If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Those who have worked on my team or who I have mentored know that I encourage self-paced learning. Learning is a choice and in our ever-connected world, books are at the learner’s fingertips in all imaginable formats – hard copy, Kindle or as a recorded version via services such as Audible.
This approach often leads new sales leaders to ask me the question: which books should I read?
Here is my list. In no particular order other than the first two books are my all time favorites and absolutely-read-before-starting recommendations:
- Becoming a Manager by Linda Hill – a step-by-step handbook on transitioning from individual contributor to manager. To this day, whenever a salesperson tells me that they are interested in moving to management I give or recommend this book.
- The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins – Whenever I start a new role I re-read this book. As you can see by the picture above it is well worn. Covering topics such as assessing a business, building a plan, working with peers and managing stakeholders. It is invaluable. I own it in all 3 formats – hard copy, Kindle and Audible. Too few leaders enter a new role with a plan.
- Getting Things Done by David Allen – in a mad world with too much information, Allen provides the reader with structure through an organized inbox. This method is hard to adopt and keep implemented, but it works. It also helps new leaders make sense of their workload and manage stress.
- Coaching and Mentoring, Harvard Business Essentials – too often coaching books are filled with useless sports metaphors. A compilation of top HBR articles, the book helps the new sales leader learn how to coach and mentor like the best. I add my favorite personality analytics tool, Predictive Index, to the mix to give the new leader insight into where they can start coaching.
- Major Account Sales Strategy by Neil Rackham – This is a sales strategy book. The pages of my book are falling out as the binding disintegrates from use. Why would a sales leader need to read this? Because it is all about strategy and to be a good coach, you need to understand strategy. It is also filled with key insights that many micro-managing sales leaders do not understand such as activity does not lead to success in high-value sales, and one of my favorite quotes:
A measure of the health of a sales organization is the amount of time it spends relating to customers compared with the time it takes relating to the internal needs of the company. By this measure many organizations are sick, and we’ve seen some that are boarding on terminally ill. So our first piece of advice is usually cut the paperwork.
My other reading suggestions are the all-inclusive Harvard Business Review subscription. I have been a subscriber for a long time and it is cheap at $99 a year and … to not stop reading.
The world is full of great books. Always keep learning.