31 best sales books for leveling up your sales game in 2020
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett spends most of his day doing it. Bill Gates swears by it. Mark Cuban spends three hours of every day on it.
There are few practices more consistently proven to directly improve your life (and selling abilities) than reading.
Researchers have found that reading helps prevent stress, depression, and dementia, while also enhancing confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction.
Not only that, but reading the right books can lead to higher income and more meaningful careers.
Tom Corley, author of Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, found that in almost all cases, people who make more than $160,000 a year read for self-improvement, education, and success. While those with an annual income of $35,000 or less read almost primarily to be entertained.
Books are modern-day mentors. They’re like having unparalleled access to the greatest minds of our generation and generations past. Which is why it’s so important to carve out time in your day to sit back and plow through some pages.
To help point you in the right direction, we combed the must-read lists of some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, as well as the team here at Close, to put together our list of the top 31 sales books of all time.
But first, here’s how to get the most out of reading these sales books
While it’s easy enough to talk about what to read. It’s just as important to understand how to read. And no, I’m not saying I think you’re illiterate! It’s simply that it’s all too easy to get into a book, rip through the pages, and come out on the other end saying ‘what did I just read?’
To get the most out of the sales books we’re suggesting below, you need to understand why we remember certain things and forget others.
When it comes to reading, we can think of memory as being made up of 3 factors:
- Impression: Have a specific goal in mind before, or read the ending first
- Association: Connect what you’re reading to ideas and theories you already know
- Repetition: Engage with the material after you’ve finished reading by writing a high-level overview or talking about it with your team
You need to engage with all of these in order to remember what you’ve read and be able to use it later on. And while there’s lots of practical ways to make sure you’re hitting all these points while reading, the key is to simply remember that you’re reading for a reason. Take notes in the margin. Highlight passages. Talk about what you’re reading with people at work or at home.
Reading with intention like this will make sure you’re not just flipping pages and will actually have something actionable when you finally get to the back cover.
Now, let’s get into the sales books!
The Essential Sales Books
These are the sales books that every salesperson at any level should read. They cover the basics of what it is to sell, how to negotiate, the psychology of pitching, and more.
Why you should read this book: Daniel Pink is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post best-selling author who completely destroys and disproves every outdated stereotype about sales in this fantastic book. If you want to understand the modern sales landscape and the psychology of selling anything, pick this one up.
Key Quote: “Anytime you're tempted to upsell someone else, stop what you're doing and upserve instead.”
Why you should read this book: What if you knew what your sales lead was going to do before you ever spoke to them? The internet has led to such a proliferation of data that we can predict behaviors based on everything from what sports you like to who you voted for. In this sales book, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz digs deeper and offers up revealing truths about how we think and feel as humans.
Key Quote: “First, and perhaps most important, if you are going to try to use new data to revolutionize a field, it is best to go into a field where old methods are lousy.”
Why you should read this book: This is the book that redefined how SaaS sales teams are built. Inside, authors Jacco van der Kooji and Fernando Pizarro distill their decades of combined experience building high performance SaaS teams into a set of highly detailed instructions that will allow sales leaders to design, implement and execute all around sales plans.
Key Quote: “Get the model right in order to avoid losing time. Time is the only resource you can’t replace, and in today’s fast-moving market your competitors are quick to leap ahead of you and cash in on the market you and your marketing dollars created.”
Why you should read this book: Understanding how people are influenced is such an incredibly important part of sales, and Dr. Robert Cialdini is the expert. Influence is the classic text covering the psychology of why people say "yes". And more importantly, how to apply these understandings in your business.
Key Quote: “The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making. In fact, people seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.”
Why you should read this book: One truly great pitch can make your career. Which is exactly what author Oren Klaff, who used his own unique pitching method to raise over $400 million, proves in this fantastic book. Klaff takes a scientific approach to the pitch, outlining the key points every great pitch needs to hit and how exactly to do it:
- Setting the Frame
- Telling the Story
- Revealing the Intrigue
- Offering the Prize
- Nailing the Hookpoint
- Getting a Decision
Key Quote: “No pitch or message is going to get to the logic center of the other person’s brain without passing through the survival filters of the crocodile brain system first. And because of the way we evolved, those filters make pitching anything extremely difficult.”
