The Three Best Sales Books You Need to Read

I have been asked what the best books on selling are on more than one occasion. Obviously I am predisposed to Rick Page’s Hope Is Not A Strategy, seeing that I worked for the man for over two years. That notwithstanding, it is perhaps the only primer you need on strategizing a multi-vendor, multi-decision maker, big ticket sale. Rick takes the concept of strategic selling from B2B to P2P or peer to peer. Not only should you understand the pains of the company – but the individual decision makers – then tailor your message to solving those pains on a one-off basis. Genius really – but Rick’s book strictly covers deal strategy. You can compliment it very well with these books – I humbly submit:

Selling to Big Companies: Jill Konrath. I love this book. Jill does an extraordinary job of getting you in the mind of the buyer. Your buyer is busy, he doesn’t return solicitations, and he doesn’t care about your solution. Trust me; now that I am literally on the other side of the desk I experience these truisms every day. What I care about, and your buyer as well, is how you can help me take one thing off of my plate and give me one more hour with my kids. How can you learn what’s on my plate, “use the news.” Jill introduces the concept of triggering event selling, meaning we can get a glimpse of what will entice our prospects to buy by linking into their press releases. Although written in 2005, read this book to get a primer on modern day demand creation. Schiffman, Boylan and Parinello write books that can help you get the appointment, but Jill’s book will help you get the deal.

SPIN Selling: Neil Rackham. This book introduces the tactic of probing for pain in that we first need to diagnose before we prescribe. Neil was hired in the 70’s to find the one common trait that all successful sales people had at Xerox. What he found was the sales people that were most successful listened two times more than those who were not. The SPIN Selling technique was introduced to replicate the art of listening. Situation, Problem, Implication, Need. We must first understand our buyer’s environment, the problems within that environment, the impact those problems cause and what is needed to solve those problems. Bosworth’s Solution Selling and Customer Centric Selling basically take the pain-based selling concept and retool it with additional steps. However, SPIN has four steps – the only four steps you need to probe for pain.


Digital Body Language / Lead Generation for the Complex Sale


An amazing book has been written by fine folks at Eloqua and a follow up White Paper that you can download here called Digital Body Language. The premise is that by using Eloqua’s tracking capabilities, sellers can now know when their prospects hit their website, what pages they go to, and how often they do so. By creating an algorithm that weights all three – our prospects score themselves and sellers use that score to triage their selling efforts. As an example, pages on your website that indicate cursory interest like the home page result in a low score. Pages that reflect deep interest like an online demo and customer testimonials reflect a much higher score. The number of times that individual returns to these pages acts as a multiplier thus giving them their final tally.

Brian Carroll of InTouch writes a fantastic book and subsequent e-book entitled Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. You can download it here. Brain describes lead generation as multimodal in that successful companies are working in 9 different areas to create demand – and I will add a 10th for Social Media:

1. Branding – Advertising, Associations, and Sponsorships
2. Public Relations – Editorials, Public Speaking, Press Releases, and News Coverage
3. Web Site – Search Engine Optimization, Landing Pages, Blogs, Podcasts, E-books, and RSS Feeds
4. Events – Seminars, Workshops, Webinars, Tradeshows, and Conferences
5. Phone Calls – Cold Calls, Top-Down Dialing, and Voice Mails
6. E-mail – One to One, One to Many, and HTML updates
7. Online Marketing – Organic Search, Paid Search, Newsletter Sponsorships, Portals, and Banners
8. Direct Mail – White Papers, Post Cards, Invites, amd Personal Letters
9. Referrals – Vendors, Consultants, Customers, and Partners
10. Social Media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkledIn, YouTube, and MySpace

By using the multimodal approach we can ensure that we are engaging our prospects in a manner that they prefer and before they are ready to make a purchasing decision. Then, we can track their digital body language as they begin to show interest in our solution. As a longtime sales person who has driven blindly for so long – all I can say is Hooray! As Mike Scher of Frontline Selling has so aptly framed, “Successful demand creation should be a farming exercise, not a hunting event. After all, we as a society began to progress when went from hunter / gatherers to farmers.”

