Syllabus for Sales Mastery

Tony Hughes

Syllabus for Sales Mastery

Books are a uniquely portable magic ~ Stephen King

The average CXO reads over 50 books per year while the average reader digests around 6.

Success leaves clues. If you have a long commute or flight to visit clients in the field, turn off the music, video games and talk radio and transform the car, train or plane into a mobile classroom. In the spaces between each frenetic day, you are given the golden opportunity to develop subject matter expertise by which you can draw unique compelling business insights to share with your dream clients. I believe the secret to career success in any field in 2015 will rest squarely upon a solid foundation of reading and writing prolifically. Sales is often called an "art meets science" because it is based on the empirical frameworks of strategy, communication, persuasion and value. One of the most common questions I get in response to my writings and when I speak and consult is,

Tony, what are the most cutting edge, advanced and sophisticated books you suggest reading in order to master strategic selling methodologies and frameworks that drive world class revenue results?

In addition to 10,000 hours in the field, these are some of the literary gems that formed the cornerstone of my thinking in devising my RSVPselling meta-framework that I've utilized over my three decade career, recently to help close a $100MM deal.

Corporate Solution Selling


SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham
Scientific study of sales and excellent tactical sales methodologies, still the bible on questions and active listening

People do not buy from salespeople because they understand their products but because they felt the salesperson understood their problems. - Neil Rackham


Power Base Selling by Jim Holden
Business sales strategy

Strategic Selling by Miller & Heiman
Complex sales planning

The New Solution Selling by Keith M. Eades
Strategic solution selling

The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon & Brent Adamson
Sales and marketing [finally] come together for effective strategic demand generation

The world of solution selling is almost definitionally about a disruptive sale. It's not that you're asking customers to buy your product and put it up on the shelf with all of the other products they've bought. Rather, you're asking customers to change their behavior-to stop acting in one way and starting acting in another. - Matthew Dixon



Business Leadership

Good to Great by Jim Collins
Business and personal leadership taken to Level 5

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber
Principles of business success

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Success in business and life

Principle-Centered Leadership by Stephen Covey
Sustainable success and self management


Built to Last by James C. Collins
Business leadership

Visionary companies pursue a cluster of objectives, of which making money is only one-and not necessarily the primary one. - James C. Collins

Making The Difference by Pat Dixon
Women and men in the workplace

The Emotionally Intelligent Manager by David R. Caruso and Peter Salovey
Making emotions work successfully in business


Brainsex by Anne Moir & David Jessel
Gender difference from extensive scientific study

Personality Plus by Florence Littauer
Personality understanding and interaction - Christian aspects

New Business Development

New Sales. Simplified. by Mike Weinberg
Timeless principles for action based new business development

The best intentions, target account lists, and powerful sales weapons are useless if we never launch the attack. - Mike Weinberg

Proactive Sales Management


Cracking the Sales Management Code by Jason Jordan & Michelle Vazzana
Revolutionary methods for leading KPI driven management

Crisp Sales Objectives are the difference between a chaotic selling effort and a precision selling effort. - Jason Jordan




Influence: Science & Practice by Robert B. Cialdini
The fundamentals of what drives human behavior and exchange

Trigger Events

Shift!: Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers by Craig Elias & Tibor Shanto
Introduces the concept of Won Sales Analysis vs. Loss and highlights the three types of trigger events including which are most powerful to spot and leverage to rapidly open and accelerate deals

Consultative Sales

Mastering the Complex Sales by Jeff Thull
Diagnostic business development, forming a value hypothesis and proving out value clarity

Execution & Time Management


The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey & Chris McChesney
One of the few books written on execution and WIGs (achieving your wildly important goals!)

The kind of scoreboard that will drive the highest levels of engagement with your team will be one that is designed solely for (and often by) the players. This players' scoreboard is quite different from the complex coach's scoreboard that leaders love to create. It must be simple, so simple that members of the team can determine instantly if they are winning or losing. Why does this matter? If the scoreboard isn't clear, the game you want people to play will be abandoned in the whirlwind of other activities. And if your team doesn't know whether or not they are winning the game, they are probably on their way to losing. - Chris McChesney


Readers are leaders and sales is yet to be a recognized profession, seldom taught in school. Get a mentor who gets results, embrace a consistent, simple sales process, remember "you play like you practice" and apprentice under someone you admire who admires you in return. As traditional enterprise field selling is supplanted by self-service, automation, new inside paradigms and customers are closing in on 90% of the way through the purchasing journey, I believe that knowledge will still be the ultimate power to future-proof you for a budding career in strategic sales.

For should it come to pass that our ranks are reduced by 75%, the remaining 25%, to quote a friend 'will not only be in great demand, but be filthy rich due to our abilities.' - Renbor

In your opinion, what are the books and resources that are timeless that can make or break a career, quota and calling in sales? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. For my vision on how these all fit together, please also check out this post on the Evolution of Selling and this more in depth article on Solution Selling vs. Challenger Selling. In closing,

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. - Da Vinci


Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at

Main image photo by Flickr: Eirik Stavelin


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