Sales Books

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Sir Isaac Newton, letter to Robert Hooke dated February 5, 1676.

There are hundreds of books on sales and for the most part they are worthless… merely parroting what countless previous books have parroted, with only slight variation. The authors are like sheep following the sheep in front of them in an endless circle, and the view never changes.

The entire literature is like a mountain or low-grade ore that one can sift through looking for that rare gold nugget. As is often true in mining, the cost to find the nugget can be greater than the value obtained. I therefore have few if any sales books to recommend.

I do have many books to recommend, though not specifically categorized as such, will help you be more successful (I will leave it up to you how you define this term). These works can make you a better person, and thus a better sales person. The former is infinitely more important, with the latter being just one more joyful manifestation.

These books can also serve to provide you with the some background to be trainable in the methods I present. They will give you insight into how the universe operates and how you fit into that entirety. The universe insists on being what it is regardless of our self-imposed myopic perspectives, biases, and limitations. It does what it does in ways surprisingly, amazingly, and counterintuitively different than the way that we suppose, guess, or were taught.

What you think is so obviously true, may be even more obviously not true… want to find out?

I. Reality Therapy

Let’s start with a few especially significant books that can help you recognize how you have been indoctrinated to defend your ego, and bullshit your self and everybody else to defend that ego, and how this maintains the barriers between us that make true communication a practical impossibility.

Radical Honesty: How To Transform Your Life By Telling The Truth
Brad Blanton, PhD. 2005. 277 pgs. Paper. $15.00. Sparrowhawk.

What can be more antithetical for a sales rep than telling the truth? And what is the truth anyway? If you want to stand out, indeed to be in that tiny minority called the top 1%, then here is the yellow brick road to your success.

Some excerpts:

We all have a psychological and cultural history. They are fiction. This fictional history is made up of partial memories of things that happened in our personal lives that we want to avoid, and a few replays of some of the good times. We have a lot of illusions and bullshit rationalizations about how we are really in control, and how we made most of the good things happen because of some virtue on our part and survived the bad things because of some other virtue. But the truth is we don’t know shit from Shinola about what was actually going on and still don’t.

We think we are our memory of our past actions, attitudes, and remembered records. That’s not who we are, but it takes a lot of learning and energy to discover that, just as it took a lot of energy and learning to build that picture of ourselves in the first place. The energy required for being who we really are – full persons – comes from burning all the bullshit beliefs you build your mind out of. Fortunately, since one’s mind is a constant bullshit generator, there is an unlimited supply of fuel.

While we are trying to protect and preserve our image of who we are, much of our time is spent in worrying. When we try to improve our image, much of our time is spent in fantasy. A lot of us get to the place where worry and fantasy are the only two choices we have. You go crazy when worry and fantasy are your only two options.

The power of positive thinking is the biggest load of bullshit of our day. Positive thinking is for negative people. With positive thinking and affirmations, we start from an image of ourselves as flawed, and try to use thinking as a strategy to make ourselves whole. Thinking is not the source of power. Being is the source of power. And in being, we are already whole.

Center for Radical Honesty

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual
Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, David Weinberger. 2001. 190 pgs. Paper. $14.00. Perseus.

Marketing was a conversation in the historic village marketplace. Sellers knew buyers and buyers knew sellers. They talked to each other and did business. They did life. In the Industrial Era marketing became a dictatorial monologue. Corporations lied and manipulated in the interest of controlling and dominating dehumanized “consumers” who were no longer seen or heard – just sold. The Internet came along at an opportune time, in sync with a major counter-movement of individuals demanding to be heard and talked with, not at. By people who live, and oh yeah, shop too. The cluetrain has been missed by the majority of companies to their profound chagrin and loss. Take a ride and see where it can take you and your company.

And oh yeah . . . get a clue!

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else
Geoff Colvin. 2005. 224 pgs. Hardcover. $25.95. Portfolio.

Challenges the popular mythology that people that accomplish great things, or display an amazing talent, are somehow better, different, that us. They are not. They are simply those that were willing to pay the price through hard work, repetition, and perserverence to get to where they got to.

Closers know this. Posers don’t want to believe it because it surgically removes another of their lame bullshit excuses

If those at the top were special, gifted, genetically well-endowed, it let’s everybody else off the hook. They are the same as you, and you are what you make yourself to be.

Geoff Colvin

II. Depression Proof

I am told the economic climate is adverse. For many it certainly is. Especially those caught up in the recent boom mentality and found themselves standing when the music stopped. Countless others have relied on others for their livelihood. The had not created any flexibility in their economic lives and find they can’t adapt easily when things change.

