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Ask HN: Best books or videos to get better at sales?
147 points by zabramow on Sept 17, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 69 comments

The one piece of advice I was given years ago:

There is no such thing as "sales", and you aren't a "salesman". You provide a solution to a problem. Listen, understand, and then offer a solution.

I forgot who told me that but it's fantastic advice. As far as understanding people, the de facto book to read is "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. I'd highly recommend that.

> You provide a solution to a problem. Listen, understand, and then offer a solution.

This becomes clear in the classic "sell me this pen" exercise. First find out about the client, what they do, how they would use the pen. Once you know where their focus is, discussing your solution becomes easy and natural.

Best ... line ... ever

While that's true at the most abstract level, that doesn't mean that there isn't a whole lot one can learn beyond that, for example on recognizing customer archetypes, how to talk to each archetype to gain pathos with them, how to approach new clients, how to handle objections, how (and when) to close, ... So I would definitely say that there is something like sales, and yes it revolves around 'providing solutions', but that doesn't mean that anyone who can provide solutions to problems can bring in revenue.

Carnegie is a useful book for life in general, don't get me wrong - it's just that it's only the 'foundation' of sales and there is a big distance between that foundation and the actual practice of doing sales. Much like algebra is a 'foundation' of programming, yet nobody gets hired to program based on their ability to multiple two numbers.

I think advocating Dale Carnegie is a sign that "the lights are on but nobody is home".

There is a lot of stuff in Carnegie that makes sense, but I have seen people advocate Dale Carnegie and get "upvoted" (or the equivalent) but I think the people who would benefit from Dale Carnegie aren't in a position to really benefit from it.

Can you elaborate?

Y Combinator Sales Summer School: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-K2DHi99oI&list=PLb1c0oEEXW...

This is basically Sales 101. Lecture by Steli Efti, YC founder of the close.io CRM. Insanely valuable.


Y Combinator "How To Start A Startup" Sales: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHAh6WKBgiE

This is held by one of the founder of YC startup Clever, with an emphasis on the earliest stages of sales in a startup.


Tons of specific sales advice on http://blog.close.io , you can find the best by googling "site:blog.close.io" and follow through the links. There is a ton of things I learned from Steli Efti (the guy behind www.close.io CRM and the Sales Summer School), be sure to attend their webinars as well if you're curious.

Steli is great, love all of his podcasts but I have to admit it's a little lacking in depth, the sort you would find when discussing larger sales requiring multiple stakeholders and decision makers.

What I'd love is if close.io took another direction and dove deeper instead of the cliche 'hustle hard'.

:) I'm working with Steli on the content. Just sent you an email - would super appreciate if you find the time to answer. It's the critical feedback like yours that helps us improve and create more valuable content.



Best insight: The biggest misconception is that extraverts are better salesmen cause they're slick talkers. Actually, it's the exact opposite. It's better to let your prospect to most the talking while you listen. Ask them open-ended questions. The more you learn about your prospect, the more effectively you can explain your product solves their specific problems.



Neurolinguistic programming techniques - can be manipulative if used the wrong way but in sales, they really help you gain an advantage or maintain control. Includes how to build rapport quickly, how to maintain your frame regardless of how the other person acts, etc.


Money is the follow-up - creative ways to keep the convo alive without annoying your prospects

There have been several worthy recommendations in this string. Keep in mind, the more you read-- the more data you compile and master the subject. Here are a couple not already mentioned--

The best book I've read in ages on prospecting and business development, New Sales, Simplified by Mike Weinberg. If you read nothing else, Chapter 14: Planning & Executing the Attack is pure protein! http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15863998-new-sales-simpli...

Here's a video presentation by Matt Dixon on The Challenger Sale. It's a bit long, just over an hour. But give it 15 minutes-- you'll see it's solid material. Good insights on how marketing supports & equips sales. Read the book!


These are great books for starting off with the why and how of sales:

Daniel Pink - To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others http://www.amazon.com/Sell-Human-Surprising-Moving-Others/dp...

