First is a list of six essential books for every advertising salesperson, no matter what medium or media you work in. Below that, a collection of other books I admire.
6 Great Books for Every Advertising Salesperson
The Accidental Salesperson by Chris Lytle: I read the original version of this book more than a decade ago. It was early in my media sales career, and I learned an enormous amount. When the new edition came out, I took it out of the library — being a cheapskate, I didn’t feel like paying for it a second time. Two chapters in, I returned the library copy and bought my own. I wanted to read it and highlight the hell out if it. For example, this:
If you work on straight commission, you prospect for free. You do a customer needs analysis for free. You do the research for free. Then you write the proposal for free… At least you don’t have to pay to make your presentation to the prospect.
What if you did have to pay to make your presentation? You obviously would put more time and thought into it. You probably would even rehearse it a few times…”
I’ve gone from being a salesperson to a combination salesperson/sales trainer role, and I have read that passage repeatedly to groups of sellers. It gets through.
Slow Down, Sell Faster! by Kevin Davis: This is one of the rare sales books that has actually given me a new perspective on the process of selling. The author’s contention is that we spend so much time focusing on our needs and our timetable that we forget what’s important to the client. He sums it up this way:”Every sales leader wants fast sales; the trouble is, there aren’t many fast buyers…They are unlikely to change their buying process to match your selling process, so your only option is to be the one who switches.”
POP!: Create the Perfect Pitch, Title, and Tagline for Anything by Sam Horn This book delivers the perfect antidote to any advertising seller or production director who says, “But I’m not creative!” Pop! launches with what horn calls the “W-9 Form” — a list of nine questions to answer about the product or service before you even start writing. Answer those nine questions thoroughly, and you’ll begin to have an idea of what the message needs to be. Then Horn delivers a series of tips and techniques to help you deliver the core message in a memorable way.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini A classic in the field — enough science to demonstrate that the author knows what he’s talking about, but accessibly written for salespeople (like yours truly) who didn’t pay attention in science class. Cialdini, who holds professorships in Marketing andPsychology at Arizona State University. The principles he teaches in this book will help you do a better job convincing clients to buy, and can also help make you a better marketer and copywriter.
Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich by David Garfinkel: Although this book is aimed at those who sell with the written word — direct mail, print publications, and web pages — the techniques can help marketers in any medium. However your prospects see or hears your sales message, you have a very short window in which to convince them to pay attention. The headline in a print ad, or the opening five seconds of a radio or TV commercial, will cause your target to either pay attention to the rest of the message or tune you out. Garfinkel gives you a series of headline templates that have worked for selling a wide range of products and services, discusses why each one has been effective, and lists several variations on each headlines. When I’ve hit a wall while writing copy, I’ve gone to this book to help get unstuck.
Dan O’Day’s Guaranteed 5-Step System For Creating 30-Second Radio Commercials That Get Results: Another good cure for (copy)writer’s block, and an excellent companion to the Garfinkel book. I bought this when I was working in radio; now that my primary platforms are television and digital, I still use it regularly. Like Garfinkel, O’Day teaches a headline-based approach to designing a campaign. Besides the headlines, the true benefit of O’Day’s system is in the exercise of settling on a Unique Selling Proposition before starting the script. It’s not a long book, but it’s a powerful one.
Other Sales, Marketing and Advertising Books I Recommend