It’s hard to beat a good book when it comes to learning new things. Especially in the world of sales. And much of the advice and direction you’ll find in older sales books is timeless.
You might have to update the terminology and examples—you’re not going to sell anyone a fax machine these days—but general principles remain relevant for decades, if not forever.
I’ve read more than my fair share of sales books over the years, and some general knowledge books that have helped me become a better salesman.
So I figured I’d share some of my favorites, which include a mix of new releases, old classics, and everything in between.
Table of Contents
- The Best Sales Books of All Time
- 1. How to Win Friends and Influence People.
- 2. Blue Ocean Strategy.
- 3. The Psychology of Selling.
- 4. The Sales Development Playbook.
- 5. The 48 Laws of Power.
- 6. The Art of War.
- 7. To Sell Is Human.
- 8. Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling.
- 9. How to Make Hot Cold Calls: Your Guide to Making the Sale or Landing That Perfect Job.
- 10. SPIN Selling.
- 11. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
- 12. Success Is a Choice.
- 13. Coaching Sales People Into Sales Champions.
- 14. The Confidence Code.
- 15. Sales Management Simplified.
- 16. Strategy: How to Crush the Competition—Tactics for Business Growth and Development.
- 17. Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine With the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com.
- 18. How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling.
- 19. The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation.
- 20. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
- 21. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently.
- 22. The 10x Rule.
- 23. Leaders Eat Last.
- Tips for Getting the Most Out of Sales Books
The Best Sales Books of All Time
These are the best sales books of all time:
Written by Dale Carnegie, this book has long been a classic for salespeople and other professionals alike. With it, you’ll learn the habits and behaviors that make people “likable” and get actionable steps for how to improve your sales techniques. It’s also super reader-friendly and down-to-earth, so you’ll enjoy reading it.
This landmark work by W. Chan Kin and Renee Mauborgne is subtitled How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, and it sets out to do just that. The idea behind the “blue ocean” strategy is that it’s free from competition, as opposed to “red oceans,” which are full of sharks. Give it a read and find your own blue ocean to explore.
You may also like this book by Brian Tracy, originally published in 1985. Since then, Tracy has become a veritable sales guru. With it, you’ll learn how to create a sales presentation, how to persuade people more effectively, and how to coach yourself to better performance.
Subtitled Build Repeatable Pipeline and Accelerate Growth With Inside Sales, this title by Trish Bertuzzi is a bit wordy, but offers great advice. It’s an ideal tool to develop a sales model that fits for your market and create a team that can help your business thrive.
Written by Robert Greene, this book explores and attempts to summarize the advice of dozens of historical texts, including The Art of War and The Prince, into 48 “laws of power” that can be followed to achieve success in almost any application. You’ll also find great historical examples here, which can help you better contextualize the advice.
6. The Art of War.
Speaking of The Art of War, by Sun Tzu… Yes, you’re a salesperson and not the general of an ancient tribe of warriors. But realistically, this book has great practical advice about strategy, tactics, negotiation, and persuasion.
7. To Sell Is Human.
Subtitled The Surprising Truth About Moving Others and written by Daniel H. Pink, this book takes an in-depth look at the art and science of selling. It’s loaded with counterintuitive insights that violate your assumptions—but are backed by real science.
If you’re into cold calling, pick up this book by Sam Richter. It’s full of tips on how to find more information, conduct online research, and ultimately improve your sales rate with cold calls.
You could also try this book on cold calling by Steven J. Schwartz. It’s full of real-life examples so you can see its advice in action.
10. SPIN Selling.
Written by Neil Rackham, “SPIN” here stands for “Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff,” a novel approach to sales that renders traditional sales strategies practically irrelevant—at least for large sales. It’s nearly 40 years old now, but most of its techniques hold up.
Written by Daniel Goleman, this book explores the impact of our emotional thinking and emotional lives. It’s a great resource to learn how to be more patient and in control of your emotions—and better analyze and respond to the emotions of your prospects.
12. Success Is a Choice.
Subtitled Ten Steps to Overachieving in Business and Life and written by basketball coach Rick Pitino, this book focuses on improving communication, the power of having a positive attitude, and how to use your passion to become successful at just about anything.
This Tactical Playbook for Managers and Executives by Keith Rosen explains some of the finer points of coaching salespeople to be better. It includes a 30-day turnaround strategy for the weakest members of your team and a robust library of scripts and templates.
14. The Confidence Code.
Women in the workplace face unique challenges, which is why Katty Kay and Clair Shipmen wrote this book, subtitled The Science & Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know. It’s full of advice on how to cultivate confidence, resist the fear of failure, and achieve more.
Subtitled The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results From Your Sales Team and written by Mike Weinberg, this fun book contains both hilarious anecdotes and blunt, “harsh truth” style advice. It explains why most sales teams fail, and how to avoid the same fate.
Written by Martin Anderson, this book is relatively short—but impactful. This work offers tons of great tips for standing out from the competition, listening to customer feedback, and adapting your strategy.
17. Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine With the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com.
Lengthy subtitles are in. Aaron Ross and Marylou Taylor wrote this book together, exploring the strategies that allowed Salesforce.com to add more than $100 million in recurring revenue to the business.
It’s a little intimidating to read books by people who have always been successful at sales, so Frank Bettger shares how he grew from a failure to a success in the sales field. You can learn about conquering fears, and study Bettger’s seven rules for closing a sale.
Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson present this book, which suggests that the best salespeople both build relationships and challenge them. Read up if you want to take the role of a challenger and improve your performance.
Written by Elizabeth Gilbert, this title explores the concept of passion as being rooted in love—rather than being emptily addicted to success. If you find yourself pushing yourself too hard or dealing with a lot of pressure, this could be the book for you.
This book by James K. Harter points out the implicit “rules” of management, and how to break those rules to get the best performances out of their team. It’s ideal if you’re looking to get more out of your current salespeople.
22. The 10x Rule.
The subtitle implies that this is The Only Difference Between Success and Failure. Written by Grant Cardone, this guide teaches you how to invest additional effort into your goals to achieve them more reliably.
23. Leaders Eat Last.
Simon Sinek offers this book, subtitled Why Some Teams Pull Together and Some Don’t. It’s got an eclectic mix of current events, historical anecdotes, neuroscience, and other scientific research—all of which instruct you how to be a better leader for your sales team.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Sales Books
So now you’ve got a full Amazon cart or a list of requests in at the library.
But if you want to get the most out of the new sales books you’re about to devour, follow these tips:
- Be consistent. You’ll be much more effective if you read consistently. Rather than trying to power through a book in one night, commit to reading 15 minutes a night, every night, or something similar. You’ll make incremental progress toward your goal, you’ll absorb more information, and you’ll make it a habit—which will make it easier to pick up more books in the future.
- Take your time. If you’re looking to read books about sales, you’re probably ambitious. And if you’re ambitious, you’re probably eager to read these books and utilize their information as quickly as possible. But you shouldn’t rush the process; instead, take your time. Read slowly and try to absorb every sentence. You’ll remember more takeaways and you’ll probably enjoy the experience more as well.
- Take notes. Take notes on what you’re reading, by hand if possible. Taking notes will improve your memory and leave you with a handy sheet you can reference in the future. Jot down what you think the main ideas are, and notes you want to follow up on in your professional life.
- Talk to others. Spend time talking to other people about what you’ve recently read, including your teammates, employees, bosses, and even your friends and family members. It makes for good conversation and you might get to teach them something. But more importantly, just talking about the subject matter is going to reinforce it in your own memory.
- Get the full experience. Did you just finish a book that you absolutely loved? One that completely changed your philosophy on sales? Invest time and effort into an even bigger experience. Look up the author and see if they’ve written anything else. See if they have any YouTube videos or courses worth exploring. Heck, you might even have an opportunity to meet them at a signing event.
Reading is a useful way to improve your knowledge—and hopefully, your sales skills.
But to become a better salesperson, you can’t just read sales books; you also have to measure and analyze your sales performance.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.