Why you should read this book: Want to up your negotiating skills? Who better to learn from than a former international hostage negotiator for the FBI. Chris Voss highlights the hard skills and practical principles that helped him save lives, and will help give you an edge in any negotiation.
Key Quote: “Negotiate in their world. Persuasion is not about how bright or smooth or forceful you are. It’s about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea. So don’t beat them with logic or brute force. Ask them questions that open paths to your goals. It’s not about you.”
Why you should read this book: In the world of sales, Zig Ziglar is the giant whose shoulders we all stand on. His pioneering book puts a laser focus on the all-important close, providing hundreds of examples of how to close and questions to ask yourself before you go in for the ‘yes’.
Key Quote: “If you do not believe in your product or service enough to offer it to your own family and friends, then you should question the value of what you are selling.”
Sales Books on Management
If you’re managing a sales team or are a founder running point on sales, knowledge is your best friend. These books cover the nitty gritty of managing a sales team as well as the psychology of management in business.
Why you should read this book: If you’re sick of high-level advice and are ready to dig into the specifics of how a high-functioning sales team works, this is a must read. Authors Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazzana provide the foundational knowledge of what drives sales performance, including:
- How to choose the right processes for your own team
- Which metrics you can "manage" and which ones you can't
- How to prioritize conflicting sales objectives
- How to align seller activities with business results
- How to use a CRM to improve the impact of coaching
Key Quote: “Hiring the right salespeople, deploying them in the right way, targeting the right customers, and selling the right products is the only formula for long-term organizational health.”
Why you should read this book: As a sales manager, one of your most important roles is not just to identify strategies and opportunities, but to get rid of ones that don’t work. Chet Holmes’ book shows you how to focus in on the strategies that are working and systematically improve areas of your business in just an hour a week.
Key Quote: “The one who gives the market the most and best information will always slaughter the one who just wants to sell products or services.”
10. SPIN Selling
Why you should read this book: It might be a few decades old (which means prepare for some outdated references), but the fundamentals presented by author Neil Rackham in SPIN are those that every sales rep needs to know. SPIN, which stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-payoff, turned selling from an art to a science and is a playbook for closing large, complex sales.
Key Quote: “People do not buy from salespeople because they understand their products but because they felt the salesperson understood their problems.”
Why you should read this book: If you don’t know the difference between training and coaching, your sales team will never truly excel. Keith Rosen’s award-winning book looks at the specific methods you can use to not only coach your best performers to get the most out of them, but how to create a culture of coaching at your entire organization. A must-read for anyone who wants to inspire and create a more positive working environment.
Key Quote: “If you do not have a defined process that moves your people forward so they can achieve greater results, then what is it you are managing?”
12. The Art of War
Why you should read this book: Sure, it’s nearly 2000 years old, but Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu’s classic is still the authority on how to handle conflict in the best way possible. The strategies in this book have been applied to everyone from ancient military leaders to modern day politicians and executives.
Key Quotes (we couldn’t pick just one): “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”
“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”
Sales Books on Effective Leadership
Buffett, Gates, Cuban. These avid readers are some of the most influential and inspiring leaders of our generation. These books will help guide you on your own path to greatness.
Why you’ll want to read this book: Authors Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin use examples from Zenefits (which skyrocketed from $1 million to $100 million in two years) to Salesforce (the fastest growing multibillion dollar software company) to describe their 7 Ingredients of Hypergrowth:
- Nail a niche
- Build sustainable systems that creates a predictable pipeline
- Make sales scalable
- Figure out how to double your deal size
- Make sure you can do the time
- Embrace employee ownership
- Define your destiny to make a difference
Key Quote: “Your primary goal should not be to close a deal, but to help your “customers” solve problems and realize success.” - Aaron Ross
Why you should read this book: The metaphor of sales as a battlefield might be overused, but it’s an apt description of how we feel when the stakes are high and we know the competition is always around the corner. That’s why this book, written by two celebrated SEAL veterans (Jocko Willink and Leif Babin), offers so many incredible insights on leading a sales team—and is actually one of my most recommended business books of all time. Extreme Ownership details the mindset and principles that enable the SEALs to succeed and has been used by everyone from startups to Fortune 500 companies,
Key Quote: “The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win—you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail. Though it seems small, that weakness translates to more significant decisions. But if you exercise discipline, that too translates to more substantial elements of your life.”
