As you probably know if you follow this column, I select the best books published over the past 12 months in several categories, culminating in my Best Business Books of the Year, which will post on December 16th. If you're keeping score, the winners so far are:
In previous years, I've had separate categories for sales and marketing books. I'm combining them this year because, frankly, most sales books seem to rehash the same old stuff. There just isn't enough original material being written to justify an entire category.
Later this week, I'll name the best management books of the year, so (again) stay tuned!
Subtitle: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade
Author: Robert Cialdini
Why It's Worth Reading: Cialdini's classic work, Influence, added some real science to the art of sales and marketing. In this sequel, he extends his original work and reveals how the human mind works in buying situations. Essential stuff.
Best Quote: "Researchers have been applying a rigorous scientific approach to the question of which messages lead people to concede, comply, or change. They have documented the sometimes staggering impact of making a request in a standard way versus making the identical request in a different, better-informed fashion. Besides the sheer impact of obtained effects, there is another noteworthy aspect of the results; the process of persuasion is governed by psychological laws, which means that similar procedures can produce similar results over a wide range of situations."
2. Be Obsessed or Be Average
Author: Grant Cardone
Why It's Worth Reading: Occasionally, I find a book that's good enough to land into two categories. Cardone's most recent book qualified as both a great motivational book and a great sales guide. Fun read!
Best Quote (still IMHO): "When you become unapologetically obsessed, as I am, you'll be at your very best: hyperfocused, persistent beyond understanding, creative to the point of appearing magical, and with an insatiable determination to win that not only attracts great talent but also brings out the best in others. This level of obsession doesn't mean you are selfish or self-centered; it means that you're finally operating at the levels you are always meant to and that you can pull others around you up to their full potential and possibilities."
3. The Conversion Code
Subtitle: Capture Internet Leads, Create Quality Appointments, Close More Sales
Author: Chris Smith
Why It's Worth Reading: It never ceases to amaze me how many marketers and business people still believe that 1) people want more information and 2) the purpose of a website is to provide more of it. Good grief! We've known for decades that brochure-ware websites don't create sales; they block them. The only reason for a business to have a website is to convert prospects into customers. This book helps you focus on this single, most important aspect of your online presence.
Best Quote: "When building your website or landing pages (or changing and improving the ones you may already have), a 'conversion-first' approach to design and user experience is a must. In the real world, before you invite anyone over for dinner you clean your house. Online is no different. Before we can send traffic to our website, we need to make sure it will convert. Sadly, I see far too many companies that have a website so poorly designed that they are even willing to admit they wouldn't hire themselves based on it."
4. The Power of Broke
Subtitle: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage
Authors: Daymond John and Daniel Paisner
Why It's Worth Reading: Like many sales books, TPoB draws heavily upon the author's personal experiences. In this case, though, the experience is unusual enough and desperate enough that it's truly compelling.
Best Quote: "Let's face it, when you're up against all odds, when you've exhausted every opportunity, when you're down to your last dime ... that's when you've got no choice but to succeed. You're out of options, man. So you double down, dig deep, and switch into that relentless turbo mode we've all got kicking around in our machinery. And that's when the real magic happens."
5. Small Data
Subtitle: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends
Author: Martin Lindstrom
Why It's Worth Reading: It turns out that big data, far from being the fountain of market wisdom that it's hyped to be, is a collection of context-less data points that reveal almost nothing useful. What's needed for real market research is a deeper understanding of individuals and how they behave in context ... something that can never come from studying large anonymous data sets.
Best Quote: "We are never truly ourselves on social media, and when we communicate anonymously, the result lacks any context that our offline lives might provide and enrich. Online, what we leave behind is largely considered and strategic, whereas the insides of your refrigerators and dresser drawers are not, as they were never intended for public exhibition. Considering that 90 percent of what people give off in conversation are nonverbal signals, our truest identities can be found by studying who we are in our real lives, culture, and countries. This amalgamation of gestures, habits, likes, dislikes, hesitations, speech patterns, decors, passwords, tweets, status updates, and more is what I call small data."
6. The Art of People
Subtitle: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want
Author: Dave Kerpen
Why It's Worth Reading: While the "enneagram of personality" test upon which this book is based is obviously pseudoscience (because it can't be tested accurately enough to be proven wrong), it does provide a usable philosophy of human behavior that's at least as accurate as the other methods (like Myers-Briggs) touted in the corporate world.
Best Quote: "Self-awareness is the fundamental building block of the art of people. You can't understand or influence others until you fully understand yourself at a deep level."
7. Hug Your Haters
Subtitle: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers
Author: Jay Baer
Why It's Worth Reading: The advent of customer review sites has turned customer satisfaction into a spectator sport. Most companies have no clue whatsoever how to deal with complaints that go public. I might note that a friend of mine whose family owns a huge furniture store increased storewide sales 20 percent by answering Yelp reviews as recommended in this book.
Best Quote: "Answering complaints increases customer advocacy across all customer service channels. The effect is present in every venue where you interact with customers. If you answer complaints anywhere, it increases advocacy. It takes a bad situation and makes it better. Conversely, not answering complaints decreases customer advocacy across all customer service channels. The negative effect of staying silent is also universal. When you don't answer complaints--even in venues where lack of response is more common (like online review sites)--customer advocacy decreases. It takes a bad situation and makes it worse."