The Best Books About Sales

Like many during the lockdown, I’ve tried to educate myself in various new areas. Joe Wicks and fermenting wasn’t for me, but the psychology of sales was. As a marketer for various types of businesses, I felt that understanding what made those businesses thrive would help me market them more effectively.

So, I’ve read the best sales and sales psychology books, so you don’t have to. There were many recurring themes, and the overall messages in all of the books were comparable. In the following article, I’ve tried to give you the general gist but would recommend the four books at the end if you want to dive deep.

The numbers vary from book to book, but on average, research suggests that buyers tend to say no four times before saying yes. But the average salesperson doesn’t follow up more than twice, and 92 per cent of salespeople give up after talking to someone four times. That’s an awful lot of missed opportunities.

Resistance is the powerful psychological force that stops you from making that next follow-up call. It’s the little voice in your head that tells you to spend the morning on YouTube, and leave your difficult sales calls for later. Resistance is what keeps you procrastinating, making excuses, and distracting you from what needs to be done.

It’s a hard-wired biological instinct at the root of your comfort addiction. In other words, it reacts to anything that makes you feel discomfort. Resistance will always drive you to choose the easier road over the challenging one. After all, it’s more comfortable to watch something on YouTube than to make follow-up calls. For salespeople, telephobia, fear of closing the deal, objections, and fear of rejection are just a few things that make the business of selling uncomfortable and triggers resistance. Whenever you ask a customer for the sale, you’re vulnerable to the ultimate rejection – the discomfort of hearing them say no.

But to be part of the top one per cent of salespeople, you need to be bold and overcome resistance, turning it on its head until it becomes achievement.

By crushing your own resistance, you’ll be one of the few salespeople to access low-hanging fruit – a customer who wants to give you a yes but needs to be asked more times than other salespeople are willing to do.

Resistance is so powerful that waiting until you’re faced with it allows your primitive, comfort-addicted brain to succumb to it. Instead, decide to do all the things you’ve been resisting before your brain has a chance to backtrack. So, when you’re sitting at your desk first thing in the morning, you’ve already decided to devote the first part of your day to follow-up calls. Waiting until you’re staring at the phone to make that decision could lead to more of those missed opportunities.

Every salesperson wants to close the sale right off the bat, but the reality is that you’re better served thinking about following up during the initial meeting. Though you should ask for the sale, be prepared for a broader conversation for the buyer who needs more time. If you think of it as a longer conversation with more than one stage, you’re able to take the right information from that initial meeting and create a more robust follow-up.

Every time you connect with your customers, it allows you to give them a personal touch that shows that you care. Even if it takes more than one, two, or even three follow-ups, each one gets you closer to the sale while keeping your buyers’ emotional attitude at full flight.

Let’s say that you’re trying to sell a venue to a busy single mother with several children. During your first meeting, she boasts about her kids enjoying karate – a note you diligently write down.

If she doesn’t book right away, you have the perfect opportunity to reach out the next day. After a quick search, you can send her a list of karate schools in the area as a subtle follow-up with a personal touch. This action lets her know that you heard what she needs and you care about getting it for her much more than any other sales agents.

This service-based approach allows you to build an emotional relationship with your customer. Research shows that buying is an emotional decision that buyers justify with logic after making the decision. So, by using notes from each follow-up, you’re able to personalise the buying experience for maximum impact – something a generic email can’t compete with.

Taking notes at the first sales meeting also helps beyond showing how much you care. It allows you to summarise how your product could help with all your customer’s goals, needs, and doubts. Following up with this summary gives your prospect a sense of why the product is helpful while adding a request to discuss further gives you the next opportunity to close the sale.

Buyers will simplify their options by eliminating unmemorable ones and those that seem difficult.

The business of selling is a challenge, but so is the business of buying. Think of the last time you were in the market for an extravagant purchase, like a new flat-screen TV. Like most people, you probably did a little research – browsing options at Curry’s and reading reviews on Amazon, for example. Suddenly, the choices become overwhelming. Which brand do you buy? What seller should you buy it from? And why? How many pixels does a screen need anyway?

With all these choices, it’s no wonder it’s difficult for buyers to make a decision. And they need a way to simplify their options. So, they engage in the process of elimination. And your job as a salesperson is to make sure your product doesn’t get eliminated.

When buyers are faced with an overwhelming number of options, it results in cognitive strain. There’s just too much information for the brain to process. That’s when a buyer rules out a few options by deciding on which choices they definitely won’t buy.