The Knowing-Doing Gap

Knowing Doing Gap 2

The knowing-doing gap was originally defined by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton in their book, The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action.

Pfeffer and Sutton identify the knowing-doing gap as the most menacing phenomenon most organizations face. This phenomenon costs billions of dollars and failures of all kinds. Simply put, the knowing-doing gap addresses the idea that organizations are aware of the best practices, competencies, skills, and behaviors needed to make them successful, yet for some reason this knowledge is not implemented and executed upon. Common knowledge is not always common practice.

At The Complex Sale, we see this on every one of our engagements.  We have come up with a system to help companies uncover what their “knowing-doing” gap is by creating a best practices benchmark. Simply stated, as sales leaders, we can positively increase revenue by one of three ways, create more demand, win more deals, or sell more to the base of accounts. This is the Create, Win, Grow model. We have seen that the most successful companies best impact these three pillars of revenue by first implementing an effective and repeatable process, executing effectively upon that process, and drive success from the management level. A visual of what best practices in a sales organizations would look like is this 3 x 3 grid:


3x3 grid

From this understanding – we ask our clients this, “How important is this best practice to the success of your organization and how well are you doing it?” We find that it is easier to quantify these questions on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest on both questions). From the results we are able to get a great understanding of a client’s knowing doing gap. The chart at the top of the blog shows how we can extrapolate results from asking these questions and get a visual on where an organization should be focusing its efforts for process improvement.

I also wanted to let you know about Rick Page’s new blog

Check it out!

Think Like Your Customer

I just finished reading Bill Stinnett’s book, “Think Like your Customer” and I was very impressed with how well he understands the customer’s side of the sales process. I recommend the book highly for a couple of key concepts:


A à B à C


The concept of your product or service being the means rather than an end isn’t new, however I haven’t seen it crystallized as well as Stinnett puts it in the A à B à C analogy. Where the company is today is the A, where the company wants to be tomorrow is the C, we as a vendor must provide the B vehicle to get the there. However, we must first understand the A and the C before we can recommend the B. What a simple but fantastic way to take the attention off of our product and put it back where it should always be – the customer.

Sales 2.0

I recently read Anneke Seeley and Brent Holloway’s new book Sales 2.0 – because just like many of you – I am fascinated by the topic.  Here is how the authors define the term:


Sales 2.0 is the use of innovative sales practices, focused on creating value for both buyer and seller and enabled by Web 2.0 and next-generation technology. Sales 2.0 practices combine the science of process-driven operations with the art of collaborative relationships, using the most profitable and most expedient sales resources required to meet customers’ needs. This approach produces superior, predictable, repeatable business results, including increased revenue, decreased sales costs, and sustained competitive advantage.”


Stu Shmidt, VP of WebEx was interviewed by AllBusiness and was asked the same, “what is Sales 2.0?”



We are seeing a lot of successful sales teams get it right.


1st Define your go to market strategy by how your customers buy

2nd Define the Best Practices of your Sales Cycle

3rd Automate tactical steps where applicable with emerging technologies

4thDisintermediate when necessary – But don’t take the strategy out of your sale


This fourth point is particularly important because we have seen a precipitous drop in FORECASTED deals recently because sales people are getting too far removed from the decision-making process.


Companies don’t buy anything, people make purchases. Many times there are multiple-decision makers each with their own agenda. We need to know the pain points of these decision-makers and their personal agendas to build competitive preference for our solution.  Without this knowledge – we have no idea why our solution is better than the alternative or not doing anything at all. How can anyone accurately forecast a deal without this information?


Sales 2.0 is not a license to usher more opportunities through the funnel with less impact on them. Sales 2.0 is a vehicle to get the right message, to the right person, at the right time to facilitate our sales strategy.  



By the way – I highly recommend the book Sales 2.0. Here is what LinkedIn members are saying about it   LinkedIn Book Review – Sales 2.0 !







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