Dale Carnegie - How to Win Friends & Influence People http://www.amazon.com/How-Win-Friends-Influence-People/dp/06...

As you understand the macro details of sales, the more micro things (tactics, strategies, best practices) are probably best served by specific industry or specific aspects of sales. For example:




I also really like Jason Lemkin and his SaaStr blog: http://www.saastr.com/ Loads of SaaS sales practices on there.

"Sales" is very broad.

My favorite book about the act of selling (i.e. pitching) is "Pitch Anything" - http://www.amazon.com/Pitch-Anything-Innovative-Presenting-P...

If you're looking for an overall sales primer/bible, your best bet is probably The Sales Acceleration Formula http://www.amazon.com/Sales-Acceleration-Formula-Technology-...

"Sales" is a very broad topic. What aspect of sales are you looking to get better at? The initial prospecting and sourcing of qualified leads? Turning leads into opportunities and proposals? Closing opportunities? Or something else such as preventing churn?

I picked up many great tips from Nathan Powell's "The Creative Professional's Guide to Better Proposals". Highly recommended.


Hope you see this.

I'm not going to recommend a book. Pick any book recommended here.(They all give similar advice). And go a step further.

Learn how to use Anki.

Use Anki while reading the book and I guarantee you this - you'll master sales at least 10x faster because..

Because you'll remember to use them instead of jumping from book to book and from course to course.

Hope you heed this advice - you'll be glad you did.

I did not know what Anki was, so I googled it. For anybody else who is wondering: http://ankisrs.net/

I can't recommend "The Little Red Book Of Selling" by Jeffrey Gitomer enough. I have a copy in my desk right now.


Check out anything by Zig Ziglar -> Napoleon Hill -> Andrew Carnegie and Tony Robbins.

People miss that sales is not just technique or what you say but state of mind, belief and confidence.

Stay away from sales only focus books.

If you really want to learn something check "Mastery" by Robert Greene.

Just to add to this list, amything by W. Clement Stone - specifically The Success System That Never Fails.

Definitely check out the Enterprise Sales Guide created by Mickey at Work-Bench. A ton of insight into the art of enterprise selling.


I just finished New Sales Simplified:


If you are responsible for getting new business, it is probably the best sales book I have read. Walks through defining your target customers, creating appropriate messaging to reach out to those customers and how to structure discovery and presentation calls.

Allow me to recommend you a piece of advice rarely followed by others - practice the act of selling every day. That helps enormously to get good at sales (and better than any book).

There are 3 books you should read: SPIN Selling. The Challenger Sale. The Charisma Myth. In that order. You will learn so many jedi mind tricks.

Yes, there is such a thing as sales. But do yourself a favor and don't sell shitty products. There's a wide range of incomes among people selling the best products, and the difference is stuff you can at least read about in those books.

Do you really think it's ethical to give "the jedi mind trick" on someone to make a sale. Really?

I agree with "thinkdevcode" a few messages up. The better solution is find the best solution to the underlying problem. View yourself as a problem solver, rather than a salesman.

I think the phrase "jedi mind tricks" might mean something different to you than me. To me it's basically a sarcastic way of saying "sales training", which is actually not about trickery but does have a bit to do with psychology. To you, it means lying I think?

Read the books and tell me that what they teach is pure trickery. But if you take some of the lessons to heart, magically people might start buying more (maybe a lot more) of what you're selling. It's not because you're being unethical though, you just "know how to sell" aka "know how to structure the delivery of information in a way that increases the odds of an interaction resulting in a monetary transaction".

Sure, think of yourself as a "problem solver" vs a "salesperson" if you prefer ("sales" does have a negative old-timey connotation at this point, which is why it's now often called business development). But that's semantics and it doesn't help the OP get any better at his job if it is indeed in sales (or biz dev, or problem solving, or whatever they're calling trying to generate revenue for a company these days).

"Jedi Mind Trick" strongly implies trickery.