And yet I see large numbers of people surviving and thriving. Admittedly not the majority but you are one person not many and if they can do it so can you.

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
Laurence Gonzales. 2003. 318 pgs. Paper. $14.95. W. M. Norton.

A unique look behind the Grim Reaper’s cloak to see who he catches and who eludes his grasp. Amazingly, what counts more than anything is the ineffable will-to-live and making a decision not to die. Others do just that and they are found where that decision left them.

Most of what I discovered through the years of research and reporting was not new….The principles apply to wilderness survival, but they also apply to any stressful, demanding situation, such as getting through a divorce, surviving an illness, recovering from an injury, or running a business in a rapidly changing world.

Laurance Gonzales

Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds
Charles MacKay, Andrew Tobias. 1841 & 1980 & 1995. 768 pgs. Paper $14.00. Harmony.
A timeless classic (1841).

Important reading for all you Gen Xers and young daytraders who have never seen a recession (let alone a depression) or been inside a bubble when it goes POP! See the Internet economy. See the Internet economy run off a cliff?

Full Text of the Book


III. Emotional Intelligence

What You Feel, You Can Heal: A Guide for Enriching Relationships
John Gray (I bought my) PhD. 1993. 224 pgs. Paper. $12.95. Heart.

An introductory text that we all should have read in middle school, but most likely didn’t. It has cartoon images on every other page to keep it breezy reading. There are many other books on the topic but this one makes the process painless – it is clearly written and all-inclusive.

The insights you gain will be real and lasting. I especially advise men to read it carefully since you are probably clueless. Of course you will tell yourself that you don’t need to… You don’t know what you don’t know and that’s why you need this book. It may be what’s between you and the success (personal and business) that’s always just beyond your reach.

Wiki John Gray

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
Daniel Goleman. Rev. Ed. 2005. 368 pgs. Paper. $17.00. Bantam Books.

He coined the phrase and this is the standard text. Not an easy read but comprehensive. I suggest you get the audio version.

Wiki Daniel Goleman


IV. Paradigm Shifts

The closer you look at the world, the stranger and more improbable it seems. Who would have guessed that time stops if you travel fast enough? Or if it gets cold enough molecular motion ceases? Or that a cubic meter of so-called empty space contains enough energy to boil the oceans in an instant? Or that every atom in the universe is somehow connected?

Up until a hundred years ago the sun was thought of as a giant fireball in the sky. Now we know it to be a continuous thermonuclear fusion device converting hydrogen into helium with the left over mass being converted directly into energy. The sun has been there for over 5 billion years. Man or our ancient predecessors have been looking at it for a couple of million years. How long have we understood it? The point being that we can accurately describe only a small fraction of what exists and that if we strut around like we know it all or laugh at the pioneers we are on our way to extinction.

Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition
by Charles Eisenstein. 2011. 496 pgs. Paper. $22.95. Evolver Editions.

This book fits easily into my top 10 most-important I have read, and I read a lot. If you have tried but failed to truly figure out what the heck is going on in the world, this is it. Every aspect made crystal clear. Things are changing, we all sense it, this explains it.

Charles Eisenstein

Universal Laws of Success and Achievement
Brian Tracey. 1991. Audio-CD. $89.00. Brian Tracey Int’l.

This is a stunning achievement by a brilliant man. This work deserves wider recognition and acclaim. There are countless “new age” books trying in vain to do what Brian does so deftly. He negates their worth making them all redundant.

Here he expertly compiles an exhaustive list of extant universal laws and communicates their depth and significance eloquently and concisely. What more could you ask for?

I heartily recommend Brian Tracy’s entire extensive library of books, audios, and videos. Many “motivational” speakers and writers are entertaining, but in the end it’s all so much fluff. Brian is more reserved and serious. He has serious things to say. His teachings will last a lifetime, and will take a lifetime (or more) to master.

Brian Tracy International

The Holographic Universe
Michael Talbot. 1992. 338 pgs. Paper. $14.00. Harper Perennial.

Consider a reality where the entire universe exists not just outside of you, but inside as well. As every element of a scene is contained in every segment of a hologram, our brains contain the whole as well. As a radio receiver does not contain the music but merely tunes into a specific electromagnetic frequency, the brain opertes in the same fashion and contains nothing.

The implications are stupendous and bizarre. As Alice said when passing through the rabbit hole… curiouser and curiouser.

