Read these to grow Sales and energize your sales force

Being great at selling doesn’t guarantee success in sales management.  These roles are distinct and call for specific skills. While plenty of sales people advance into management positions, they often need training and guidance in running an effective, winning team. Some of that guidance can be found in books written by experts in various aspects of sales management.

I’m often asked for recommendations on sales books. As a follow-up to my blogon sales growth, here are some of my top picks.

Selling with Noble Purpose, by Lisa Earle McLeod. I’m proud that I have personally been covered as a case study by Lisa when I was serving as CEO at getAbstract. To me, noble purpose is the heart of sales management and even corporate strategy. Being customer centric and always focused on delivering meaningful value is key to success. Managers should ask their reps about the difference they are making for customers, not just about their financial results. More in my earlier blog about this topic.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, by Marshall Goldsmith. The author, a top CEO coach, provides practical tips on overcoming 20 workplace habits that often keep successful people from making the next big leap forward (such as moving from sales rep to manager).As you aim to grow your company and team, achieve sales success and advance your own career, the behaviors that brought you to where you are today are, very often, not what will get you to the next level of success. Follow Marshall’s tips – I try to!

The Weekly Coaching Conversation, by Brian Souza. Coaching benefits everyone, not just new managers. Did you know that the relationship with the boss is the most important reason why sales reps succeed -- or get discouraged and quit? This book, based on five years of research, explains how to coach your sales professionals into high-performing team players who collaborate well with each other and their manager.

Compensating the Sales Force, by David J. Cichelli. While a good relationship with your sales team is critical, let’s face it – compensation is the top motivator. All sales professionals are, to some extent, “coin operated”; if you pay more, then they work harder. Designing the right compensation model comes down to linking “what you pay for” to the “behavior you want.”  Different roles, industries and sales models have unique best practices.  This is a fairly technical book that can help if you want to go deep on the subject. You will learn how to drive behaviors with tailored incentive plans.

Predictable Revenue, by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler. Since we’re on the subject of money, here’s a book whose co-author, Aaron Ross, helped grow revenues from $5 million to $100 million. It covers the “science” of the sales cycle by offering a prescriptive way to achieve predictable, repeatable, scalable revenue. Keys include consistent processes around sales stages; dedicated sales development programs and organizational best practices around talent requirements. The concepts in this book have been covered in other places as well, but are critical to scale up sales. 

The Sales Acceleration Formula, by Mark Roberge. This book by the former SVP of HubSpot also takes a scientific approach, with four sales formulas – including one for sales management and one for sales hiring. I really loved the list of top attributes to hire for, including coachability and natural curiosity (being nosy), which I discuss in my blog

The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. While natural curiosity is innate, other desirable sales traits can be taught. Based on extensive research, the authors identified five distinct sales rep profiles. I especially like the “Challenger” profile: these reps teach customers, tailor their value proposition to the customer’s business, and take charge of the sales cycle. If you think you are a good sales rep, read this to learn how to be a GREAT one; then teach your team!

The final two books on my list cover big ideas and concepts. Growth Hacker Marketing, by Ryan Holiday, may not seem relevant to sales management, but it explains how to make your product or service go viral by persuading early adopter customers to sell it for you. Use these concepts in selling. Contagious: Why Things Catch On is a discussion by Jonah Berger (a Wharton School of Business professor) about why certain brands become popular and others don’t. Six ingredients, including triggers, emotions and stories, can be used to make a product contagious. Those ingredients are also highly relevant during the sales process and for leading a sales team.

What’s on your list of valuable and insightful sales management books – and why? We would love to hear from you.