Stop Reading Books/Blogs On Selling!


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Before many of my friends who’ve written quite outstanding books/blogs on Selling get up in arms, let me re-phrase this, “Stop reading ONLY books/blogs on selling!”  Also, selfishly, I want more and more folks to be reading this blog – so please don’t stop.

There are a lot of great books on sales and marketing.  Right now, I’m reviewing about 15 books that are either just published or soon to be published.  I always find something new in each of them–perhaps it’s a different twist on something I already knew, perhaps it’s a tidbit in an area that I’m not really knowledgeable about.  I also read (skim) close to 100 blogs on sales/marketing/leadership each week.  I get a lot from them.

So don’t stop reading this great content.  But broaden your perspectives.  Look in areas way outside selling (or marketing if you are a marketer).  Those are the areas where, at least for me, the greatest personal growth is.

It’s kind of an odd phenomenon.  With sales, marketing, business books and blogs, I race through them.  I pick up a point here and there, I discount a few things here and there, but too much of the time, the reading just reconfirms what I already knew or thought.  It doesn’t expand me or challenge me as much as it might.  It’s not the fault of the authors, it’s more how we process things that we are very familiar with (I suppose that has a lot to do with being present/paying attention/being mindful)

For me, the breakthrough’s, come in reading things that are way outside what I normally read and what I do.  For example, I just completed a wonderful book—Improv Wisdom, Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up!  by Patricia Ryan Madson.  It’s one of the best books on selling and leadership I’ve read in the past few months–though I’m certain Ms. Madson didn’t write it thinking about sales performance.  It captured me–not just because it was very well written, but because it stretched my thinking.  I had to become actively involved with the book thinking, “How do I twist these lessons and apply it to what I do?”  I was forced to think, how do I apply this to selling, running a business, advising people running businesses?  Because it wasn’t written for sellers, I was forced to look at things in an entirely new way, discard some old thoughts I had, and consider new ideas.

It happens every time I read a book that’s way outside business (other than the mystery/thrillers I devour).  I have to get engaged, I have to think, I get new ideas, I have to figure out how to apply them to improving what I do, I can’t be passive if I expect to learn and improve.

The same thing happens in a lot of our relationships, the people we hang out with.  Too often, at least professionally, we tend to hang out with the same people, attend the same seminars/conferences.  We talk about variations of the same old things, only paying half attention as we look at our smart phones, tweeting things out.

We learn a lot more, we expand our points of view when we hang out with different people every once in a while.  For example, this past Sunday, I had breakfast with a theoretical physicist.  Beforehand, I thought, “What the hell will we talk about?”  It was one of those “family obligations” my wife dragged me to.  It turned out we had a fascinating conversation.  Here’s a guy that’s trying to measure the mass of a neutrino—-for those of you not conversant in theoretical physics, it’s a very very very very small particle.  Far smaller than electrons.  He’s part of a team, if they are successful, the work will be Nobel Prize-worthy.

I think he had the same concerns about breakfasting with a “sales/business consultant.”  But we had a brilliant conversation.  We talked about what he was doing, the challenges of doing the experiments, the thinking, problem solving, even simple issues they faced in measuring the mass of neutrinos.  He asked a little about my work.  We discovered a lot of what we did was similar, but we did it differently.  I ended up taking a lot of the ideas he shared with me and thought, “How do I twist this to something I can do?”  (I’m a little worried if he takes some of my thoughts on qualifying and tries to apply them to his experiments.)

When, I told him that some of the ideas were really novel and refreshing and had great applicability to sales and business, he was really shocked.  He said, “This it just common stuff that all theoretical physicists think about in designing and conducting experiments–it’s not that novel to us.”  There’s a certain magic in talking to people we don’t normally talk to and learning from them.  While what they may do is commonplace to them–adapted to our worlds it’s new and may be a breakthrough for us.

It’s just like reading in different subjects.  Perhaps, much of what Ms. Madson wrote was a great reminder to Improv artists, actors, and creative people but not new.  But for me, it was brilliant—particularly in the application of the principles to sales and business.

So if you really want to maximize your own learning and development–as a sales, marketing, business professional–look outside all your normal sources.  Stop reading only sales books/blogs, read something really different–history, economics, biographies of non-business people, drama, music, creativity, art, science.  Take the ideas and figure out how you can apply them to what you and your people do.

Hang out with different people not just sales/marketing/business people.  Go to a conference on economics, biology or theoretical physics.  Go to an acting, art, or music class.  Ask them what they do, how they do it.  Learn about the challenges and issues they face, and how they address them..  Learn their best practices, think about how you can twist, tweak and adapt what they do to help you more effectively achieve your own goals and dreams.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Dave – great blog! “All Quiet on the Western Front” is next up in my book queue. You’ve inspired me. I think I’ll read it now . . .


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