Must-Read Books for Sales Managers

By Heather Baldwin

Have you ever walked into a big bookstore intending to choose one or two new business books? It’s not as easy as it sounds. With new titles published every day, you literally have hundreds of books to choose from and probably only a vague idea of where to start. To help you head straight for the best, Selling Power talked with Chris Murray, who, as editor in chief of Soundview Executive Book Summaries, evaluates more than 1,000 business books a year and selects the 30 best books to summarize for his customers ( Asked to pare down his list of best books even further, Murray recommends these six books, all published in the last two years, as must-reads for sales managers.

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late by Leigh Branham (AMACOM, 2005). More than 80% of managers think people leave for money; 20% actually do. Employees have told Branham – but not the companies they left – that it was push factors related to poor management practices or toxic cultures that drove them out. Murray says this book gives “a really good overview of the issue of employee turnover and what to do about it.”

The Dollarization Discipline: How Smart Companies Create Customer Value…and Profit from It by Jeffrey Fox and Richard Gregory (John Wiley, 2004). Don’t be fooled by the mouthful of a title – this is a great book, says Murray. It goes beyond today’s ROI trend to discuss how companies need to dollarize what they’re giving customers. Too often companies force customers to make financial decisions based on nonfinancial arguments such as product features and benefits. In addition, when companies do try to articulate value, they underestimate it. This book shows how companies can show true financial advantage in real dollars and cents.

How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market by Gerald Zaltman (Harvard Business School Press, 2003). Zaltman takes a detailed look into why approximately 80% of all new products fail within six months or fall significantly short of their profit forecast. He also delves into the importance of memory, metaphor and storytelling in customers’ decision making. This book, says Murray, is packed with unique ideas you won’t find in any other book.

Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes Are High by Jeff Thull (Wiley, 2003). Thull’s book lays out an intelligent four-step methodology for complex or strategic sales. The book presents Thull’s Prime Process, a diagnostic, customer-centered approach that positions sales reps as a valued and trusted advisors.

The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome: How Good Managers Cause Great People to Fail by Jean-Francois Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux (Harvard Business School Press, 2002). Murray says this book offers a unique perspective on managing people. It looks at how leaders unwittingly set up some of their subordinates to fail and mismanage many of the people they regard as lower-than-average performers. After discussing the various causes and effects of this behavior, the authors present assorted remedies, a framework for interventions and a litany of preventive measures.

Time Traps: Proven Strategies for Swamped Salespeople by Todd Duncan (Nelson Business, 2005). Almost every sales professional has complained at one time or another that there aren’t enough hours in a day. This book takes a hard look at six common time traps salespeople fall into and how to get out of them. Murray says all the examples in Time Traps are about salespeople and that Duncan offers some new ideas Murray hasn’t seen elsewhere.