One of the biggest challenges of being a new salesperson is finding the right training to help you. When you think about it, there are very few college courses how to sell. While many colleges offer majors in marketing and business, no educational institutions are offering majors in selling. You would think that with 1 in 8 U.S. jobs are full-time sales positions (based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics), that most people pursuing sales careers would know what they are doing.
But according to HubSpot Marketing fellow Dan Lyon, that’s not the case. In his article "Study: 3 of 4 Sales Reps Have No Idea What They're Doing," Mr. Lyon argues that many salespeople are not equipped to do their jobs well. Drawing from research by the Objective Management Group: “At first glance it seems shocking that there could be a profession in which three-quarters of practitioners are inept. If the same ratio were applied to medicine, we’d have patients dropping dead all over the place.”
While some companies will teach you about their products and services, not all will teach you even the basic fundamentals of how to sell. In fact, according to the Brevet Group, a sales training and enablement firm, the average company only spends $2,000 a year in sales training. But even if you are fortunate enough to receive formal sales training, you may not receive ongoing coaching to enhance your skills. For example, in some small to mid-size companies, sales managers are usually busy managing their own clients or pursuing new business to help their sales staff on a full-time basis. With the exception of a weekly sales meeting, or a one-on-one sales pipeline review, you are pretty much on your own.
So how can you learn more about selling and continue to improve your skills? The answer is you must pursue self-education.
There are literary thousands of books offering sales advice. But where to you begin? Below is a list of what I consider to be the best books to start your self-study on selling. Of course, many people will disagree with me and offer their own list. That’s OK. I’m not suggesting that my list is better than everyone else’s. You can pick and choose which books below appeal to you and find others that match your taste.
Here is my list of the 10 books for you to start -
1). The Big Book of Sales, by Alan Gordon
Take away: While the book is only available through the author’s website, the good news is that you can download it for free. However, after watching Mr. Gordon’s YouTube videos, I was so impressed by his presentations that I actually paid $10.00 for his book. In easy to follow chapters, he covers all of the basics including how to cold call, leave voicemail messages, and how to overcome objections. This is a good book for anyone new to sales and needs to quickly understand the basics.
2). Smart Calling: Eliminate the Fear, Failure, and Rejection from Cold Calling, by Art Sobczak
Take away: Don’ believe the hype that cold calling is dead. Cold Calling is very much alive and kicking, but you don’t have to be afraid to pick up the phone and call prospects. Mr. Sobczak rejects the argument that prospecting is just a numbers game, and that you should embrace rejection. Instead, he argues that by using smart tactics like researching your prospects, and using good opening statements, you could actually reduce rejection and quickly achieve your sales goals.
3) How to Master the Art of Selling, by Tom Hopkins
Take away: Using his N.E.A.D.S. formula for selling, Mr. Hopkins emphasizes taking a consultative approach to selling. This is done in part by asking good qualifying questions, determining the decision maker, and offering solutions. He provides several examples on how to close for almost every scenario. Beyond making phone calls, he discusses how to use e-mail and online resources to generate new business.
4). Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness, by Jeffrey Gitomer
Take away: This red cloth cover book with a built-in ribbon bookmark is packed with solid tips and motivational advice to boost your sales career and performance. Deliberately short and straightforward, Mr. Gitomer pulls no punches by making it clear that selling is hard work. Taking the typical excuses that salespeople make (he calls them whines), he offers positive suggestions on how to achieve success.
5). Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing, by Harry Beckwith
Take away: While the subtitle refers to marketing, the book also offers wonderful sales advice. While selling is tough enough when you are dealing with physical products, such as a car or house, at least your client can touch and see what you are offering. But the real challenge comes from selling intangibles such as accounting or legal services. Whether you are selling something visible or invisible, Mr. Beckwith’s argues your focus should be on providing good service and building long-term relationships with your clients.
6). Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff, by Richard Carlson
Take away: Selling can be stressful because most of us have to meet quotas, or deal with demanding clients or managers. While not strictly a sales publication, this book offers advice on how to deal with stress by selecting your battles wisely, accepting imperfections, keeping your emotions in proper perspective, and living in the moment. Each chapter includes ideas and true-life examples to help you.
7). The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino
Take away: Unlike most sales books, this 128 page publication doesn’t cover sales techniques or tactics. Instead, Mr. Mandino tries to inspire you in his spiritual tone and positive messages to help you form good habits to be successful. If you follow the reading instructions, it will take you 10 months to complete his book, because you are expected to reread chapters several times before moving to the next one.
8). Selling to Big Companies, by Jill Konrath
Take away: Selling to large companies can be intimidating and challenging for even the best salesperson. Based on the author’s own experience, she provides tips on how to understand and reach corporate decision makers and deal with gatekeepers. But before you can even reach the decision maker, she teaches you how to prospect and develop leads. This is especially helpful if you are working for an employer with no or little marketing help. The underlining message is that planning and patience is essential when working with larger businesses.
9). The 25 Sales Habits of Highly Successful Salespeople, by Stephan Schieffman
Take away: While not very thorough, if you are a complete novice, this 130 page book will quickly get you up to speed on the basics of selling. While veterans may find the advice elementary at best, they may still refer to it as a quick refresher or tune-up. Offering entertaining and practical advice, this is a good book to have on your desk if you ever need a quick reminder on the basics.
10). Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale, by Zig Ziglar
Take away: With more than 100 closes and 700 questions, it’s hard not to find the right ways of generating sales in almost every scenario under the sun. Yes, the 416 page book covers a lot of ground, but you should reread it several times to grasp the author’s advice. One key message is that to be effective, you must be honest, have the client’s best interest at heart, and truly believe in the product or services that you are selling.
The above books should only be the beginning, not the end, of your self-education in sales. For example, many of the authors listed have their own blogs and video presentations on YouTube. I recommend that you check them out and other experts too.
About the author
This is a guest-blog contributed by Don Lee. Don is a sales professional and blogger. You can check out his blog at http://dononselling.com.