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Top Ten Sales Books of All Time


Guest articles > Top Ten Sales Books of All Time


by: Luke McLeod


This post has been a while in the making. Mainly because it was so hard to cull a list down to just 10 books, because there are literally hundreds of sales books that offer great advice on how to become a better sales professional. Certainly some books offer more than others, although my hope is that this list includes those books that are loaded with tangible tips, techniques and strategies that will take your sales to the next level.

I also wanted to make a note that some of these books aren’t directly related to sales (meaning they don’t directly tell you how to ask particular sales questions). There are a few books on general communication & mindset. Two qualities that, if you want to be an expert sales professional, you must learn to master.

So please enjoy! I hope you get as much out of these books as I have. They all definitely sit on the Top Shelf in my office.

10. Swim with the Sharks without being Eaten Alive by Harvey Mackay

I bought this book for $1 in an op shop bargain bin in the Blue Mountains, making it one of best investments I’ve ever made! And although it is quite old (published in 1988) and some of the techniques (stalking your prospect to see where they go for drink after work??) and statements (pg 188 “Yes, it’s lonely at the top, and the bigger they are, the more strokes they need…) are dated. However it does contain some timeless bits of gold that make it worthy for a place in this list.

This includes the emphasis Harvey puts on knowing everything about your customer/client. Harvey puts forth his ‘Mackay 66′, which is 66 points/questions you should know about your customer/client. Yes it is a bit excessive, however there are some great questions like “What do feel is the customers long-range personal objective?” This gets you thinking about a sustainable relationship, not just a quick win.

9. Beyond Yes by Peter Fritz, Allan Parker & Sherry Stumn

Most of you would not of heard about this book. I would be shocked if even the bookworms have heard of it. Written by all Australians, one of which is a good friend of mine – Mr. Alan Parker (so there might be a little bit of bias here). It is a fantastic business book that goes into a lot of indirect sales territory e.g. networking, communication and negotiation.

One of best pieces of advice I got from it was The Relevance Test. Take a look at the people around you. The people you deal with the most. The people in your network. Are they the people you need around you to help you achieve what you want to achieve? This also applies to your self. Are you relevant to your customer or potential client? If not, how can you become so?

8. The Sales Bible by Jeffrey Gitomer

This book, on the other-hand, I’m sure most of you have heard about or read. Gitomer has become know as the Guru of sales with his enormously popular series of little hard cover books, including The Little Red Book of Selling, Yes Attitude & The Black Book of Connections. However The Sales Bible pretty much has all the good bits and pieces from all his books combined.

His witty way of writing keeps you engaged and it’s one of those books that you can pick up at any time, open up to any page and grab a bite size worth of good sales advice. I know some of you are thinking that the techniques and methodology of Gitomer are a bit ‘junior’, that’s why I’ve put it in the back end of the top ten. Plus, it’s always important to keep on top of the basics! Smart simple sales basics will always beat confusing and complicated sale strategies.

7. Selling to Big Companies by Jill Konrath

Who wouldn’t like having a Fortune 500 company as a client? What I really like about Konrath and the way she writes is that she is someone who has ‘done the hard yards’. She’s had to deal with the thousands of rejections and knock-backs a successful veteran sales professional inevitably has to go through. However, what separates her from other veterans is that she has captured where and what she did wrong over her career, creating a step-by-step solution for each challenge so it doesn’t happen again.

The obvious other big plus this book offers (as the title suggests) is that Konrath gives you a first hand insight into how she secured BIG deals, taking you through a proven process that will give you the opportunity to secure a ‘big fish’.

6. How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger

A little ‘Old School’ in its techniques and writing (it was first published in 1947), ‘How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling’ is a pioneering book for the profession of sales. One of Dale Carnegie’s best friends (author of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ which is number four on the list), Bettger takes you through his life as a travelling salesman, starting at his very humble beginnings to the top of a major American insurance provider. He breaks his chapters up into a mixture of method and mindset. I really enjoyed Part 6 of the book, where Bettger goes into how to deal with failure and setbacks. An important know-how if you are going to get anywhere in sales.

5. Smart Calling. Eliminate the Fear, Failure & Rejection of Cold Calling by Art Sobczak

I’ve never liked the phrase ‘Cold Calling’. I mean, who really likes the cold?? I think they named it that when the first time someone made a ‘cold call’ they froze. It certainly doesn’t get me excited and motivated to pick up the phone when I hear that phrase. Thank goodness one of the first things this book does is ban the use of that phrase, saying that if you think of ‘cold calling’ then your pretty much setting yourself up for ‘stone cold’ failure. You need to think ‘Smart’ when you’re planning on picking up the phone to call someone you’ve never spoken to before (hence the book title – Smart Calling).

