Eight Reading Gems That Made an Impact on Me in 2018

A photo of 8 books on the table

Last year I wrote a post on LinkedIn with six books that made a significant impact on me in 2017. This year the list got bigger. In my quest to expand my business and the tradition of learning from the best, I have made a lot of good friends, many of them books. I firmly believe that many authors do a tremendous job permeating their best work in the pages of books, so they become my resource library and, in the process, I learn from each paragraph I read. I tend to highlight, underline and create side notes on the pages of each of these publications.

Although I read a great deal of books this year, the following books made lasting impressions on me. Like last year, this year’s list is very eclectic, but largely focused on sales, sales leadership, motivation, commitment, and success.

High-Profit Prospectingby Mark Hunter, CSP (AMACOM Publishing)

I obtained this book as gift from Fred Diamond, President and Co-Founder of the Institute for Excellence in Sales, a Washington, D.C. think tank and the foremost authority in sales excellence. He is also a resource for training sessions, and is host of The Sales Game Changer podcast. I once recorded a podcast with Fred. At the end of our visit, I looked at his library of books and asked him, “Do you have any good books you recommend?” He promptly extended me a signed copy of Mark Hunters book, High-Profit Prospecting. Each page contains powerful strategies to discipline prospecting. In his book, Mark walks the reader through each step of the prospecting process. Beginning with the fundamentals of this intrinsic aspect of the sales process, he includes mindset, time blocking, and then moves on to the items a sales professional needs to check before diving into prospecting. The best part of the book is in Part III, where one can find the tools and techniques that can be leveraged to grow their pipeline through proper prospecting. Mark wraps up the book with a final chapter that he calls, “The Tough Stuff.” This chapter dives into getting past the gatekeeper and getting into large enterprise accounts. This book is a gem for anyone serious about upping their prospecting game.

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … and Maybe the World, by Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired)

I was compelled to read this book after I watched the viral YouTube video of Admiral McRaven delivering the commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. It confirmed to me, once again, why there is great leadership in the U.S. Armed Forces. In his book, McRaven guides the reader through 10 things that can help each individual change the world. This sounds like a tall order, but “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass … ” (Alma 37:6). The first one (which I shared with my kids) is to make your bed. It sounds odd, but it is the first task you need to accomplish in your day. And if you have a horrible day, you will at least come back to a bed that is already made. I recommend this book to leaders and families. Chapters, like the one on failure, teach valuable lessons that failure is part of the success process, and that setbacks and challenges makes us stronger. “In life you will face a lot of Circuses,” he writes. “You will pay for your failures. But, if you persevere, if you let those failures teach you and strengthen you, then you will be prepared to handle life’s toughest moments.” This book came to me at a time when I was overcoming a great deal of adversity in my personal and professional life. It taught me to “never ring the bell.” For those familiar with Navy SEAL basic training, for the first six months each new recruit is exposed a grueling physical, mental and psychological test. At any time a recruit wants to bail out, all they have to do is ring the bell and they will be dismissed. “If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell,” says McRaven. Thank you, Admiral, for the pearls of wisdom permeated in the pages of this little book.

The Lost Art of Closing, by Anthony Iannarino (Penguin Random House)

I was completely submerged in Anthony’s first book, The Only Sales Guide. His weekly newsletter is part of my Sunday reading, and I frequent his blog often. In his second book, which focuses on commitments, I found it fascinating how he walked the reader through the commitments that are required in each step of the sales cycle. As I read each chapter, I really enjoyed the Commitments to Take Action section found at the end of each chapter. This is not only a book that you read, it is a guide, an actionable manual with examples and exercises that can be easily role-played between a sales person and a manager acting as a prospecting client. One thing that I really like about Anthony’s writing style is that he wants the reader at the end of each chapter, blog, or article he writes, to be better than when they started it. This was my experience. I ended each chapter with better skills, additional commitments and was energized to do better. I finished the book with a clearer understanding that the sales process and winning a deal is the result of micro-commitments that are achieved throughout the sales process.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (St. Martins Press)