Crystal Links

The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe
Lynne Mctaggart. Updated Ed. 2008. 304 pgs. Paper. $13.95. Harper.

This book is written to be more accessible than the many requiring familiarity with modern physics. The idea is that there exists a fundamental “zero-point” energy (still somewhat vaguely described) that connects everything that exists with everything else. This includes you and your “mind.” This theory (reported by but not invented by the author) has been around for a while. More and more of those in the know see it as the next paradigmatic breakthrough – analogous to Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, et al. Read it or be relegated to the flat-Earthers of our era…

Living The Field

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
Eckhart Tolle. 2004. 224 pgs. Paper. $14.00. New World Library.

Yesterday no longer exists. Prove it ever did. Tomorrow hasn’t happened yet. Prove it ever will. 1 minute ago is gone and 1 minute from NOW isn’t here yet. The only thing that actually exists is right now is NOW. Oops! It’s gone.

Applied to sales it means yesterday’s sales or failures don’t matter right NOW. Whatever you got going after work is irrelevant right NOW. Your success is not off in some distant future. Your success is based on what you do right NOW. Get back to work and make a deal happen. Tolle wrote this book about life. Whatever you’re doing and wherever you are is your life. Live it. It’s easy to be all holy and spiritual off in some ashram. Try doing it as a commission only sales rep with mortgage payments and kids to feed. This book should help.

Eckhart Tolle

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Malcom Gladwell. 2002. 304 pgs. Paperback. $14.99. Back Bay Books.

Kids do grow up behind your back. Growth is nonlinear – not gradual. A kid can literally grow half an inch overnight. This is essentially nonintuitive and I bet you didn’t know it.

That’s why you need this book. It explains how change happens and it’s a real eye opener. Memes, or idea viruses, are concepts that get spread by word-of-mouth (or e-mail and so on). The “Typhoid Marys” are the influencers (Connectors, Mavens, and Salesman) among us – those in the know that everybody turns to for advice and to find out “what’s happening.” Get your message to this elite group and watch out – the word will get out fast. Good or bad – and this is not a minor issue. If these influencers pan you it can kill you. Just like (the late) Siskel and (still kickin) Ebert do with a new movie – thumbs up or thumbs down. Checkit.



V. Motivation Industry

SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless
Steve Salerno. 288 pgs. 2006. Paper $13.95. Three Rivers Press.

An important work on a topic critical to sales professional. You no doubt have your favorite motivational guru. Have you ever dared to doubt what you are hearing? To measure results?

Excerpt from the Introduction:
One camp, Victimization, has eroded time-honored notions of personal responsibility to a probably irrevocable degree, convincing it’s believers that they’re simply pawns in a hostile universe, that they can never escaper their pasts (or their biological makeup). The other camp, Empowerment, has weaned a generation of young people on the belief that simply aspiring to something is the same as achieving it, that a sense of “positive self-worth” is more valuable than developing the talents or skills that normally win recognition from others. Those in the second category approach life as if it were an endless succession of New Year’s resolutions: It’s always what they’re going to do. Meanwhile the months and years pass.
Steve Salerno

Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America
Barbara Ehrenreich. 256 pgs. 2009. Hardcover. $23.00. Metropolitan Books.

A courageous snub to a society that prefers mysticism to reality and want something for nothing. There exists only a few books nay, thousands aye, the nays have it right.

Barbara Ehrenreich


VI. Marketing

Free: The Future of a Radical Price
Chris Anderson. 288 pgs. 2009. Paper $26.99. Hyperion.

A strange disconcerting romp through the New Economy where products are free, and the more you give away the richer you get. I remember a comment from a business owner when I offered him new technology that was rapidly displacing the old, that he needed to stay alive in his business…. He said he would be retiring soon and happy about it since he wouldn’t have to deal with all the changes. Book your flight to Florida or buy this book.

Chris Anderson

The Winner Take All Society: Why the Few at the Top Get So Much More Than the Rest of Us
Robert H. Frank, Philip J. Cook. 288 pgs. Paper $12.95. Penguin.

Why does one actor get $20 Million for a movie while thousands of others wait tables? Same situation for best seller books. This is meta-marketing at its best. If you want to be in the winners circle – get this book fast!


Selling the Dream: How to Promote Your Product, Company, or Ideas – and Make a Difference – Using Everyday Evangelism
Guy Kawasaki. 1991. 352 pgs. Paper $11.00. Harper Business.