Winning Through Intimidation by Robert Ringer is by far the best sales book I ever read.

His basic premise is that the outcome of any negotiation(especially sales) is inversely proportionate to how intimidated you are by the other person.

His solution is to invest in creating a strong image before selling and using takeaway selling, which is basically taking away the opportunity to do business with you so that they stop thinking about whether they want to buy and start thinking about how to get you to sell to them.

On a side note, Dan Kennedy says,"if you lose a sale because of price, you lose that sale long beforehand." your job is to differentiate yourself and craft a powerful image so they can never even start to compare you to others.


My runner up sales books are:

Be My Guest by Conrad Hilton The Success System That Never Fails by W. clement stone The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Watch all of Brene Browns TED talks about vulnerability. Sales requires trust and trust is built on connection and connection is built by being vulnerable.

I'm surprised that Jordan Belfort hasn't appeared here already. You might know him more appropriately as The Wolf of Wall Street, and its doesn't matter what your opinion of the guy is - he has a natural talent for sales.

As you will note from his material, that there are 3 types of people, those that don't want the product, those that are unsure if they want it, and those that want the product. Sales is about converting those "unsures'" to sure wants.

I would recommend giving the book "The Wolf of Wall Street" a read. His course "Straight Line System" is pretty pricey, but if you have the money or the means, I would recommend this course over any other: http://jordanbelfort.com/sales-order/

I'm a fan of The Challenger Sale, The New Solution Selling and all three books by Jeff Thull: Mastering The Complex Sale, Exceptional Selling and The Prime Solution. I really like Thull's approach, especially his "always be leaving" mindset, as opposed to the old "always be closing" idea. Thull's thinking is much more focused on providing an authentic and honest experience, and genuinely trying to help the customer - as opposed to stuff about how to "trick" the customer into saying yes.

I also like a lot of what I've read from Jeffrey Gittomer and Grant Cardone.

Oh, and The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes as well. He (Chet H.) did a series of videos with Anthony Robbins that is really good. I really recommend watching those.

For books: realize there are multiple kinds of selling.

1) There's things like used cars. Single, moderate sized transactions, one-time. You want to extract the last dollar, force the close, and generally be like...a used car dealer. I know nothing about this.

2) There's consumer products -- worry about the "funnel", advertising, etc.

3) There's the stuff I like -- high dollar, high-complexity, repeated/ongoing transaction. The best books, hands down, are Neal Rackham's SPIN Selling series: http://www.amazon.com/Neil-Rackham/e/B000APLFJK

Our selections from The 100 Best Business Books of All Time were:

-Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith (great look at selling services) -Secrets of Closing The Sale by Zig Ziglar (gets you prepared for objections) -How to Become A Rainmaker by Jeffrey Fox (shortcuts to better sales techniques) -The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer (best first book for first time salespeople)

As mentioned in other posts, I would also add SPIN Selling, Mastering the Complex Sale and The Referral Engine.

"Smart" books in the sales space include Influence, Made To Stick, To Sell Is Human.

For motivation, read more Zig, Tony Robbins, and Dale Carnegie.

You might find books on social psychology helpful.

At one point in his career, my ex was a military recruiter. They get world class sales training. He borrowed my textbook from the social psych class I had taken and I didn't see it again until his tour of duty as a recruiter was over.

I will also recommend "Getting to yes" which is research based and a quick read and "The mind and heart of the negotiator", which is also research based but meatier. I believe there is a free version of the latter available online. These were both required texts for my class on conflict management and negotiation.

Read and listen to everything Steli Efti says -


His book - http://www.startupsalesguide.com/

“The Predictable Revenue Guide To Tripling Your Sales” by Aaron Ross and Jason M. Lemkin - http://www.saastr.com/the-predictable-revenue-guide-to-tripl...

