Can’t find the time to read or read more? If you can name any of the contestants on American Idol or who the latest celebrities to get kicked off Dancing with the Stars, I bet I can find you some time. You’re a professional. Turn off the TV and turn on your brain to turn up your growth!  Schedule it!

One of the best managers/coaches I’ve had in my professional career used to ask this question at the end of every manager meeting: “Whatcha readin’?” A quick series of responses around the table about what each of us was currently reading, or had recently read.  The first time he asked it, it caught a few folks off guard. Not sure what he was looking for, we gave answers from the latest “must read” business book to Sports Illustrated magazine. Each of us was asked to give a brief synopsis of what the book was about and what the appeal was for us.

His message was simple; Readers are Leaders. He wasn’t the first person to say it and I’m sure he won’t be the last. The conversations about what each of us was reading combined with why it was important to us and our personal take-aways from the book/article/magazine made for engaging conversation and group learning.  What he was looking for from his people was to think like leaders and become life-long learners. He wanted to have people on his team whose goals, among other things,  were to stay relevant and current!

Can’t find the time to read or read more? If you can name any of the contestants on American Idol or who the latest celebrities to get kicked off Dancing with the Stars, I bet I can find you some time. You’re a professional. Turn off the TV and turn on your brain to turn up your growth!  Schedule it!

Books for Sellers:
Regardless of a person’s chosen profession it’s always a good idea to sharpen your ax. I have found some of the best books on sales are short, sweet and to the point. Many of them are worth reading multiple times. One of my favorites is Smart Selling by Gerry Layo.

Do you want to be a better communicator? Do you want people to better understand the message that you’re sending whether it’s written or spoken? There are some great books about how to speak, write and communicate like a pro. A few which come to mind are Writing to Learn by William Zinsser, Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White and Speak Like a CEO by Suzanne Bates.

Do you want to remain relevant and valuable to your prospects, customers and clients? Read anything written about or written by them. Some examples of these may be your customers trade journals, blog posts, newsletters and industry specific publications. Every industry has them and in an effort to remain relevant to THEM, you should be reading them!

Anything written by, for, or about your prospects and customers is worthy of your attention. Want to really kick it up a notch?  WRITE something for your customer base to read—and make sure it is something about them and their business and not just about you and yours (but that’s for another article).

Books for Sales Managers:
One of my clients recently complained, “I can’t get people to read. They either do or don’t. They either will or won’t”. I don’t subscribe to this personally. I think you can coach people to read more — and with purpose. Here a few methods I’ve either used or have seen work:

Ask the question: “Whatcha readin’?”  A great follow up question is “What’s it about?” Ask it regularly, listen to the answers without judging, and you’re bound to get some pretty good stuff.  At the very least, you will get some insight into the interests of your people—and that helps with your connection with them.

Give them something to read. A book you like is a good place to start. Give it to them freely and without expectation. At an initial meeting I held with a new group of sales managers I kicked it off by giving each of them a copy of book I read and thoroughly enjoyed.  The book defined and laid out the type of leadership I was looking for out of the managers on my team. The book I am referring to is Seth Godin’s, Tribes.

Each monthly meeting came with a new book–typically a book that I had read and enjoyed—with a brief explanation as to what I liked about it. Before long I heard quotes and discussions around the topics or themes of the books I had given them. Over time I began to give more personal and individualized books based on what I knew about each member of my team. If I were going to give them one today it would be Seth Godin’s latest book Linchpin.

Give them a reading assignment. I worked with a manager who gave a photo copied chapter of a book, or sometimes a blog post, to everyone on the team two weeks prior to a meeting with a Post-It note ‘Please read and be prepared to discuss’ stuck on the front page. A word of caution—if you’re going to use this technique you need to do three things:

1.    Read it yourself.
2.    Make sure it doesn’t get pushed off the meeting agenda.
3.    Don’t tell your team what you thought. Instead ask their opinions.

Sounds simple but I’ve seen all of these things get missed — more than once.

Assign an entire book to the team to read. The book I’ve seen this done with the most has been Good to Great by Jim Collins. If you’ve read and picked apart this one already, try his recent book, How the Mighty Have Fallen. Either one can give you and your team some initiatives to work on. Sound a bit too low level or too granular?  Remember the goals here include team buy-in, behavioral change, mind expansion, and effective new execution.

A Few More Thoughts:
Some of the best business books I’ve read weren’t about business at all. They were books about people, historical events, and ideas. They were often books that made me think about things from a different perspective. A couple of my favorites include Tom Wheeler’s Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails and Sway by Ori Brafman. The former is an historical look at how the sender’s message can be so easily misunderstood by the recipient when sent electronically. The latter is an interesting look at why people make such irrational decisions.

Mark them up! Don’t be afraid to highlight, underline, circle and annotate the things in the book that resonate with you. Most of the books I’ve read have copious notes written in the margins. One of the coolest features of the Amazon Kindle (Amazon’s new e-reader) is the ability to write (type) notes, thoughts and ideas digitally in the books you’ve downloaded.

There’re more than a few books I’ve started and not finished. Sometimes I read them for specific purposes such as research or as reference material. There are very few books however, whether I’ve finished them or not, that haven’t given me at least one gem. Zig Ziglar said it best “It’s not what I get out of the book, but what the book gets out of me.”

Want to make an impression on a prospect customer or client? It’s been said one of the best ways to do that is to send something personal and memorable. Books can easily do both. Make it about them and be sure and hand write a note on the inside cover.

So — “What are you reading?” I’d love to know, post a comment with the title and author.

Do it NOW…before you get voted off the island!

About the author

Les Lent

Les Lent is a Sales Trainer, Coach, Consultant, and holds 20 years experience as…

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