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"The Ultimate Bookshelf: Business Leaders Choose Their All-time Favorite Books on Sales, Marketing, and Management" by Kerry Rottenberger-Murtha, Sales & Marketing Management, December 1993.

Want to give your sales staff something really useful this holiday season? How about an addition to their library that offers tips on advancing their sales careers. Or one that will help them brush up on their basic selling skills. While you're at it, why not treat yourself to a volume on how you can better market your company.

When it comes to sifting through the plethora of business books out there and finding the ones that are practical, no one has more experience than sales and marketing professionals. Here's an offering of some favorite titles.

For starters, check out Getting Business To Come To You by Paul Edwards, Sarah Edwards, and Laura Clampitt Douglas (Tacher Perigee, 1991). "The book is sort of a catch-all that touches on advertising, direct mail, and selling," says James Schwab, owner of Management Visions Associates in Eagan, Minnesota. And while it's geared more directly to the needs of the self employed, Schwab says that the book can help any salesperson. "It emphasizes that a salesperson should think of himself as a small independent business, which is something I think every salesperson needs to do to be successful."

If problem-solving is more your genre, Schwab proposes Thinking Strategically by Avinash K. Dixit and Barry Nalebuff (Norton Publishing, 1993). Schwab says that he agrees with the book's premise completely. "Every manager needs to be able to think for the long-term, not just tactically," he says. "Many managers today are quick to act when it comes to putting out fires, but they don't examine what those actions will reap down the road." Dennis Purtell, sales manager for Strength Systems USA in Bloomfield, Connecticut, prefers an oldie but a goody when it comes to books on sales. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (Fawcett, 1937) details a 1908 study, conducted by Hill and commissioned by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, that examined traits common to people that have achieved success. Hill's main principle concluded that people succeed when they buck their negative intuitions. He to seek out things and situations that evoke fear and meet them head on. "The beauty of the book is that its lessons still apply today, but it's void of the pomp that can be found in so much of today's business writing," says Purtell.

Good books on sales, however, aren't a thing of the past. Ferdinand Fournier's new publication, Why Customers Don't Do What You Want Them To Do (McGraw-Hill, 1994) is one of the best books Mike Sullivan says he's ever read. "Fournier's approach is unique," says Sullivan, training and development manager for Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. in Seattle, Washington. "He suggests that rather than encourage your salespeople to sell, you should teach them to manage the buying process." Fournier's new technique analyzes the selling situation from the customer's point of view and undercovers some of the common barriers that block sales. For example, he suggests that sellers think in terms of why the customer should buy their product, why a customer might not think he needs the product or want to spend the money. Spin Selling by Neil Rackman (McGraw-Hill, 1991) also offers readers questioning techniques that help salespeople identify customers' needs. "I try to read Rac-kam's book at least once a year," says Richard Pom-erantz, vice president of sales for Emulsion Systems Inc. in Varey Stream, New York.

For a back-to-basics favorite, Daniel Gordon, vice president of marketing for Orent Graphics in Omaha, Nebraska, suggests Frank Bettger's How I Raised Myself From Failure To Success (Simon Schuster, 1983). "I read this book four times when I first started in sales," says Gordon. "It's full of ideas on how to approach prospects and existing accounts, and it's all based on real-life experiences."

Joanne Jarecki, principal for Permier Consulting in Pewukee, Wisconsin, says she prefers What To Ask When You Don't Know What To Say by Sam Deep and Lyle Sussman (Prentice Hall, 1993). "It touches on a skill critical to the professional development of managers: asking questions," she says. "Sales professional have known for years that 'selling ain't telling, it's asking.' That advice is certainly transferable to today's team-based management focus."

Thomas Foy, senior vice president for Hill International, Inc. in Trenton, New Jersey, says his sales force also builds its library around the philosophy of teamwork. One of their favorites is The Winner Within (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1993) by New York Knicks coach Pat Riley. "We do a lot of team-related work. So we find Riley's wisdom on how to meet the challenges of teamwork very relevant."

Foy says that his own personal bible on management is Yes or No: The Guide To Better Decisions by Spencer Johnson, M.D. (HarperCollins, 1992), a primer on the fundamentals of making sound decisions. "I keep his card in my pocket at all times," Foy says of Spencer, who also co-authored The One Minute Manager.

When it comes to books on management, John Pietron, of J.P. Associates in Morton Grove, Illinois, suggests "anything" by Jay Abraham, a Los Angeles-based consultant. Abraham's topics cover everything from marketing to communication to how to screen the best salespeople. Pietron's particular favorite, The Ten Biggest Marketing Mistakes Employer's Make and How To Avoid Them (Abraham Publishing, 1989), stresses that companies need to differentiate themselves from the competition. "He talks about how companies need to create a uniqueness," says Pietron. ÞêpA&shyp; that, Abrah¥{ýelps companies create a consistent message that's present in every aspect of their business, from its basic structure to its policy on customer service."


Copyright © 2008 by Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff