2013’s Top-Ten Must-Read Book List to Improve Your Sales Skills

Given that another year is coming to a close, we thought we’d forgo offering you just one Book of the Month for consideration this go-round and opted for ten. Here goes…

As a long-time sales professional and given my current position as the Director of Sales for BusinessOpportunity.com, I’m oftentimes asked, “What authors and books have inspired and guided you most throughout your career?”

Recently, I read a blog post someone wrote about their top-ten picks for the best sales books of all time, and it prompted me to sit down and really give my answer to that question some serious thought.

If you are a small business owner, chances are that sales are a critical and integral part of your daily routine — so much so that you’re always up for a little inspiration and willing to put some effort into improving your skills.

It’s with this goal in mind that I’ve put together my top-ten list of the sales books that I believe are a must-read in 2013 for anyone who wants to make the most of what this New Year has to offer in the way of business opportunity and greater success, and maybe even start a turnkey business of your own.

That is, if you haven’t read them already…



#1 The 7 Triggers to Yes: The New Science Behind Influencing People’s Decisions by Russell Granger

My take: I’m sure you will find this book on a lot of folks’ top-whatever lists for 2012 and rightly so. It’s my #1 pick largely for one reason…its message is so powerful. If you apply the principles learned in this book and can truly master the art of engendering emotional responses from your potential buyers, it can have serious positive results.

Amazon’s description: Everybody knows that the best way to persuade people to reach the “Yes” response is by using logic and reason, right? Wrong. According to the latest research in neuroscience, most people respond to emotional cues rather than rational ones. Instead of using facts and figures to persuade, you should be tapping into the brain’s internal triggers for making decisions. With the new technology of real-time brain imaging, scientists have been able to pinpoint seven of these emotional triggers. Activating one or more of the other person’s triggers will make you a master persuader in every aspect of your life. You’ll learn how to motivate a “Yes” response from clients, coworkers, employees and entire organizations.

How To Win Friends and Influence People

#2 How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

My take: This is the quintessential read for any aspiring or even seasoned sales person. One word to describe it? Timeless. And it’s a great teaching tool should you find yourself trying to mentor another salesperson. This is an especially good one to buy in hardcover or, especially if you need something special for a collector, as a first edition.

Amazon’s description: One of the best-known motivational books in history! Since it was released in 1936, (it) has sold more than 15 million copies. Carnegie’s first book appeals equally to business audiences, self-help audiences and general readers alike.

SPIN Selling

#3 SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham

My take: It’s simple really. If you at all need to teach others, and/or you love to win, you will love this book!

Amazon’s description: Written by Neil Rackham, former president and founder of Huthwaite corporation, SPIN Selling is essential reading for anyone involved in selling or managing a sales force. Unquestionably the best-documented account of sales success ever collected and the result of the corporation’s massive 12-year, $1-million dollar research into effective sales performance, this groundbreaking resource details the revolutionary SPIN (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff) strategy.

Secrets of Closing the Sale by Zig Ziglar

#4 Secrets of Closing the Sale by Zig Ziglar

My take: I read this a while ago, and Zig always stuck with me. I think the most important thing I took away from this book was that you have to believe in what you are selling in order to be successful…no matter what it is. His books are always great sources of information, motivation and inspiration, all mixed into one great read. On a sad note, I learned just last night before writing this that Zig at 86 had finally passed. We will miss you Zig, but your legacy of learning for those of us who are in the industry will live on.

Amazon’s description: Whether presenting a product or principle, service or idea, we all engage in sales. Zig Ziglar presents winning techniques for getting a positive response and establishing dynamic relationships. Readers discover how to: project warmth, enthusiasm and integrity; effectively use 100 creative closes; increase productivity and professionalism; overcome the five basic reasons people will not buy; and deal respectfully with challenging prospects.

Advanced Selling Strategies#5 Advanced Selling Strategies: The Proven System of Sales Ideas, Methods and Techniques Used by Top Salespeople Everywhere by Brian Tracy

My take: Man, this book can really keep you up at night. Makes you think in ways you never in a million years dreamed you would, especially on the idea of self-image and how it affects your effectiveness as a salesperson. You can really get hooked on Tracy’s writings too. I know I am. Read this one soon, if you haven’t yet, realizing that it is more geared toward salespeople who already know how to sell, but who are looking to take things to the next level and do a little experimenting. I also love this book by Tracy…Be a Sales Superstar: 21 Great Ways to Sell More, Faster, Easier in Tough Markets.