Why you should read this book: To grow and succeed, we need to believe that we can grow and succeed. Simple right? Yet, how many times have you or your team missed a target or lost an account and thought ‘it was just meant to be?’ In this book, psychologist Carol Dweck drills into the core of having a growth mindset, and how you can inspire yourself and your team to be better than they are today.
Key Quote: “We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”
16. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers
Why you should read this book: Author, entrepreneur, and investor Tim Ferriss’ latest dive into what creates greatness is a monstrous 650-pages of advice from 200+ business gurus including Tony Robbins, Derek Sivers, Daymond John and many more. If you want to be a great leader, Tim lets you learn from the best—regardless of whether or not you're in sales.
Key Quote: “When 99% of people doubt you, you’re either gravely wrong or about to make history.”
17. Never Eat Alone
Why you should read this book: If the son of a small-town steelworker can network his way to a Harvard MBA and features in Forbes, then I listen to him. In this sales book, author Keith Ferrazzi takes all the negative, soul-sucking drudgery of ‘networking’ and outlines how to build connections that matter and get you what you want in life.
Key Quote: “Real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful.”
Why you should read this book: From who we choose to spend our time with to what brand of toothpaste we buy, our emotions are behind every decision we make. Based on answers from over half a million people. Dr. Travis Bradberry shows ways you can develop and grow your emotional intelligence and become more in-tune with the needs and wants of everyone you’re selling to.
Key Quote: “Anyone can become angry—that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, this is not easy.”
19. Ender’s Game
Why you should read this book: Why is this sci-fi novel on the US Marine Corps’ reading list (And on our list of sales books as well)? Orson Scott Card not only tells a fantastic story of futuristic war, but sneaks in some of the best lessons on leadership, teamwork, and empathy—keys to any successful sales team.
Key Quote: “If you try and lose then it isn't your fault. But if you don't try and we lose, then it's all your fault.”
Why you should read this book: Any organization can explain what it does. Some can explain how they do it. But very few can clearly articulate why. This is the focus point of Simon Sinek’s brilliant book. When you’re selling, understanding the why behind your product gives you a leg-up on the competition. It lets you answer questions that go deeper than the surface and prove to your prospect that they need what you’re selling.
Key Quote: “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”
Sales Books for Learning Key Life Lessons
Reading shouldn’t just be about being better at your job. It should be about personal growth and building a better, more successful life for yourself. These sales books cover the spectrum from growing your mental fortitude to learning how to treat people in a respectful manner.
Why you should read this book: There’s a reason this book is so well-regarded in both business schools and personal development circles. Stephen R. Covey has created a guide on living a good, meaningful life, understanding and empathizing with everyone you meet, and setting real, actionable goals (and sales goals, for that matter). If you’re in a slump or need motivation, pick this one up.
Key Quote: “Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).”
22. Rejection Proof
Why you should read this book: Sales can at times feel like a series of rejections. And without the mental fortitude to push through, they can quickly pile up and weigh down your motivation. Luckily for us, the author of this sales book, Jia Jiang decided to go through more rejection than most people can handle, and wrote this book describing the secret of successful asking, how to pick targets, and how to tell when an initial no can be converted into something positive.
Key Quote: “Is your dream bigger than your rejections? If it is, maybe it’s time to keep going, instead of giving up.”
Why you should read this book: As salespeople, it’s often hard to separate the work we do every single day from the rest of our lives. When you’re ‘always on’, it can be hard to tone it down and stop selling to everyone in your life—which author and serial entrepreneur Grant Cardone knows all too well.
But why should we try and turn off the selling in the first place? This sales book takes the traditional idea of selling and puts a fresh spin on it by applying sales techniques and philosophies to every facet of your life, from your career to your love life.
Key Quote: “No person will ever gain true power and stature in the world without the ability to persuade others.”
Why you should read this book: Yes, it was written in the 1930s. Yes, it’s sold more than 15 million copies and is still being taught today. As the title suggests, Dale Carnegie’s bestselling (undercover) sales book teaches you how to effectively work with other people, how to become a better manager, leader and connector. But more than that, it teaches you how to genuinely get along with people and live a happier, more successful life.
