When I first started in sales management, I messed up, often. I thought the reason I was promoted was that I was good enough. In reality, I had the potential to be good enough, and that potential is what the bosses saw, yet I was nowhere near where I should have been.
I had great coaches and mentors, and eventually I learned to manage and lead from those around me.
One of my mentors came to me and asked, "We have been seeing some great growth the past few weeks. What can we attribute that to?" I provided some canned answer about being more proactive. Then he said, "Oh, you haven't been writing down what you guys are doing differently now? So, where are you on your top-line close ratios? How are your performance reviews coming?" I didn't have a single answer. I wasn't doing any of it. And I didn't apply my new experiences with a long-term perspective. I knew I needed to change.
So I did. I started reading and writing, and then applying what I read. That is when our sales started to increase, our performance improved, and we started to really help the customer.
As a sales leader, you need to know what to do and how to do it.
You need to:
- Train, monitor, and coach your team.
- Create and execute strategy.
- Perform executive cross-functional collaboration.
- Sell to the c-suite and close the largest deals.
Not an easy task.
After reading hundreds of sales books, I found eight that sales VPs, directors, or managers should study to become the best at what they do: help their teams sell. These books, when read, studied, and applied, will give you the greatest advantage in leading your team efficiently and effectively.
Here are the eight books that every sales leader should read, in this order:
1. Sales Management. Simplified. by Mike Weinberg
A no-nonsense approach to mastering the mindset of sales leadership. You will understand the 16 basic sales management errors and how to create a strong sales culture for your sales team. You will be able to match high performers with the right roles and coach your underperformers. You will learn how to run sales meetings better, which leads to better coaching and performance.
2. Sell With a Story by Paul Smith
All great salespeople know how to tell great stories. It is the same for sales leaders. This book will help you understand the impact stories can have, craft the right stories the right way, and know which stories to use in every selling situation.
3. Combo Prospecting by Tony J. Hughes
As a sales VP, director, or manager, you know that your pipeline must be full. While there are tons of resources on prospecting available, doing it the right way in today's distracted world is often hard to do. This book gives you the game plan that will help your team fill their sales pipeline.
4. Sales Manager Survival Guide by David A. Brock
A step-by-step, detailed guide to the best practices, metrics, and processes a sales leader needs to know. It helps you with coaching, recruiting, and performance management. Follow this book for everything you need to do to effectively drive sales growth.
5. Coaching Salespeople Into Sales Champions by Keith Rosen
Training is not coaching. Until you coach your team, you are not going to get the results you want. Coaching salespeople requires a unique set of skills. This book will give you the tools and methods you need to become an effective sales coach.
6. Beyond the Sales Process by Steve Andersen and Dave Stein
This book helps you drive strategy, alignment, and messaging. As a sales leader, you need to be able to craft the messaging and form value-based relationships. You need to help others see the vision and maximize potential. This book helps you capture your company's value for your customers.
7. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz
If you don't know it, how can you teach it? The ultimate book on negotiation from the FBI's lead hostage negotiator. The only book on negotiation that you need to read.
8. The Challenger Customer by Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, Pat Spenner, and Nick Toman
To win complex business, you need careful sales orchestration. This book shows you whom you need to talk with and how to help them help themselves. As a sales leader, this book will help you guide your team when the stakes are the highest.
Selling is hard work. It requires a human and customer-centric approach. Nothing takes the place of experience; reading accelerates the application of your experiences. The more you read, the more you can learn. To be the best and inspire others, take what you learn and help make those around you better.
The more you can help your team sell, the more valuable you will become.