Have you ever seen the movie, The Founder?
In a nutshell, it’s the true story of a floundering milkshake machine salesman, named Ray Kroc, who discovers the McDonald brothers’ winning fast food formula. After some finagling and shady behavior, he takes what was once a small scale operation and turns McDonald’s into the superpower it is today.
The point we’re getting at here is that the brothers had the product. And one heck of a product at that. But, questionable tactics aside, Ray Kroc knew how to sell it.
It didn’t matter that the McDonald brothers had the nuts and bolts. They didn’t have Kroc’s vision and ability to push sales—which is a common problem amongst many startup founders. Yes, many startups have a groundbreaking product that can make some noise in their given industry – but lack the proverbial “eye of the tiger” when it comes to selling.
As a result (amongst other factors), according to Forbes, 90% of startups don’t make it past their first year.
Even the startups that do make it aren’t necessarily getting the most out of their product because they haven’t shored up their salesmanship. No, we’re not implying you need to go back to school to get your MBA. Instead, we’re suggesting that you start doing some research and delving into some classic sales literature.
Don’t know where to start? Lucky for you, there is a wealth of sales books written by savvy experts and we’re providing a list of 10 must-reads that’ll get you in the selling frame of mind!
1. Spin Selling – By Neil Rackham
Pardon the pun, but Neil Rackham’s masterpiece “spins” traditional sales models on their head—particularly when it comes to selling on a larger scale. It’s also a book that many head honchos will suggest their subordinates read and examine with the utmost vigor.
Published in 1988, “SPIN” is entertainingly witty while aptly applying its overarching strategies to real-world scenarios.
Rackham largely focuses on how it shouldn’t be sellers doing the talking. Conversely, as a salesman, you should be asking questions and letting the buyer talk and tell their story. The idea is to create a conversation and establish a rapport that generates an interest in your product. It makes sense—after all, most folks don’t like having a robotic list of product benefits force fed down their gullets.
“SPIN” is an acronym that stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-payoff.
These categories are utilized to make the buyer sell themselves the product and push the principle that people buy when they’re fond of the person selling. So, focus on being helpful—or at least crafting the image of being helpful.
We could go on for days, but “SPIN” is a must-read if you want to get your startup to the next level.
2. Fanatical Prospecting – By Jeb Blount
Largely a healthy balance between standard sales motivation content and practical templated processes, Jeb Blount’s “Fanatical Prospecting” is a sales book you need on your shelf.
One of the key takeaways of Blount’s work is, to succeed in sales, you can’t fear the phone. Yes, it may seem tough in today’s text-heavy society, but if you’re intent on getting your product off the ground, you better get dialing!
Another essential piece of wisdom to take away for “Fanatical Prospecting” is that it takes, on average, 90+ days for your activity to pay off.
So, what you should do during those 3 months in order to be successful? Blount explains how your time needs to be spent filling your pipeline on the phone, in-person, social selling, text messaging, and referrals (to name just a few critical activities).
Lastly, and something particularly poignant in today’s digitally-inclined climate is how to approach social media as a salesperson. The social channel is ideal for building familiarity, nurturing leads, research, and inbound prospecting.
There’s a lot more to learn than our brief write-up could possibly illustrate. Frankly, we can’t stress enough how much “Fanatical Prospecting” can help your business thrive.
3. How to Win Friends and Influence People – By Dale Carnegie
The classics tend to age gracefully. And Dale Carnegie’s 1936 best-selling self-help book holds true to that statement.
Carnegie plays psychologist, in the sense that he encourages his readers to play off the egotistical nature of leads. He also pushes the importance of charm, appreciation, and personality as crucial keys to success.
When reading “How to Win Friends”, you’ll obtain keen insights on accomplishing the following feats:
- How to handle people
- How to make people like you
- How to win people to your way of thinking
- How to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment
- How to make your home life happier
“How to Win Friends” is one of those books anybody should read, even if they don’t have sales goals. In saying that, it is crucial for you to read this book if you’re involved in sales.
4. Predictable Revenue – By Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler
Imagine this: adding $100 million in recurring revenue without a single cold call.
Sound like a pipedream? Well, Salesforce.com did just that, doubling their enterprise growth with the outbound sales process put forth in “Predictable Revenue.”
But what exactly does the term “predictable revenue” even mean? It’s about creating that templated process in which a systematic and disciplined sales process is imparted. Essentially, it’s about knowing how to assess valuable leads, so you aren’t wasting time on dead ends.
Another key concept presented in “Predictable Revenue” is that lead generation is far more important than the size of your sales team (i.e. quality over quantity).
Since the methods proposed in Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler’s work have concrete success, we strongly suggest putting this on your startup’s wish-list.
5. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – By Robert B. Cialdini
Robert B. Cialdini’s “Influence” is about the word, “yes”, and the magnificent power it wields.
In reading this book, you’ll learn why people say “yes”. Also, you’ll become familiar with these 6 universal principles:
- Commitment and consistency
- Social proof
Reciprocation is particularly interesting to us. The idea is offering people something of value so they feel like returning the favor. It’s the reason for leave-behinds in marketing campaigns, for example.
