in business. Hubbard tackles some hard measurement problems in the book that may be illuminating. He illustrates that yes, even your hard-to-measure thing can be measured. You might need to see the problem through a wider lens.
Best Sales Books: Behavioral Economics and Psychology
Of all the books listed on this page, this book has had the greatest influence on me. Ariely’s writing is clear, easy to follow, and full of stories to illustrate his wonky academic claims. If you’ve ever wondered why it’s important to include multiple options in your proposals, Ariely has the answer. If you’ve ever wondered how nicely-packaged your collateral and proposals need to be, he has the answer for that, too. Read this book. You won’t regret it.
Economics was cool after this book was published. In full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of all things Freakonomics. I’ve read the books, seen the movie, and listen to every new podcast episode (except the live ones…pass). The chapter on why real estate agents get more money when they sell their own houses as opposed to their clients’ homes is worth the read alone.
Ever wonder why it’s so hard to control your emotional reactions to some things? How it can feel as if you don’t have control at all? Sometimes you don’t, not in the moment. So many thoughts and decisions are made subconsciously. It can be hard to account for what we’re “thinking” and what happens automatically. Kahneman’s work in this book (along with his partner, Taversky’s) led to a Nobel prize. Still, the book is accessible and demystifies our brains.
What would you say if I told you that the decisions you make are influenced by the options you’re given? That’s the big idea behind Nudge. Thaler, another Nobel prize-winning economist, writes about the small nudges that cause us to make the choices we make. Our environment influences us, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s good to know how it works.
What do lab coats and a mechanic’s onesy have in common? They both make you trust the person wearing them. No, you wouldn’t trust your mechanic to do your open-heart surgery, but you’d sure trust her to fix your car. But that one data point – her clothing – has no bearing on her ability to fix a car. It’s called authority, and it’s one of six universal principles of persuasion. Do yourself a favor and read this book.
Some people seem to improve continually, while others stay stagnant, or even regress. It’s because of their mindset, according to Carol Dweck. She asserts there is a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. The former means you believe in win-lose situations, living in a limited world with finite resources. The latter means you see opportunities for growth, mutual gain, and self-improvement everywhere. It’s no mystery which one is more useful. I do ask you to use this information responsibly. I’ve seen this book weaponized in the workplace – “such and such has a fixed mindset” – as an excuse for people not to deal with their baggage. Focus it inward, and use your newfound power with care.
This little-known book is a damn entertaining read. Schrager is an economist who studied the sex trade. She was there. She wanted to understand how people price risk in one of the oldest and most dangerous industries. The discussions of how we assess risk and the choices that result are enlightening.
Best Sales Books: Negotiation
Negotiation is one of those soft/hard skills that we all want to get better at. There are two big problems: 1) we’re not sure where to start; and 2) it’s hard practice for high stakes negotiations because they don’t come around that often. Fisher and Ury lay out a negotiation style that’s most focused on understanding rather than winning. It’s an approach that’s always worked for me.
If you only read one book in this section, read this one. Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator, and the book is filled with stories that come straight from his FBI days. Well worth the read and highly practical, Voss now has a consulting and training practice based on the core concepts in the book.
Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen
There’s a complete guide to approaching difficult conversations in this book, sure. But the most crucial concept is to stop arguing about who’s right. This is so critical in a sales setting. It’s not about right or wrong when you disagree. It’s about effectiveness. How can you serve your client? Do that. Difficult Conversations gives you a template for taming the next contentious chat.
Love him or hate him, Ted Turner is a master business strategist and negotiator. This book is a memoir rather than a how-to book, but the vignettes he tells about building his media empire are instructive throughout. He managed to negotiate blockbuster deals, sometimes without money or resources. How he did it? It’s not clear, but his enthusiasm, famous work ethic, and creativity sure helped. Pay special attention to his use of strategic, win-win arrangements.
Best Sales Books: Storytelling
Those Heath Brothers know how to tell a story. In Made to Stick, they examine why some good ideas stick around, and others are lost. Read this if you want to be more resonant and memorable with your clients. Of course, you do. And it applies during and after the sales process (ahem, referrals). This book will give you some good ideas about how to do it.
I debated about whether to include this book because it’s a marketing book at heart. It takes the hero’s journey archetype story and applies it to business and brand. It’s a useful way to think about telling emotional, attention-grabbing stories. I borrow (steal) from many of Donald’s concepts in my sales copy and stories.
How do you sell more of anything? Luggage. Well, it’s a metaphor, and one Sean developed to help marketers and salespeople tell their own stories to clients. If you were to read only one book about business storytelling, this is the one I recommend. It’s a quick read, has some fun cartoons, and distills down big important concepts. It’s one of those rare reads that’s easy to apply.
If you want to get nerdy and in-depth about advertising copy, Sugarman is the legend you should listen to. He cut his teeth as a direct mail marketer. He sold multi-million dollar campaigns of cheap product through infomercials. What he sold wasn’t all that interesting, but the thinking that went into it is the story. He’s best known for his “slippery slide” concept and includes plenty of examples to help you improve your copy.
Truer words have never been spoken. No one wants to read anything you make or buy what you have to sell. They want what they want, and it’s not what you want. Pressfield’s career spans advertising, porno scripts, and literary classics. All along, he wrote with that core idea: no one wants to read his stuff. He had to learn to make it undeniably good to thrive. I read everything Pressfield publishes, and this is one of my favorites. Big idea: give people what they want in all endeavors, and maybe you’ll get what you want.
Best Sales Books: Management and Coaching
You could argue that Bill Walsh got lucky. He had some of the all-time greatest football players on his team. But they weren’t great when he started. There was nothing inevitable about the 49er’s eventual dominance. Jamison’s account of Walsh’s style shines when talking about Walsh’s attention to detail. The masterful planning and precision that Walsh demanded of his players is unmatched. Management lessons abound.
This is book #2 by Weinberg on this list because I agree that selling is simple but not easy. Sales managers need structure, planning, and a process by which to manage. Weinberg will help lay the foundation for you.
This book is short enough to read on a quick flight and is organized around the main questions to ask in any coaching situation. As a manager, your role is coach, not dictator. Learn to coach. This book will help you with a simple template you can follow in any individual coaching situation
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