When it comes to deciding which options are better than others, a buyer is most likely to go with whichever feels easy. This is because, to the human brain, what’s easy feels right. So, let’s consider a TV-buying prospect. He might eliminate a brand because of its confusing website, underwhelming product display, or harsh colours. On the other hand, he won’t eliminate options that come with a seamless buying experience. And he’ll strongly consider televisions whose sales reps are easy to talk to – and call when they say they will. So, to avoid elimination, make sure you put in the hard work of simplifying the sale so your customer doesn’t have to.

Often, this process of elimination happens subconsciously. Your prospects simply forget about your product. It’s not intentional; it’s just that your product isn’t on their minds anymore. But by following up, not just once but again and again, you avoid this passive elimination. It’s the only way to ensure your product sticks in their minds and makes the final cut.

You know the importance of the follow-up, but how should you go about it? Should you follow up with a face-to-face meeting, a phone call, or maybe even a recorded video message? Most sales professionals tend to choose the option that’s most comfortable, which is usually email. But this is a dangerous approach.

Email seems to be the most non-intrusive and less awkward way to communicate. You don’t have to worry about putting a customer on the spot, and you’re able to avoid hearing the dreaded no. Unfortunately, the written form is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting or a phone call. You should barely think of email as a communication medium at all.

Face-to-face communication is best, and the telephone is a close second.

Communication in sales is all about two-way interaction. But when you simply write to someone, it’s only one way; you’re not continuing a dialogue at all. And here’s the real problem with emailing as a follow-up: it lacks emotion. Words on a page are cold and clinical; it’s tough to convey the necessary warmth for the customer or enthusiasm for the product. And since the business of buying is a deeply emotional process, your follow-up is most effective when it allows for an emotional exchange in your communication.

And that’s exactly what you get when you communicate face-to-face. In fact, studies have shown that people pay much more attention to the tone of your voice and your facial expression than the actual words you say. After all, your tone and expressions communicate your emotions. So if you can lock down a face-to-face follow-up session, go for it! But if you can’t, then the telephone is your best bet; you can still use your tone of voice to emotionally connect.

So when is email an appropriate form of follow-up?

The answer is, when you have a large amount of dense information to convey. Even then, you should include this information in the form of an attachment rather than in the body of your email. The modern world has shrunk our attention spans, and too much text in an email is a surefire way to get it sent to the delete bin.

Situations change, so if someone nearly bought from you before, they might buy from you now.

Life doesn’t always go to plan, and neither do sales. But that doesn’t mean you should give up.

There’s an awful lot of potential in old leads – those prospects that were once highly interested in your products, but never bought it. All too often, salespeople simply write them off.

Think creatively. Instead of hopping on a call, go for something more personal. After all, you already have a relationship with this person. Send a handwritten note with a specific reason for getting back in touch. Maybe your customer couldn’t afford your product in the past, but you’d like to tell them about a new promotion that would bring the cost down. Whether they’re interested in your offering or not, most people will be touched that you cared enough to write to them. And, as we’ve already seen, when it comes to sales, the one who cares, wins

No deal is won or lost in the first sales meeting. It’s what you do after the initial contact that counts. You might get a lot of nos, before getting a yes. But that just means that the top 1 per cent of salespeople dare to keep in touch, keep asking, and keep following up until they close the sale.

When your prospects reach out to you, how quickly do you get back to them? Probably not as quickly as you should. Studies show that we’re much more likely to buy from someone who’s quick to respond to us. Why? Because when a salesperson engages in fast communication, we make all kinds of assumptions. We assume we can trust them, that they like us, and that they care about us. So if you want to make a winning emotional connection with your customers, get back to them now, not later.

My takeaway from this has been something that I already implement in Marketing but hadn’t considered flipping to apply to sales – The Rule of Seven. The rule of 7 simply states that it takes an average of seven interactions with your brand before a purchase takes place. The psychology behind it is pretty much the same as the above. People need to feel safe and/or heard.

I recommend the following books for further reading.

Follow Up and Close the Sale: Make Easy (and Effective) Follow-Up Your Winning Habit – Jeff Shore

Sales EQ: How Ultra High Performers Leverage Sales–Specific Emotional Intelligence to Close the Complex Deal – Jeb Blount

Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work – Cindy McGovern

Never Lose a Customer Again: Turn Any Sale into Lifelong Loyalty – Joey Coleman