Interestingly enough, not only does “Influence” tell you how to utilize these techniques and principles—but it also explains how to prevent these same tactics from being used against you.
6. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – By Robert B. Cialdini
If you like a good old fashioned rags to riches story, Frank Bettger’s tale is right up your alley. In fact, the aforementioned Dale Carnegie endorsed this inspiring piece of literature. “How I Raised Myself” is for any kind of salesperson, whether you’re selling the loftiest real estate or the cheapest tennis shoes.
By 40, Bettger owned a country estate – after being a down-on-his-luck insurance salesman just a decade earlier.
What contributed to such a drastic turnaround? The secrets, of course, are in this real-life story of the American Dream. Through a string of insightful and entertaining personal anecdotes, Bettger lays out the framework for his tried and tested principles.
Below are the key concepts Bettgar breaks down in his book:
- The power of enthusiasm
- How to conquer fear
- The key word for turning a skeptical client into an enthusiastic buyer
- The quickest way to win people’s confidence
- Seven golden rules for closing a sale
We’ll finish by saying this: if it’s good enough for Dale Carnegie, Frank Bettger’s life story is good enough for literally everybody else looking to carve their niche in sales.
7. Selling 101 – By Zig Ziglar
We’re not going to lie…we were initially lured via Zig Ziglar’s awesome name. But alliterative pseudonym aside, Mr. Ziglar’s “Selling 101” keys in on important facets of sales that’ll help you persuade people effectively, ethically, and regularly.
Ziglar emphasizes the need for salespeople to keep educating themselves, live life to its fullest, and to be keenly observant. Although the basic fundamentals of sales may remain the same, it’s essential that those within the industry keep growing and evolving.
There’s a flavor of “carpe diem” in Ziglar’s writings. He wants salespeople to “seize the day”, so to speak. He also urges his readers to have a firm grasp of history, in order to learn from the past.
Furthermore, “Selling 101” pushes the power of positivity and optimism. While happy clients (and a happier bank account) are of importance, Ziglar breaks down the value found in an increased quality of life.
Our takeaway from Ziglar’s work? Read it. Learn it. Love it.
8. Ultimate Startup Guide to Outbound Sales – By Steli Efti
Focused more on the business-to-business sphere, Steli Efti’s “Ultimate Startup Guide to Outbound Sales” is great for sales beginners and veterans alike.
Filled with actionable tips, in the form of helpful templates and comprehensive strategies, this book will truly bolster your results. Through Steli Efti’s expertise, your team will learn the various intricacies involved in writing cold emails and what should be said during the cold calls.
Steli Efti is CEO and Co-Founder of Close.io which is a platform that makes calls, sends emails, and utilizes automation to monitor activity. Efti is also the CEO at ElasticSales, where he acts as a consultant for thousands of startups and aids in scaling their sales efforts.
Given Efti’s ambition and proven success—as well as his passion for sales, he writes with confidence and competence, making for an incredibly informative read.
9. To Sell is Human – By Daniel H. Pink
You’d think that the gregarious nature of extraverts makes them a natural fit for sales.
However, as Daniel Pink surmises in “To Sell is Human,” extraverts aren’t actually the optimal salespeople. Pink also discusses, in detail, how providing an “off-ramp” for people’s actions carries more weight than changing their minds.
Pink was actually once a scriptwriter for Al Gore before etching a reputation as a workplace guru. Regardless of background, there’s no doubt about the effectiveness of his methods.
“To Sell is Human” comes packed with the following valuable rules of selling:
- The 6 successors to the elevator pitch
- The 3 rules for understanding another’s perspective
- The 5 frames that can make your message clearer and more persuasive
Add Pink’s awesome book to your workplace itinerary and you’ll realize just how human you are!
10. The Little Red Book of Selling – By Jeffrey Gitomer
We’ll be the first to admit that you may be too busy to sit around and read every single piece of mind-blowing sales literature on the market. After all, you’re running a startup, which isn’t exactly something that leaves you with plenty of free time.
Enter Jeffrey Gitomer’s “The Little Red Book,” which is as short as it is enticing and informative.
Most prescient, is Gitomer’s pointing out the need for salespeople to stop fretting about learning how to sell. By stressing on the “how”, you’ll be neglecting what’s most important: the “why”. More specifically, why people buy—which, according to Gitomer, is all that matters.
What’s more, is “The Little Red Book” aims to entertain, with clever cartoons on every page. Gitomer’s positive, upbeat and straightforward approach make for a fun and fruitful read.
Even the best product on the market isn’t going to get you anywhere without a solid sales strategy.
In fact, you’re probably pulling your hair out because competitors with an inferior product to yours are becoming industry heavyweights – largely due to their own effective sales strategies.
These strategies don’t come out of thin air. And short of going back to school and learning from the ground up, you’ll need to find a way to educate yourself on the nuances and intricacies involved in becoming an awesome sales person.
With our list of 10 must-have sales books, we hope we’ve presented you with some helpful resources that’ll put your startup on the pathway to success!