I have to admit that the Amazon technique of “Customers who bought this item also bought …” works. This book caught my attention and I bought it. At first, I thought I had purchased a novel, which I am not really fond of reading. But page after page, hearing stories from the battlefield narrated by Jocko and Leif, I became intrigued and kept reading. I loved that each chapter was packed with business and executive lessons applied at the end of each section under “Application to Business.” Here is the first and most important lesson I learned from this book: You are accountable. But not just accountable for your team; you’re accountable for your actions, your outcome. This is called extreme ownership. Jock highlights this clearly in a chapter where he returns and reports to a high commander the outcome of a failed mission, which resulted in a casualty. I love this story because there is no blaming, no finger pointing, simply a good debrief, lessons learned, questions asked and finally, an I-own-the-outcome, the process, the planning, the strategy, the team kind of attitude. Extreme ownership. Other lessons highlighted were on development of SOP (Standard Operating Process)—I am a big fan of process—as well as the importance to simplify. Quite often we tend to complicate things; we launch complex programs, campaigns and more. Willink and Babin remind us to just keep things simple, decentralize decision-making, prioritize and execute. This is a must-read for top leaders, sales leaders and CEOs.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth (Scribner Publisher)

I was introduced to this book after watching the TED Talk on YouTube in which Angela Duckworth presented on grit. She explained how she got interested in this topic and described the journey that brought her to write this book. I enjoyed this book especially after the application to the sales world. Angela tested grit’s power in the sales arena, where rejection is par for the course. She surveyed hundreds of salespeople using the grit scale and hypothesized who would stay in a company and who would leave after six months. “Grit predicted who stayed and who left,” Duckworth writes. Angela Duckworth provides the reader with a Grit Scale test, and teaches them how grit can be developed step by step, and how it grows with deliberate practice. The book concludes with the important aspect of developing a “Culture of Grit,” and describes how companies play an important role in developing this cultural force in our lives.

The Sales Enablement Playbook, by Cory Bray and Hilmon Sorey (Create Space Independent Publishing)

In the spring of this year I attended the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) Leadership Summit. After registration, I peeked inside my goody bag and found this gem of a book. I skimmed through the pages and read the first chapter, only to pick this back up in the fall of this year to finish it. The authors are quick to define sales enablementas follows: “sales enablement is the concept of extending a prospect-centric mindset to all departments within an organization.” In other words, everyone within the ecosystem is responsible for sales success via sales enablement. This book is a practical guide to achieving the sales enablement goal. Chapter after chapter the reader is left with clear, actionable steps on how to go about onboarding new hires, training, the tools required in some aspects of the sales process, and the career path a company should design for their sales development reps. In my opinion, this book is complementary to the book written by Trish Bertuzzi, The Sales Development Playbook.

Sales Enablement: A Master Framework to Engage, Equip, and Empower a World-Class Sales Force, by Byron Matthews and Tamar Schenk (Wiley Publishing)

I met a sales leader from Miller Heiman Group at a networking event here in D.C. We found plenty of things in common, and we agreed to a follow-up meeting closer to where we live in the outskirts of Washington, D.C. I brought a small token of appreciation to our meeting; in return, I got this great book. It didn’t take me long to dive into the pages of it, and I discovered that this book has a great deal of research behind it from CSO Insights. Matthews and Schenk quickly dive into the science of selling. Once this is defined, the foundational chapter on the elements of sales enablement are presented and diagramed with the customer at the top and the supporting structure below. The salesperson is right below the customer, and the pillars that support the sales person to have a successful interaction with the customer are outlined. The book also highlights the importance of coaching, and the reinforcement of your sales process and sales methodology to have a good return in your training and enablement dollars. Finally, the book highlights the importance of sales management enablement beyond coaching. This is an aspect often overlooked by organizations. The front-line manager will be highly responsible for sales coaching and the reinforcement or concepts that need to be applied throughout the sales process. I recommend this book to sales leaders, executives and those individuals supporting the salesperson in order to have a successful customer experience and outcome.

Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition, by Anthony Iannarino (Penguin Random House)

This book is the conclusion of a trilogy of sales books by Anthony Iannarino. I am sure there will be many more to come as he continues to write thought-provoking books with a different dimension from the traditional sales books. Amid helping technology companies implement their sales organizations and hiring salespeople, one question that always comes is, “Do you have any competition?” Virtually every company, product or service has competitors. This beckons the questions, “How do we lure your competitor to your product? How do you continue to create value and compel your customer to choose your product?” This book is the answer to these questions. Anthony walks the reader through a methodic approach to tip the scale in your favor. From simple process to adding value and creating mindshare, to prospecting with the goal of displacing your competition, the complex art of displacement is outlined in beautiful practical form in this book. In a day and age of many decision makers, Eat Their Lunch outlines how to map a plan to achieve consensus at different levels. If you are in Sales Development or Inside Sales, you need to understand what happens further down the road so you can add value on the front-end and prospect with the intention of displacing your competition in favor of your product and services. This book will help you do just that.

Just like the best business relationships that I have, these books have become my mentors and teachers. Their pages contain a compilation of the best works these authors have to offer. Let them become a part of your reading library and your success.