Selling Your Services? Six Must-Read Sales and Marketing Books

John Tabita

In my last article, I outlined 10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting a Web Design Business. When I graduated from design school, if you’d told me that within eight years, not only would I be selling my services, but I’d be teaching others to do the same … I would have said you were out of your mind.

Getting there required a lot of help along the way. Here are a few of my favorite sales books that I credit towards making the road a bit less bumpy.

Honest Selling: How To Build The [Your Name Here] Sales System

by Gill E. Wagner

You won’t find this book on any national bestseller list, but it’s a gem, nonetheless. Gill Wagner is a local sales consultant based out of St. Louis, MO, where he was recently voted one of the top 100 people in St. Louis to know if you want to succeed in business.

Every company needs a sales system; it’s like a business plan for selling your services. It’s the principles, processes, strategies and tools you’ve put in place to make the sales process both effective and efficient.

The ideology behind Honest Selling is that no single sales system works for everyone. So claims of, “I earned $100,000 in six months, and so can you by using my sales system” are misguided. To become a success at selling, you must develop a sales system that works for you—and this book helps you do just that.

Favorite Excerpt

Success hinges on your ability to describe your company’s services in “results we produce” terms, rather than “what we do” terms. Most decision-makers don’t care what you do or really how you do it. They want to know how you are going to “heal their pain,” and that you know what their true pain is. You can communicate that most effectively by describing—in your prospect’s words—the results you produce.

You can purchase the soft cover edition at CafePress or read it online for free.

Get Clients Now!: A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches

by C. J. Hayden

If Honest Selling is a guide to creating your own unique sales system, then Get Clients Now is the step-by-step guide to implementing that system.

They say it takes 21 days to create a habit. While that appears to be more anecdotal than scientific, it’s been demonstrated that new habits are best established by adding something to your routine that is “smaller than small, smaller than tiny, something that is minuscule, that takes almost no effort and also almost no time.” C. J. Hayden does that by breaking your marketing activities into bit-sized chunks that you can easily fit into your daily work routine.

Favorite Excerpt

… whatever marketing strategies you decide on for filling the pipeline, you should be willing to keep them up over an extended period of time. In marketing, more of the same works much better than a little of everything. Ideally, your pipeline-filling activities should become automatic and habitual. Even when you are busy, you should always allow time for making new contacts, networking, speaking, or whatever your chosen strategies are.

Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation

by Mike Schultz & John E. Doerr

Authors Mike Schultz and John Doerr head up RAIN Group, a sales training company specializing in “sales improvement for the complex sale.”

Most sales training organizations like RAIN base their methodology on what successful sales people say makes them successful. What I like about RAIN Group’s methodology is that it’s based on what clients say about why they buy. If you are truly serious about building your business, this book is required reading.

Favorite Excerpt

When you think about providing value, don’t just think about the value you will provide after they buy from you. Think about the value they’ll get just from speaking with you. Eventually you’ll sell your company, your offering, and yourself. At first, sell the idea that the prospects’ time will be well spent if they elect to speak with you.

Million Dollar Consulting

by Alan Weiss

Why should you read a book about consulting? Because whether you’re a web designer, SEO, or programmer, I believe you ought to position yourself as a web marketing consultant. Otherwise, you’ll be viewed as someone who performs a task, rather than produces a result—and you’ll be compensated as such.

Author Alan Weiss says something about the consulting business that’s true about any business: The consulting business is not about consulting. It’s about marketing, “No matter what your methodology is, it does you no good unless you’re in front of a buyer who can give you a check. Unless you learn how to bring people to your door, you’re going to starve.”

I’m not sure if Weiss pioneered the concept of value-based pricing, but he’s one of its most vocal advocates. He says time-based billing “places emphasis on activity, not results,” and calls the practice “amateurish” and “severely self-limiting.” I whole-heartedly agree.

Favorite Excerpt

If you reduce price without reducing value, the buyer will merely keep pushing, wondering how low can you go. And you deserve it because you don’t believe in your own value. If the discussion is about price and not value, you’ve lost control of the discussion.

Originally published in 1992, Million Dollar Consulting in now in its fourth edition, and has been updated to incorporate blogging, social media and Internet marketing as part of the consultant’s toolkit.

The World’s Best-Known Marketing Secret: Building Your Business with Word-of-Mouth Marketing

by Ivan R. Misner & Virginia Devine

Ivan Misner wrote the book (actually, several) on building your business through word-of-mouth marketing.

Favorite Excerpt

Some people think that word-of-mouth is a little like the weather: fairly important, but not much they can do about it. Many others think that it’s just about good customer service, but it’s not. Don’t get me wrong-good customer service is critical for the success of any business, but if you expect happy customers to talk about you a lot, think again.

Actually, that excerpt is not from the book, but from an article Dr. Misner wrote on It illustrates the difference between passively waiting for word-of-mouth to kick in and start generating leads, and deliberate, intentional word-of-mouth marketing which takes time, energy and effort—like all marketing does.

If you want to include word-of-mouth marketing in your arsenal of marketing tools, this book is your road map.

The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness

by Jeffery Gitomer

I love the The Little Red Book of Selling because it’s everything the others on this list are not: a light-hearted, easy read. (I read the entire book during a flight.) While the other books require thoughtfulness and planning, The Little Red Book of Selling gives you practical advice that you can read today and put in place tomorrow.

There’s nothing here that I hadn’t heard or read before. But the way the author says it will cause you to think about them in new ways and make you laugh out loud.

Favorite Excerpt

Sometimes the price is precluded by someone who says to you, “We’ve spent our whole budget.” That person is not a decision-maker. He or she is a budget spender. And the entire time they are spending their budget, they are predominantly focused on price. My goal when I’m in a sales situation is to somehow get to the person that makes the budget. The person who makes the budget can add a zero and make another budget.

I’m sure there are many, many books that would make a favorites list such as this. These are mine. What are yours?

Image credit