3 Incredible Books to Change your Sales Approach

“Sell me this pen.”

You may remember this line from the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” when Jordan Belfort makes the request of an audience of earnest sales novices. Or perhaps you may have been personally asked to sell a pen when interviewing for a job. I have.

And I remember it well…

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It was 15 years ago and I had overly prepared for my sales interview with a leading pharmaceutical company. I studied all of the typical interview questions, spoke with colleagues in the industry to gather insight, studied the company credentials and pipeline, and created my “30-60-90 day” business plan to make an “immediate impact” in my territory. I was ready.

Or so I thought…

Dressed in my best suit, feeling excessively confident, I answered every question the hiring manager threw at me like Big Papi up at bat… out of the park. Thinking to myself, “all you need to do now is close,” the manager looked at me and said…

“Sell me this pen.”  

Up until that point, I had never heard of such a request in my professional career. And this definitely did not pop up in any of my google searches when investigating interview questions and tactics.

I froze. 

Thinking as fast as I could, I took the pen from the interviewer and began saying things like: “This is a great pen. You should definitely try this pen. There’s never been a pen like this on the market. This pen will actually make your handwriting better! And it has the best shade of black ink….”

I continued on, nervously, until I was told to stop. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

Why? I mean, saying the pen had the best shade of black ink was pretty clever, right? No.

It wasn’t until I started reading books on sales that I saw the issue with my “pen sales approach.”

  • I didn’t ask any questions
  • I didn’t listen
  • I only told the features of the pen
  • I was on my agenda
  • I was overly confident and didn’t appear genuine
  • I spoke 100% of the time

The list goes on and on but I’ll stop here.

Since that experience, having read the words of incredible consultants and researchers, I can not only effectively sell pens but markers and crayons too. Why? Because my sales philosophy adjusted to being 100% focused on the customer. The “sale” is secondary to making a lasting business relationship built on trust and respect.

What has helped me the most? 

Here’s my top 3…

“Stop Acting Like a Seller and Start Thinking Like a Buyer” by Jerry Acuff

Learn from one of the top sales consultants with over 30 years experience. Jerry Acuff bases his sales philosophy on thinking like a customer. When you view your sales interactions through the eyes of your customer and become “other focused,” meaning you care more about the customer than the sale, you will be successful.

“Give and Take” by Adam Grant

A New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller, “Give and Take” comprises of a series of teachable vignettes centered around top leaders in history. Grant, a researcher and Wharton’s highest rated professor, will fundamentally change the way you think about success and the sales process.

“You’re Not Listening” by Kate Murphy

This is a recent read for me and it easily has slid into my top 3 list. Murphy, a New York Times contributor, keeps the reader engaged with current anecdotes using social media as a reason why we struggle to “actively listen.” We’ve become a society where people post their thoughts and listen to others less. I love the term “actively listen” because it means not just hearing words and waiting until you can speak next but to internalize what someone is saying to you— observe their voice inflection, infer why they are saying it and what it may mean to them. This is a definite must-read whether you’re in sales or not!

These are just 3 of the many books I’ve read over the years that have had a profound impact on my sales theory and approach. I have led several sales teams through reading some of these top pieces of literature and those sessions always generated sound philosophical dialogue around our discoveries.

The right book can literally be life changing… give the ones I mention a try. They changed mine!

What are your favorite books which impacted you professionally? Please share!

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