I remember one of the first MPS training sessions I sat in on, back in 2007. It was conducted by Steven Power. He admitted to taking his “how to sell copiers” material and molding the curriculum into “how to sell MPS.” Truthfully— and to his credit — the class could have been applied to ANY industry and type of B2B sales.
Which is why I paid attention and remember it to this day.
Since then, I’ve been a party to hundreds of different sales classes, seminars and symposiums.
Most have been forgotten for three reasons:
- They were purely product-oriented.
- They offered re-tread subject matter.
- They were obviously presented by someone who has never sold or been challenged in the field.
Of all the memorable sales presentations I’ve seen, the lasting impressions have come from folks outside the sales realm. A handful of examples are Tiki and Ronde Barber, Bo Schembechler, Lou Holtz, Dick Vitale, Dan Roam, D. Michael Abrashoff, Tony Robbins and Dr. Dyer.
Over your career, you’ll see many speakers and read dozens — if not hundreds — of books, and that’s a good thing. You are encouraged to self-educate, expand your sales knowledge and increase business acumen.
I’ve built up a basic regimen of timeless sources of knowledge and insight. Books, movies and themes which stand the test of time, translating from industry to industry. Some are selling-centric, others pure entertainment.
By no means is this list definitive or absolute. Indeed, I urge you to put together a library of knowledge and inspiration of your own.
Here is a miscellany of inspiring and educational books I’ve collected along the way:
“It’s Your Ship” by D. Michael Abrashoff
Every new leader or salesperson will get much out of this book. It’s about a Navy captain challenged to take on one of the lowest-ranked ships in the fleet. Through different ideas, he built one of the best crews in the Navy. His stories are applicable to any selling or management team.
Leadership through adversity with empathy.
“Strategic Selling” by Robert B. Miller and Stephen E. Heiman
This book presents the act of selling as a joint venture and introduced the concept of “win-win.” It is a great method for mapping out an opportunity and recognizing the classic four buying influences. The approach was radical when it came out, but is standard fare today.
Despite being designed for large account sales, the application is relevant for all sales. It is a black and white program that applies quantifiable ideas to the selling cycle.
This book helped me organize complex selling scenarios, recognize obstacles and define approaches for moving toward a goal. As an aside, I was able to easily describe every opportunity and the chances of success to my manager and co-workers.
This one’s a classic.
“State of Fear” by Michael Crichton
This book is a tech-thriller displaying how people can be manipulated by outside influences, hidden agendas and spun facts.
In sales, we must recognize agendas swirling around us at all times — the manipulations of commission plans, quotas and external agendas. “State of Fear” is chock-full of statistics and descriptions of these situations.
“Cold Calling Techniques (That Really Work)” by Stephen Schiffman
Don’t tell me cold calling on the phone is dead, or even different. All the cold calling in the world still benefits from the timeless advice that Mr. Schiffman doles out.
This book is many years old and uses custom-fitted suits as an example. Don’t be fooled, the hints and tactical lessons are timeless.
“Guerrilla Marketing” by Jay Conrad Levinson
This book was one of the first to show the SMB how to stretch marketing boundaries by getting the attention of the public. Guerrilla marketing was done in public places such as shopping centers, parks or beaches to attract a big audience.
Of course, this was before the internet, yet the concepts are foundational and apply today, especially with social media.
The public square is online.
I could go on, but you get my point — sales materials do not need to be strictly about selling. Selling is life. Telling stories, convincing others, talking about ideas and the impact of transformation is the stuff of good theatre, of fiction and drama.
Finding guidance and inspiration is an intimate quest. Above all, I recommend looking at everything, consuming as much content as possible, and whatever sticks in your mind is something you should consider keeping close.