Success is not static. Growing, getting better and honing your craft is critical. There are 1000’s of books out there ready and willing to help sales people get to the next level. However, all sales books are not created equal AND becoming a bad ass sales person requires more than just studying sales. It’s not enough to focus on selling. You need to expand you knowledge base.
Becoming a bad ass sales person requires a complex understanding of core and peripheral sales knowledge. It’s not enough to understand how to sell, but also how people think, how to execute and more.
These 8 books are must reads for anyone on a journey to become a bad ass sales person, the best of the best, an “A” player. They cover all the different aspects required to kick ass in sales. If you want to be a bad ass sales person, start with these killer reads.
1) Execution: The Discipline of Getting Thing Done- By Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
There is no better book to prepare you to be successful in sales OR in business than Execution. What makes Execution so valuable is its ability to reshape your thinking processes. Execution trains your mind to think not only in terms of “what” you need to do but more importantly, “how” you are going to do it. When faced with a tough economy, a competitive space, or a high quota, knowing “how” you are going to make quota and drive the revenue number is difference between the good sales people and the best. The number one deficiency I see in sales people, besides a lack of selling skills is almost no one actually knows “how” they are going to make their number. Execution will change that!
2) How We Decide – Jonah Leher
As sales people our job is to influence the decision process of others. It’s really that simple. The execution of the process can be very complex, but it all hinges on our ability to influence others. It stands to reason then, if we understand how people make decisions we will be better sales people.
How we decide is a killer book that breaks down the physical elements that go into how we make decisions. Our mind is a very powerful organ and there are real physical processes happening in the brain when we are faced with a choice. How We Decide lays out what’s happening inside our brains and the brains of our customers when faced with a decision. Understanding how the brain is processing the information we put in front of them and how they are going to choose you over your competitor is a critical skill of bad ass sales people.
3) Snap Selling – by Jill Konrath
Snap Selling has made this list because it is the most relevant sales book for the individual contributor. Today’s buyer is crazy busy. They are nothing like the buyers of just a few years ago. This buyers transformation requires a different approach and Snap Selling nails it. The approaches used just a few years ago to engage and keep the engagement of buyers don’t work any longer. Buyers are buried. They don’t have the time to teach you about their business, to have a check in call or to listen to you pontificate about your product or service. Snap Selling lays out real, “fresh,” actionable steps to be successful with today’s super busy buyers.
4) Made to Stick – Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die – by Dan and Chip Heath
Made to Stick is about messaging. The Heath brothers break down the fundamentals of messaging and how messaging sticks and gets a life of its own. Leveraging the acronym S.U.C.C.E.S they lay out what is at the core of all successful communication that capture people’s attention and “sticks.” SUCCES, (simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, stories) creates messages that leave a lasting impression on people. In sales, stories are what we tell. Knowing how to craft and build stories that accomplish all the elements of SUCCES is how you capture your prospects attention and get them responding to your emails, your phone calls and increasing their engagement. Bad ass sales people are just better at getting their messages to stick.
5) The Challenger Sale – Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson
This book is on the list because its premise and thesis of challenging customers is spot on. I think the authors could have done a better job of outlining “how” sales people can be better challengers. I find the book and the training, I have clients who have or are going through the training, to be theoretical. Although, that should be no surprise, considering the book was derived from a study and written by consultants, or theorists. That being said, the thesis of this book is killer and embracing an approach and style that allows you to challenge and teach your prospects is absolutely a bad ass sales person differentiator. Too many sales people play the relationship builder role and are afraid to challenge their prospects and customers, subjugating themselves to glorified order takers and minimizing any potential to be seen as a real valuable consulting resource. Read this book and embrace the thesis, it’s crucial.
6) Pitch Anything – Oren Klaff
If Made to Stick is about communicating messages that stick, Pitch Anything is how to deliver those messages to get your prospects to buy from you and not your competitors. Think How We Decide and Made to Stick put into a how to execute at the presentation layer. Pitch Anything promulgates a methodology for pitching ideas, new business and solutions to increase the chances you come out on top.
I’m not a fan of pitching. I believe if you’ve been relegated to “pitching” you’ve lost or are losing the deal. That being said, there are times where there is no way around it. You have to pitch. It’s the rule of the game. It’s what the buyer requires. When this happens, having the best pitch and knowing how to pitch are game changers. Pitch Anything is a fun read, that will get you thinking VERY different about how you pitch and what you need to do differently.
7) Dirty Little Secret: Why Buyers Can’t Buy and Why Sellers Can’t Sell and What YOU Can Do About it – By Sharon Drew Morgan
Dirty Little Secret, like The Challenger Sale made the list because of its unique selling thesis. Dirty Little Secret delves into the inherent, yet often forgotten truth about sales and that is; incumbent in EVERY sale is change. No change, no sale. Dirty Little Secret breaks down the impact change has on a buyer’s decision process. Dirty Little Secret walks you through the 12 steps buyers must go through before they can make a decision to buy. Dirty Little Secret does a good job of outlining the challenges buyers face in their efforts to get to a decision, from the system changes they will have to manage, to the implementation efforts, and more. Dirty Little Secret gets you thinking not just about whether or not your solution is the right one or a good one, but also about the impact of the change your solution is going to have on the buyer and whether or not they can handle it. Dirty Little Secret adds a killer new perspective on selling and what stalls sales that most sales people don’t see.
8) Mistakes Were Made but Not By Me: Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts – Caroll Tarvis and Elliot Aronson
This book is more about personal accountability than it is about sales. It’s too easy for sales people to blame the economy, quota, their shitty boss, a bad territory or a poor product. Sales has more autonomy than most roles in the organization. Sales gets to decide when they cold call, if they are even going to cold call. They get to decide how much they are going to charge. They get to decide which products they are going to sell. They get to decide which part of their territory they are going to work. They decide who to call in their accounts, etc. Sales people have a lot of autonomy and therefore control their own destiny. Bad ass sales people rarely blame failure on outside forces. Mistakes Were Made, but Not by Me breaks down cognitive dissonance and why against even the most compelling data people deny their mistakes and don’t own their failures. Success as a sales person starts and stops with owning your own shit.
There are sales books that will help you sell better. You can see some of the best here, at A Sales Guy U. Being a bad ass sales person takes more than knowing how to sell. It require a broader knowledge of things like human behavior, psychology, what it takes to get things done, knowledge of todays selling environments and more.
If you want to be a kick ass sales person you have to be a deliberate learner, start by reading these 8 kick-ass books. When you’re done, create new list and send it to me. I’m always open to learning new things.