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Top 10 Non-Sales Books Sellers Should Read in 2021

6 min readFebruary 11, 2021

I believe reading is still the most effective way to absorb new knowledge.

While short form “how-to” posts on LinkedIn can have value, they are necessarily incomplete. They don’t tell the whole story.

If you’ve become addicted to getting a quick “how-to” fix on LinkedIn, you’ve probably discovered that you’re missing a lot of context. Like the “why” behind the how. Consuming a diet that is heavy on the “how” is like eating a diet that is mostly junk food. Lots of empty calories without nutritious value.

To help you get the sales nutrition you need I’ve put together this list of books that I recommend that every seller should read (in no particular order.)

They’re full of challenging ideas. You may not agree with everything that you read. Which is perfectly fine. It means you’re paying attention and learning to think for yourself.

1. Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will – Geoff Colvin

Humans have certain advantages over machines that are not going to dissipate anytime soon. In this book, Colvin points out that the meaning of great performance has changed.  It used to be that you had to be good at being machine-like. Now, increasingly, you have to be good at being a person. He writes that “Great performance requires us to be intensely human beings.” And, then he goes into detail on what is required to become more intensely human. If you want a look at what high-performance selling will require from you in the future, then you need to read this book. (For a preview of the book, check out my conversation with Geoff Colvin on Episode 582 of Sales Enablement podcast with Andy Paul.)

2. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People – Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald

We all carry hidden biases. None of us is immune. These biases have a distinct impact on we both listen and communicate with other people. Based on their large-scale research the authors provide a sobering dose of reality when it comes to how we perceive others. You definitely should take at least one of assessments that they have online (links are in the book.) It’s our job as sellers requires that we connect and communicate with people from diverse backgrounds with unique perspectives and understandings based on their personal experiences. Your hidden biases could be preventing you from doing this. Read this book. Take their assessments. Become more self-aware.

3. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success – Adam Grant

There’s so much valuable content in this book for sellers that I’d make it required reading as part of any onboarding or sales training curriculum. A lot of the examples that Grant uses in this book deal with sales. For instance, there’s a lot of talk in the sales world about “givers” and “takers.” I sat through a presentation last year in which a senior industry analyst warned about the dangers of being a giver if you’re a seller. Actually, the data that Grant provides in the book show that the answer isn’t quite that simple. As a seller, do you want to be a giver or a taker? You’ll need to read the book to find out. Definitely put this book at the top of your list.

4. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less – Barry Schwartz

As a seller you have to invest time to learn about how your buyers make their purchase decisions. It’s not enough to say “all decisions are emotional.” That does nothing to help you understand the process your buyers are going through. In this book, Barry Schwartz helps you understand the frameworks buyers use to evaluate their buying experience and how those influence the choices and decisions they make. A definite must read. (For a preview of this book listen to my conversation with Barry Schwartz on Episode 490 of Sales Enablement podcast with Andy Paul.)

5. Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion – Paul Bloom

As sellers, we are taught to assume that empathy is a necessary element of how we connect with our buyers. What if empathy actually led you to making the wrong decisions about how to best help your buyers? Bloom’s book forces you to reevaluate your understanding of what empathy really is. And, the mindset you need to not only understand how your buyer feels, but, more importantly, to also understand why they feel the way they do. Which will give you more information to decide how to best help them.

6. Success Mindsets: Your Keys to Unlocking Greater Success in Your Life, Work, & Leadership  – Ryan Gottfredson

This is one of the best books I’ve read on mindsets. What Gottfredson does so well, is give you a visual framework to help you understand how mindsets work. And he provides a clear explanation of key mindset pairings and the impact that having one mindset versus another can have on how well you function in sales. And in life. He has links to online assessments that you can take that will give you a snapshot of where you stand with several of the key mindsets you need in sales. (For a preview of this book check out my conversation with Ryan on Episode 845 of Sales Enablement podcast with Andy Paul.)

7. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World – David Epstein

This book is the antidote to the whole “10,000 hours of practice” school of thought. Epstein draws on research to show that in most professions, including those that are inherently unpredictable and complex (such as complex sales), generalists are more likely to excel than specialists. Generalists maintain an open mind, and are less siloed in their mental approach to the world than specialists. As such they are more likely to be able to make the mental connections that help them arrive at solutions to complex problems that specialists might overlook. If you’re looking to improve in anything you do, not just sales, then you need to read this book.

8. Moving from Models to Mindsets: Rethinking the Sales Conversation – John Reid

This book deserves a big audience. To my mind it’s one of the top sales books I’ve read in the last 10 years. John Reid shares a ton of practical wisdom about how to take charge of your sales career to achieve at the levels that you want. Smart sales managers will get this book into the hands of their sales teams. (For a preview of this book listen to my conversation with John on Episode 806 of Sales Enablement podcast with Andy Paul.)

9. Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything – Stephen M.R. Covey

As Covey writes, trust facilitates speed in economic relationships. In other words, more than anything else, trust is the key to accelerating buying decisions. Covey shows how trust is not some ephemeral quality but something that can actually be quantified. He also provides a great description of what it takes to be perceived as trustworthy. This book is one that you will come back to and re-read multiple times. I have. (For a preview of this book, check out my conversation with Stephen M.R. Covey on Episode 587 of Sales Enablement podcast with Andy Paul.)

10. Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy – Cathy O’Neil

We work in a profession that increasingly relies on algorithms to make decisions for us. In fact, the goal often is to substitute the judgment of the machine for that of the seller. In this book, Cathy O’Neil, a data scientist who also worked as a quant on Wall Street, exposes the danger that an over-reliance on flawed algorithms presents to business and society. It’s an incredibly thought-provoking, and alarming, book to read. Do you want to entrust your future to an algorithm?

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About the Author

Andy PaulringDNA

Bestselling author of Amp Up your Sales and Zero Time Selling, Andy Paul is #8 on LinkedIn’s list of the Top 50 Global Sales Experts to follow. With more than 170,000 followers, Andy is a highly sought-after speaker and sales sage who interviews the world’s foremost sales minds and extraordinarily interesting people to bring you strategies and insights that you can use to generate epic wins and massive value.