I love books. I love the smell of books. I collect them. I download them. I listen to them. I strive to learn at least one thing from every book I read, and I usually read 2-3 books per week. One fictional book (historical fiction, mysteries, biographical, and sci-fi are my usual genres.), the rest are business related (sales, marketing, analytics, productivity, psychology, leadership and management- most have sticky notes and written notes in the margins).
As I was thinking about what lessons I found from the books I’ve read over the past year, I came across Adam Townsend’s post “Why I don’t recommend books about sales.” Obviously given the title of this post, I don’t 100% agree, but he has a very important point : “Books can’t teach you to shut up.” When we shut up we learn the most.
That being said, I read and I recommend sales books. Not as a replacement for experience and in the field learning, because knowledge without application is pompous, but as part of the continuous learning process.
And as far as most books being nothing more than a summation of the author’s experience- well duh...of course it is. What other experience would an author draw from? And if one person can be helped by the lessons from my experiences, hell yeah I am going to share that. Just as I appreciate those that took the time to share what they have learned with me. Is it gospel? Is what I have observed and learned true for everyone? Does it mean if I read it I know it and can do it? Of course not. But books offer us the opportunity of another perspective outside of our own world and therefore a chance to apply it, learn, and grow.
The top 3 books I've read this year (and recommend you should too) and what stuck with me.
Note that these are not in order of importance, just the order that I read them in.
Not Taught: What It Takes to be Successful in the 21st Century that Nobody’s Teaching You by Jim Keenan
“Value is measured not by how badly you want something, but rather by what you’re willing to give up for it.”
I’ve used this quote in blog posts, on the sales stage, with clients and even friends and family. No matter what the circumstance you are in is- if you want something better or different, it’s going to require change, and change will require giving up something. Whether that is a belief, habit, relationship, money, time-, it could be anything. Value is in the eye of the beholder.
After I read his book, I gave a signed (thanks Keenan!) copy to my newly graduated son. I wished that I had given it to his entire graduating class.
The one thing I would say over and over to my kids growing up is “Think for yourself. Draw your own conclusions.” (I would later somewhat regret encouraging my kids to challenge things- but that’s a mom thing.)
In Keenan’s book, it’s a message he repeats.
“To have success in today’s world requires thinking- independent thinking. You have to be able to see problems coming and solve problems for yourself and for others...You have to get comfortable working with new and untested data.”
This doesn’t just apply to high school and college graduates. We work with seasoned sales people everyday who are faced with these same challenges- except they also have to unlearn a lot of things that used to work for them.
The Sales Development Playbook: Build Repeatable Pipeline and Accelerate Growth with Inside Sales by Trish Bertuzzi
At the time that Trish’s book came out, we were doing a lot of work with inside sales people at startups and larger organizations. I heard a lot of things that made me shake my head in wonder at how some companies handle their sales teams and I have to admit- I was getting as frustrated as some of our clients were. It was like a big wet blanket on the fire of growth. Considering that business development is the most important aspect of a business (because a business can not exist without a customer)- I was befuddled at the ad-hoc, ‘this is what we did at my last company’ strategies, mindsets, processes and tactics.
So I had lot of sticky notes, highlights, and notes in the margins from Trish’s book of the way things should work. Here are a few:
“Stop thinking about sales versus marketing. Your team should report to whoever has the bandwidth, expertise, and passion to lead it. Success hinges on who leads the group, not where it sits in the org chart.”
“When you have reps in a blended role, they’ll inevitably spend more time where they’re most comfortable.”
“Coaching is not a component within the sales manager role, managing is now a component of the new coaching role.”
“...more coaching led to more promoters...reps who reported receiving three or more hours of sales coaching per month were more than twice as likely to be promoters as those receiving fewer than three...coaching improves retention and performance.”
“Onboard by a process, not an event.”
“Why before what...If you teach reps about your product before they understand their problem, future conversation will be about products and not about the urgency of solving the problem.”
The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need by Anthony Iannarino
Almost daily, I recommend this book to someone and emphasize that they read the parts about mindset, goals, activities and disciplines. There are actionable things to do at the end of each chapter and additional books to read on the topics- giving the reader (or listener) opportunities to apply the knowledge and additional perspectives from other books to encourage them to think for themselves.
This book may have been my biggest "ah-ha...duh!" moments as well this year. When Anthony talks about setting goals,activities and timelines and then hits you with the reminder that none of it will happen without the right disciplines- it was like a forehead slap. Of course!
My other two favorite takeaways were:
“Optimism gives you the power to persist.”
“Make your commitments in writing. Putting all your commitments in writing can have a powerful effect to keep the promises you make to yourself. Writing out your discipline moves them ...out of the world of ideas and makes them real.”
What I am reading now and why
The Science of Selling: Proven Strategies to Make Your Pitch, Influence Decisions, and Close the Deal by David Hoffeld
More science! I f’ing love science. I have been a little obsessed with how people make decisions since I was old enough to ask why. David has gathered together research from the social psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics sciences to bring more real data into the art of selling. We use the OMG sales evaluations because it based on scientific data, so I am excited to now have all the latest research I have been slowly gathering all in one place. No more assumptions based on what we think sales leaders- now it can be based on the science of how our buyers buy. F'ing brilliant!
Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
We buy and make decisions emotionally and use logic to justify our decisions, but not to make them. We'd all like to believe otherwise, but science tells us differently. Dan points out the patterns in the chaos and shows how best to position to appeal to the patterns of irrationality.
What’s on my reading list next and why.
I have a long Amazon Book Wish list, but these are the next three I plan on reading.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S Dweck Ph.D
Mindset matters. Success happens first in your head. Everything you think and believe directly impacts everything you do. Change your mindset, change your behaviors and results. I often ask prospective new coaching clients “Is the fire in your belly bigger than the lies in your head?” I can’t wait to dig into some more research to see how I can better help salespeople and leaders change their mindsets and therefore results.
More Sales, Less Time: Surprisingly Simple Strategies for Today's Crazy-Busy Sellers by Jill Konrath
Our goal is to 10X Unbound Growth this year and transform individual salespeople, startups and small businesses and teams into self sufficient, top producing, efficient rockstars. That means more sales in less time for everyone. I know a little about the research Jill has been doing and am certain there will be something here I can learn from and share with clients.
The correlations between athletic coaching and sales coaching seem pretty obvious to me. I am fortunate enough to be a New Englander and long time Patriots fan (I cried when they lost to the Bears in the Superbowl as a little girl in ‘86 ... I remember what it was like before Brady and Belichick). So when it came to finding books about setting up world class coaching organizations, systems, and cultures-surely there is something I will learn from Bill.
What is on your reading list? Your favorite book of 2016? The one you are looking forward to the most in 2017?
Remember too what Adam said in his post- books can't teach you to to shut up. Look at it this way, books, lectures, webinars, podcasts- all this content you have at your fingertips is like the greatest buffet in Vegas. (And like buffets in Vegas- not cheap. I spend a lot of money and time on books.)
The danger of too much food for thought at the buffet table is that it will make you fat, slow, and lazy. Eat too much without the activity, exercise and practice, and all that "food for thought" becomes a bad thing.
But combine the two? Now you have a chance to become the Tom Brady of sales.
Want some help applying the knowledge you have been gathering? Check out some of the Live Sales Lab recordings to learn tips and tricks that you can use today!