Recommended Reading

by Chris Arlen on July 18, 2011

There’s a lot of “How to do something” reading out there, which is perfect if you’re looking to solve a particular problem – mine included, see Free Ebook: How to Write a Sales Plan + Plan Template. Then there are books that show us how the world works. They help us understand the behavior of individuals, organizations and consumers. Here are a few of those books (all are affiliate links to

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

This is one of the best books I’ve come across for quite some time. It’s focused on stickiness, which I connects to persuasiveness and branding. So there are big insights here for selling, proposal writing and marketing. They tie their SUCCES criteria into the organizational tool of strategy, which I think misses a great opportunity. Their SUCCES fits brilliantly into articulating the customer experience, customer promise and those contemporary definitions of branding, which focuses on communication that provides actionable guidance.


 by Nancy Duarte

slide:ologySlideshows are a huge part of the communication and selling landscape yet most are terrible. They take time and thought, in addition to really knowing you’re topics. Slide:ology is a great book for slideshow design and graphics. Nancy Duarte, she designed Al Gore’s slideshows for his global warming talks, wrote an excellent book that provides actionable guidance. This is an absolute required read.

Delivering Quality Service

by Valerie Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman and Leonard Berry

This is the go-to source for understanding how customers determine service quality. Although there has been significant research since this was first published in 1990, it’s still valid today. If you want to know how customers fundamentally judge service quality, read about it here.

Permission Marketing : Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers

by Seth Godin

Here’s the first recognition of the chase for customers’ attention in an information overloaded world. In 1999 Godin points out that the industrial post-war idea of interruption advertising no longer works, we just ignore ads rather than buy as our parents and grandparents might have.

The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More

by Chris Anderson

The Internet made numbers king and The Long Tail followed those numbers to stand a basic business sales tenet on its head: more is no longer better. In his book Anderson makes a case that focusing on, and selling to the smaller niche markets actually means there are more of them out there. Less is more because of the reality of the long tail.

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization

by Peter Senge

While the subtitle addresses the learning organization, the epiphany for me was the introduction to systems thinking. It takes the “when a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil there’s a real estate boom in Iceland” idea and makes it rationally understandable – so that I get it. In some ways it makes the world a little more frightening to realize what we thought was in our control is in reality impacted my many other players. Still, this book is the 101 primer on systems thinking.

Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance

by Michael Porter

If there’s only one academic text book you ever read, make it this one. There are two takeaways (among many others) that make this a most important read. First, Porter’s Value Chain provides the foundation for understanding how business operates. Everyone uses his value chain model, you’ll be left in the dark if you don’t at least understand it. Secondly, Porter provides a 5-forces analysis (he calls it a Structural Analysis of Industries) for looking at any industry. This is extremely useful when doing strategic business or market planning. There’s a great deal more deep diving that is helpful but can be overwhelming. Stick to familiarizing yourself with the Value Chain and the 5 Forces Analysis and you’re well ahead of the game.