How confident are you in your ability to sell?
If you run a small business, chances are you didn’t get into it so that you could chase up leads or make cold phone calls. But as many small businesses discover, sales and selling are a crucial part of building a business.
Selling can be uncomfortable. It can distract you from the parts of your business that you really love. Still, someone has to do it, and do it well, if your business is going to thrive.
To help you become more confident in your selling ability—not to mention actually sell better and more efficiently—we put together a list of the 10 best sales books.
Here are the 9 best sales books:
- To Sell is Human, by Daniel Pink
- Secrets of Closing the Sale, by Zig Ziglar
- Influence, by Robert Cialdini
- Hyper-Connected Selling, by David Fisher
- The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon
- The Go-Giver, by Bob Burg
- Fanatical Prospecting, by Jeb Blount
- The Little Red Book of Selling, by Jeffrey Gitomer
- SPIN Selling, by Neil Rackham
1. To Sell is Human, by Daniel Pink
The biggest takeaway from To Sell is Human? Everything is sales.
Even if you aren’t explicitly a salesperson, you are constantly selling. Sometimes that might be selling to get new clients or customers—but it’s just as likely to be selling an idea, internally, to your own team.
Whatever the case, Daniel Pink argues that selling is natural and human. One of the reasons this makes the list of best sales books is that it breaks down the stigma around selling.
Lessons in actual selling include a focus on clarity, honesty, attunement to the state of the buyer, and learning from the “yes and” that’s popular in improv.
2. Secrets of Closing the Sale, by Zig Ziglar
Do you know the five reasons people don’t buy from you? Do you still believe the myth of the Law of Averages? Do you know how to inject your sales pitch with personality and credibility that builds trust and coaches your prospect to “yes?”
Zig Ziglar was a legendary salesman, and Secrets of Closing the Sale brings you deep insight his process. He shows you how to build trust, how to work towards the close, how to practice selling, and how to overcome the common objections you hear from prospects.
He even shows you how to tailor your message to prospects who are indifferent, skeptical, or hostile. And, of course, how to overcome those all-important price objections.
3. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini
Is this a sales book? Not exactly.
Robert Cialdini is a world-renowned social psychologist. In Influence, he describes six psychological principles that tend to influence decision making.
Here are the six principles:
- Reciprocity: People are more likely to help those who have helped them in the past
- Commitment/Consistency: People are likely to act in ways consistent with their previous behavior—whether those courses of action still make sense or not
- Authority: People are more willing to believe and trust experts and authoritative figures
- Social Proof: People are more easily persuaded to a position when they can see that those around them believe that position
- Scarcity: People are more attracted to opportunities that seem rare or exclusive
- Liking: People are more likely to be persuaded by those they like
Influence is one of the most highly recommended books in sales and marketing. For good reason, it also found its way onto our list of the best books on persuasion.
4. Hyper-Connected Selling, by David J.P. Fisher
The world has changed since the days of old-school sales. Technology has led to an increasingly connected world, and buyers have all the information they could dream of—literally at their fingertips.
Even though a lot of the principles of old-school sales remain, the practices of sales are due for an update.
In Hyper-Connected Selling, David Fisher compares the former buying process to the modern one. He lays out how the processes have changed and the importance of relationship-based selling as one-off sales get shifted to self-serve and automated platforms.
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5. The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon
The Challenger Sale lays out a new approach to selling.
Rather than having sales reps simply walk through the generic benefits of a product, feature, or solution, The Challenger Sale suggests that the most effective approach to selling is based on adding value.
When a sales rep can actually teach customers something new about their own businesses—by specifically addressing the problems and values of each individual customer—they can more effectively build trust, demonstrate the value of a product, and close deals.
6. The Go-Giver, by Bob Burg
The Go-Giver is a bit unusual compared to the other books on this list. Rather than being an argument or presentation of specific sales techniques or methods, The Go-Giver takes the form of a parable.
Joe is an ambitious salesperson who has failed to meet a quarterly goal. He seeks out a mentor, who teaches him “The Five Laws of Stratospheric Success.”
- The Law of Value
- The Law of Compensation
- The Law of Influence
- The Law of Authenticity
- The Law of Receptivity
The book is short. And, because it’s a parable, it doesn’t read quite like a lot of business books.
Still, The Go-Giver ends up on lists of the best sales books for a reason. It’s worth reading.
7. Fanatical Prospecting, by Jeb Blount
You need to be filling your sales pipeline at least as quickly as leads drop out.
Prospecting doesn’t always get as much attention as other areas of sales. And for some sales teams, who bring in most of their leads through a marketing function, cold prospecting may not be as high of a priority.
But for many teams—and many small businesses—prospecting is as crucial as it is overlooked.
In Fanatical Prospecting, Jeb Blount argues that the best salespeople prospect. Fanatically. They know that not prospecting has catastrophic effects (even if they are 6 or 12 months down the line).
Then, he shows you how to do it.
8. Little Red Book of Selling, by Jeffrey Gitomer
People do business with people they like and trust. If you want to improve your selling, you need to learn how to build trust and credibility with your prospects.
That’s the subject of the Little Red Book of Selling.
This book teaches you to build a relationship between yourself and a prospect. It teaches you to focus on value rather than price, on understanding the customer at least as well as the product, and on engaging the customer in ways that get them to convince themselves.
9. SPIN Selling, by Neil Rackham
SPIN Selling is one of the most popular and commonly cited sales books. And for good reason—the research and model that it describes generate a significant lift in sales success.
The key insight that led to the SPIN model? The most successful salespeople get their buyers talking by asking the same type of questions in the same order.
Those question types are
- Situation: Fact-gathering questions about the prospect
- Problem: Questions that probe prospects’ problems (ideally, problems your solution answers)
- Implication: Question types that dig deeper into prospects problems, to see how serious they are
- Need-Payoff: Questions that get at what the prospect could accomplish if their problems were solved
Asking these types of questions is powerful. It helps prospects convince themselves to buy your solution, and the order of questions helps build a picture in the prospects’ minds.
The book goes on to detail the four stages of a sale, providing advice for each stage. Today, situation and problem questions are easier to answer outside of the sales call.
But the fundamental idea—of asking questions that keep prospects talking and convincing themselves—can still greatly improve your sales.
Many of the best sales books for small businesses are yet to come
As sales practices evolve, the list of best sales books for small business will do the same.
The sales books we recommend are a great place to start. But continue to read books about new sales concepts to better hone your techniques. Education isn’t a one-and-done deal — the ongoing benefits will be proof of that. So will your sales.