+1 on Predictable Revenue. My only concern is that so much of the focus there seems to be on his one "cold emailing 2.0" technique, which is already starting to become more common, and will probably eventually lose its effectiveness due to over-exposure.

great resources—plus, the close.io blog is fantastic (steli efti's company) with lots of nitty gritty sales tips: close.io/blog.

1. The best book I've read on sales is:

"How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling"(1952) by Frank Bettger

2. Everything at Heavybit is excellent,

their sales videos are very nice:


And an must see video for me was:


holy crap that website is like a gift from the gods

I thought the same when I've stumbled on it.

A couple ones I've read and found quite useful:

Make your contacts count


The science of influence


Grant Cardone's The Closer's Survival Guide.

Get it on Audible: http://www.amazon.com/Closers-Survival-Guide-Third/dp/B00K1O...

I've read a ton of sales books and this is by far the best one. Actionable stuff - no fluff. Great for founders who have trouble getting the deal closed and the cash in the bank.

This podcast isn't active anymore, but I rate it as one of the absolute best resources on B2B sales: http://www.salesroundup.com

Start listening the archives from the beginning or pick your episodes, either way it's one killer virtual coaching program on B2B complex sales, applying many of the mentioned books to practice on strategic and operational level.

Pitch Anything goes in to detail on the psychology of the pitch. It talks about the concept of framing and how you must control the frame to close the deal. Highly recommended. Just read it (well, listened to it) and I feel like reading it again just to catch up on any missing details.

Book homepage is http://pitchanything.com

Big fan of the http://www.salescoach.com/ methodology. I’ve done their in-person trainings and online materials.

After reading lots of sales books this is the technique that works best for me. Companies should do themselves a favor and pay for their teams to level up with better sales skills.

Secrets of Questions Based Selling: http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Question-Based-Selling-Powerfu...

Great book that helped me learn the psychology behind sales.

I found a lot of value in taking a class on the Sandler system. Some of the concepts are packaged up here:


Ymmv but I got a good grip on gimmicks from The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard

Also I can't emphasize this enough



Zero Resistance Selling: http://www.amazon.com/Zero-Resistance-Selling-Maxwell-Maltz/...

on the mindset of sales.

"Glengarry Glen Ross" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104348/

"To Sell is Human" by Dan Pink. It doesn't so much teach you how to sell as to take the perspective of people whom you may want/need to convince or persuade.

Mike Bosworth - Solution Selling - it talks all about consultative selling, listening and walking prospects through a 9 steps process from introduction to close

The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes is fantastic.

I think anything by Zig Ziglar is really good.

"Let's get real or let's not play" by Mahan Khalsa and Randy Illig

Sandler sales - its the book I give to all my new sales reps. Highly recommend!

Im partial to spin selling.

Zig Ziglar

watch "wolf of wall street" and call it a day

I've read SPIN selling and now reading Challenger Sales.

SPIN is much easier to read, know and understand while I found Challenger Sales a lot difficult to follow and put into practice.

Challenger Sale's major premise is the assumption that SPIN selling doesn't work anymore for some reason because of the 2008 recession. I'm not sure how true this assumption is but I'll leave this up for the real sales people.

I'm interested in hacking enterprise sales. ANother HN user's blog on the subject here is excellent as well: http://doanhdo.blogspot.ca/

I can't say that I've actually applied a lot of what's in The Challenger Sale yet, but I really liked the book, and it just feels right on some intuitive level. I'm intrigued enough that it's something I'm making a pointed effort to integrate into my approach.

SPIN is still great. I've heard about Challenger Sales, I'll read it and should have an opinion in a few weeks.

would love ot hear what you think drop me a line at my email if yo ufinish it.

Free books and videos[1]. He looks like a guru... and in a sense he is. The difference is that he doesn't sling cheesy ebooks and mastermind sessions. He doesn't even have a mailing list. The only product that he sells is custom made corporate programs.


Check out this playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkVbIsAWN2lvMDgewjAld...

Louis Rossmann knows his shit

As a side note - I've started a side project called 3 Good Books - a few people have recommended good sales books on there...


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