Amazon’s description: The most powerful system for sales success from the author of the bestselling audio, “The Psychology of Selling.” Strategy, tactics and mental preparedness separate superior salespeople from the average—and with technological advances evening out the competition, the selling edge is now more important than ever. Drawing on his own successful sales career and on his extensive experience as a sales consultant and seminar leader, Brian Tracy has developed the most comprehensive and effective approach to selling ever created.

Little Red Book of Selling

#6 Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness b y Jeffrey H. Gitomer

My take: I consider this book Essential Reading 101. Written in 2004, it’s still relevant all these years later, maybe even more so now on a number of levels than it was back in its day. Let’s just say it’s well worth getting this one in hardback for sure. Plus, it’s such a quick read that anyone can get through it. This one will make even the most successful salesperson’s life better.

Amazon’s description: Salespeople hate to read. That’s why the Little Red Book of Selling is short, sweet and to the point. It’s packed with answers that people are searching for in order to help them make sales for the moment — and the rest of their lives.

Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive

#7 Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive: Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate and Outnegotiate Your Competition by Harvey Mackay

My take: This is a serious read, and you can pick this book up just about anywhere for bargain prices. It is often overlooked and shouldn’t be for the reason that it really highlights the emphasis Harvey puts on knowing everything about a customer/client, which is incredibly valuable stuff. I also love his #1 bestseller…Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt: Do What You Love, Love What You Do and Deliver More Than You Promise.

Amazon’s description: This straight-from-the-hip handbook by bestselling author and self-made millionaire Harvey Mackay spells out the path to success for readers everywhere. They will learn how to: outsell by getting appointments with people who absolutely, positively do not want to see them, and then make those same people glad they said “yes!;” out-manage by arming themselves with information on prospects, customers and competitors that the CIA would envy, using a system called the “Mackay 66;” out-motivate by using his insights to help themselves or their kids join the ranks of America’s one million millionaires; and out-negotiate by knowing when to “smile and say no” and when to “send in the clones.” This one-of-a-kind book by a businessman who’s seen it all and done it all has sold almost 2 million copies and is the essential road map for everyone on the path to success.

The Greatest Salesman in the World

#8 The Greatest Salesman in the World by Augustine “Og” Mandino

My take: I think everyone needs to think about getting this sentimental favorite for a loved one who is in sales as a holiday gift. It is just such an easy and powerful read, with so much meaning given its inspired Christian-based leanings. This book can really change someone’s life.

Amazon’s description: What you are today is not important… for in this runaway bestseller you will learn how to change your life by applying the secrets you are about to discover in the ancient scrolls. A great inspirational writer tells his greatest story–an amazing narrative revealing exciting new secrets for your personal happiness and success.

How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling#9 How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger

My take: Dale Carnegie calls it “the most helpful and inspiring book on salesmanship that I have ever read.” Need I say more?

Amazon’s description: A business classic, (this book) is for anyone whose job it is to sell. Whether you are selling houses or mutual funds, advertisements or ideas — or anything else — this book is for you.

When Frank Bettger was twenty-nine he was a failed insurance salesman. By the time he was forty he owned a country estate and could have retired. What are the selling secrets that turned Bettger’s life around from defeat to unparalleled success and fame as one of the highest paid salesmen in America? The answer is inside (where) Bettger reveals his personal experiences and explains the foolproof principles that he developed and perfected.

The Psychology of Persuasion

#10 Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

My take: This national bestseller is a lot like 7 Triggers. It’s a great and powerful read. The only place it falls short is when it comes to how to apply the principles it describes in a universal way. While it did sell me in a number of areas, it didn’t do the job completely, if you know what I mean. Overall though, it’s worth your time. Another book by this author that’s a solid choice…Influence: Science and Practice.

Amazon’s description: Written in a narrative style combined with scholarly research, Cialdini combines evidence from experimental work with the techniques and strategies he gathered while working as a salesperson, fundraiser, advertiser and in other positions inside organizations that commonly use compliance tactics to get us to say “yes.” Widely used in classes, as well as sold to people operating successfully in the business world, the eagerly awaited revision of Influence reminds the reader of the power of persuasion.