Key Quote: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Why you should read this book: There’s no doubting that working in sales is an incredibly stressful life choice. Yet while some of us choose to put our head down and power through the long, tense days, author Jon Kabat-Zinn thinks we can live a better, more meaningful life through meditation. This isn't directly a sales book, but if you’ve been ‘hearing about this mindfulness stuff’ for a while now and want to try to improve your life, lower your stress, and perform better with the time you do spend at work—this is a great place to start.
Key Quote: “You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness. This of course would be an attachment to stillness, and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion. It arrests development and short-circuits the cultivation of wisdom.”
Why you should read this book: Attention and focus are our two most precious resources in our distracted world. Especially in sales, where you constantly need to be looking for leads, researching the market, and understanding your competition, it can be easy to get swept away by distractions. This book by author and Georgetown professor, Cal Newport, changes that. Deep Work is part inspiring stories, part actionable advice on how to build a proper attention-strengthening regime and become a master in your field.
Key Quote: “Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.”
Why you should read this book: First off, it’s got probably the best title of any business book out there. Secondly, Mark Manson’s bestseller is built around the core argument, backed by academic research, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn “lemons into lemonade,” but on learning to stomach the lemons better. It’s about setting realistic expectations for ourselves. Embracing our fears, faults and uncertainties to begin finding the courage, honesty, responsibility we seek.
Key Quote: "Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame."
Books on the Future of Sales
You might think that a book is the last place to look to the future, but big, life-changing ideas are often hidden within well-read tomes. These sales books look at some of the greatest ideas of how to build and grow an influential sales team (and a company in general).
Why you should read this book: Based on a study of thousands of sales reps across many industries, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson found that the best don’t just build relationships, but challenge them. This is one of those unique sales books that takes what you fundamentally think is at the core of sales and flips it on its head. But more than just theory, where Challenger excels is in pinpointing the exact techniques that work so well, and presenting them in a repeatable and teachable way.
Key Quote: “What sets the best suppliers apart is not the quality of their products, but the value of their insight—new ideas to help customers either make money or save money in ways they didn’t even know were possible.”
Why you should read this book: If you keep hearing about how your sales team needs to be data-driven, but still have no idea what that means, venture capitalist Tomasz Tunguz’s book gives a crash course on what the term means for you and your business, and how to transform your team or organization into a data-driven culture.
Key Quote: "...Illusion of validity fools us into believing that gathering more data will help us predict the future better."
Why you should read this book: Every business wants to grow, but how many have actually scaled their sales team effectively? The Formula provided by Mark Roberge here is a step-by-step guide to using data, technology, and inbound marketing to build a massive, scalable, and productive sales team and propel your company to success.
Key Quote: “What is the most important goal the company needs to achieve? Customer count? Profitability? Customer success? Market share? New product distribution? New market penetration?” Then ask yourself, ‘How can the sales compensation plan be aligned with this goal?’ Do not underestimate the power of the compensation plan.”
Why you should read this book: If you haven’t read Hooked, your competition has. And they’re using it against you. Nir Eyal’s book does more than just explain why people love certain products more than others. It gives you a 4-step process based on years of research and countless interviews on how to build a system that brings users and customers back over and over.
Key Quote: “There are three ingredients required to initiate any and all behaviors: (1) the user must have sufficient motivation; (2) the user must have the ability to complete the desired action; and (3) a trigger must be present to activate the behavior.”
What'd we miss?
These sales books contain some of the best research and insight into building, managing, and leading a successful sales team.
But they also cover ways to live a better life. Be happier. And battle the inevitable stress and rollercoaster of emotions that comes from working in sales.
Yet it’s important to remember that reading isn’t a quick fix solution. It’s a long-term, life-changing practice that you need to commit to in order to see results.
So instead of treating this like a sales book summer reading list, treat it like a starting point on your journey to a better life and a better career.
Did we miss your favorite sales book? Share with us below in the comments.
For even more great sales books, download your free Startup Sales Resource Bundle right now. Get 7 Close books—yep, 7— along with email templates, sales scripts, and more.