This is the best book on sales that you probably haven’t read yet. Product features and technology don’t matter. Business plans are a dime a dozen. Buildings are mere boxes for what really counts – people. It’s the dream that makes miracles happen. People want their lives to have meaning. To be a part of something bigger than themselves. The key is to sell a dream that someone can believe in and is predisposed to buy. Guy was the software evangelist at Apple when Jobs first ran the place and knows what he speaks.

Garage Technology Ventures

Focus: The Future of Your Company Depends on It
Al Ries. 1996. 320 pgs. Paper $14.00. Harper Business.

Big companies with successful brands start to feel invincible. They repeat the same mistake over and over – merge or buy unrelated companies, lose your ass, split up or sell off. There is a scene in the movie Patton, where the general, played by George C. Scott, relates a tale from ancient Rome. A returning conquering hero is riding a chariot into the great city to the wild cheers and tossed flowers of an adoring crowd. A slave is whispering in his ear “this too will pass” to remind him that victory is fleeting. Stick to your knitting like FedEx does. Don’t be another AT&T which announces an alliance or purchase a day and is losing the long distance battle in the meantime.

Ries & Ries


VII. Practical Business

The Obsolete Employee: How Businesses Succeed Without Employees – And Love It!
Michael J. Russer. 2007. 240 pgs. Hardcover. $24.95. Virtual Source Press.

The employer / employee relationship is a legal nightmare that is not required – even though most act as if it is written in stone. You have options, both as a company owner and as a worker. Virtual outsourcing is the model for this new century, and millenium. It largely removes the government from the equation to the benefit of both parties. Owners and workers both gain freedoms and tax advantages. This is a rare find on this critical topic.

Online Dominance

Extraordinary Guarantees: Achieving Breakthrough Gains in Quality & Customer Satisfaction
Christopher Hart. 1998 (rev). 176 pgs. Paper. $24.95. Spire Group.

If you’re product is so great, why don’t you stand behind it? It’s amazing how shortsighted businesses can be. They are so focused on the few percent of customers that may abuse a warranty or returns policy, that they penalize all of their customers. Have you ever been to a retail store that has a bad check taped to the cash register? And the sign saying “no personal checks?” What does this say to everybody that walks through the door? It says “we think our customers are crooks and don’t trust you.” Great marketing idea, eh?

Having a chincy restricted warranty with lot’s of fine print says basically that you have no faith in your product or don’t trust your customers. Neither of which makes people eager to do business with you. Contrast this with companies like Nordstrom’s that not only has an unconditional customer satisfaction guarantee, but has been known to take back products and give customers money back on items that were not even purchased at one of their stores! Anything to keep people happy, engender goodwill, and ensure repeat business, referrals, and positive word-of-mouth testimonials. Like the one I just gave them.

Look at your company’s policies from a potential customers point of view and make up your own mind on what to do next. And oh yeah – buy this book which is the only one I have seen on the topic and covers it extremely well.

Spire Group

Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home
David Shipley & Will Schwalbe. 2007. 256 pgs. Hardcover. $19.95. Knopf.

Are you sick of emails with irrelevant subject headers, or worse, replies to an email sent long ago with a completely unrelated message? Well, so am I. Do you cringe with idiotic usage of all caps, or no caps, or emoticons that remind you of grade school? There may be no commonly accepted email etiquette but this book seeks to establish one. It succeeds. Read it, use it, or risk being perceived as functionally illiterate.

Wiki David Shipley

The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done
Dave Crenshaw. 2008. 144 pgs. Hardcover. $19.95. Jossey-Bass.

Ask people… are you a good driver? good looking? smart? and the vast majority will say yes. This is a mathematical impossibility but facts won’t get in the way of perceptions. Ask if they can “multitask” and of course they say yes. Just like they believe the can drive and operate a cell phone at the same time.

I hate multitasking. I love intense concentration, focused awareness, almost a meditative state. Flow is attained, time flies, and I crank out work like magic.

You of course won’t need this book…buy it for somebody else that does.

Dave Crenshaw


VIII. Not in the Other Boxes

The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America
John D. Gartner. 2005. 368 pgs. Hardcover. $26.00. Simon & Schuster.

Some of the best, most wildly outrageously successful closers I have ever seen, were (obvious to me but not to them) crazy. More specifically bipolar. Turns out that many famous entrepreneurs and other notables through history were bipolar. Being bipolar has it’s advantages and some serious prices that go with it.

Hypomanic Edge