The approach Sobczak teaches you is light years away from the painful, pushy calls I’m sure most of you have received from telesales people in the past. It’s client focused, and it’s about establishing a genuine consultative dialogue with potential clients right from the start. Some of the key lessons you will learn are:

How to research a potential client in advance so that the call becomes a warm rather than cold one
The right words to use in the critical first 20 seconds to grab a prospects attention
How to come across as a peer-level professional rather than a cheesy salesperson
How to structure an engaging dialogue that gets prospects to take action
How to stay motivated and avoid morale-sapping rejection
This is by the best book on ‘Smart Calling’ I have ever come across. A no-brainer to have on your Top Shelf.

4. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Another classic! If you don’t have this in your library then give yourself an uppercut. This book has so many vital lessons in business/sales acumen, it could almost be named the encyclopedia of proper business ethics. Written mostly in parable form, I recommend you buy a notebook and pen to write down the key points while reading it (if possible create a model or process for each point) and work out how you could implement the hidden nuggets of gold into your own daily practices.

I also have this text as an audio book -a trusty companion when I’m in the taxi to see a client. My top nuggets of gold from this book would include:

  • Be the bigger person and apologise, or admit when you are wrong
  • Become more interested in other people, than trying to get people interested in you
  • Ask and listen. There are no two ingredients that will build more rapport than these

3. Selling to the C-Suite by Nicholas A.C. Read & Dr. Stephen J. Bistritz

There’s not one sales professional I know that wouldn’t want to know how to improve their ability to sell to senior executives. A lot either don’t know how to sustain a meaningful conversation with them, or have trouble getting hold of them in the first place. This book takes a refreshing perspective compared to most other sales books in that instead of looking at what people did who were successful to sell to the C-suite, the book focuses on how senior executives want to buy.

Another big plus that I’m sure the more conservative sales professionals will enjoy, is the amount of research that supports all that is written. Read and Bistritz have made sure that no advice given isn’t backed-up by solid research and statistics. Lastly, I really enjoyed how they segmented the different types of sales professionals (Commodity Supplier to Trusted Advisor). This gives you shortcut advice on what you need to do to become part of the elite sales group, a Trusted Advisor.

2. SPIN Selling by Neil Rackman

Some say this is the book that is credited for making the big shift in the way selling was performed. The ‘old’ way of selling was all about explaining the benefits of your product/service to your customer/client. Trying to make yourself and what ever you are selling as compelling as possible and if you get any objections, then you have an armory of responses ready to fire back at them until they have nothing else say, they either buy what you are selling purely out of remorse or excuse themselves to the ‘bathroom’.

Rackman flipped this approach on its head, creating a sales acronym system called SPIN. He explains that the majority of your time spent with a new client/customer should be asking QUESTIONS about your customers/client current Situation and Problems, leaving you spruking about benefits until the very end of the conversation (Need-payoff).

The big plus for this book is that is brings STRUCTURE to your selling approach. In a market where a lot of sales books talk about their own story of success, SPIN is a no-nonsense systematic book that will bring you sales success regardless of your position and experience.

1. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

With a title like that, it is pretty hard to argue that this isn’t greatest sales book of all time. Some of you reading this may differ with my opinion (and that is completely OK), but let me explain my reasons. Firstly a quick overview of the book itself. This book is more of a parable about a young man who meets an extremely successful businessman/salesman, whom is the farther of the lady he has fallen madly in love with. To prove his worth as a fitting match for his daughter, the young man pledges himself to the successful old businessman, saying he will do all that it takes to gain his approval to marry his daughter. Therefore, the wealthy old man puts him on a quest to discover the 10 secret scrolls of sales success.

The book then takes you on a journey as the young man discovers these 10 secret scrolls, each one giving him a new insight in what it takes to be a ‘successful’ man. The big kicker I got from this was the deep emotional strings it pulls. I’m a big believer that success in sales is about 80% attitude and about 20% skill. If you’ve got the right attitude and mindset, then you’re already on your way to do well as a sales professional. This book changed the way I approached sales. In fact, it changed a lot about the way I live my life. It not only made me more successful, but also a better person. That’s why I’ve chosen it as Number 1.

Well I hope you’ve enjoyed the list, and as mentioned at the beginning of the post, I’m sure there are many more excellent sales books that could easily have made the list. If you’ve read any other sales books that have made a profound difference to your selling ability, please share them in the comments section. I’m always looking for new books to add to my Top Shelf.


Luke McLeod writes, a blog dedicated to offering the very best in 'Top Shelf' advice. The blog has been in operation for close a year now and is getting some good attention.

Contributor: Luke McLeod

Published here on: 08-Jan-12

Classification: Sales


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