When it comes to learning about selling online, you’ve got plenty of content to choose from – webinars, blog posts, how-to videos. But if you’re looking to roll up your sleeves and take time to get fully immersed in the business of selling online, look no further.
We’ve put together the ultimate reading list: 10 books about business, sales, marketing, psychology, and the internet that will not only educate but inspire you.
The books on our list don’t include step-by-step instructions about how to sell online – they go further. They provide deep insight into the psychology behind making decisions, the power of storytelling, and how to understand your customer. What could be more helpful for selling online? Let’s dive in.
1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Ever feel like you don’t know what you’re doing? This book by Ben Horowitz, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, the renowned Silicon Valley venture capital firm, should you put you at ease. Even CEOs of super successful companies have existential doubts sometimes. Managing a company and scaling a business is hard. It takes practice, skill, and most importantly, the ability to ask the hard questions. The Hard Thing About Hard Things is filled with advice on the difficult decisions that entrepreneurs face. From office politics to prioritization, Horowitz covers it all. And his anecdotes come from some of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley.
2. The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick
The title The Mom Test is intentionally misleading. Make no mistake: the author is definitely not recommending that you run your business ideas past your mom. In fact, this is a reference to an old pearl of wisdom that says you should avoid sharing your ideas with people you know won’t tell you the difficult truth about your idea. Rob Fitzpatrick lays out the importance of asking questions of potential customers and asking them in an unbiased way. It’s full of practical, simple advice to help you get the information you need to develop a product that will really solve a problem for your customers.
3. Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman
There are more brands than ever before, and they’re more influential than ever. Why do we care so much about brands? What is a brand exactly? A name? A set of colors? If you’ve ever struggled to understand what exactly a brand is and why they wield so much power over all of us, Debbie Millman’s book of thoughtful interviews will be a revelation. Her conversations with influential designers, marketers, behavioral scientists, and even anthropologists reveal interesting insights about brand behavior and strategy.
4. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
Usability guru Steve Krug’s classic book examines the principles of good web design and gives a common sense approach for creating online experiences. Humorously written with plentiful illustrations (of both good and bad examples), Krug’s book serves as an excellent manual for ensuring your website is easy for your customers to use.
5. Buyology by Martin Lindstrom
Why do we buy things? What is actually behind our purchase decisions? Is it the flashy advertisement we saw on TV yesterday? Or the recommendation we got from a trusted friend? Martin Lindstrom attacks these questions and more in his thorough investigation of buying. He uses scientific research to dismantle common myths about consumer purchase decisions and the reasons for our brand preferences. Lindstrom also lays out how neuroscience is leading the way in uncovering what marketing works and what doesn’t.
Bonus. The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers: The Guide for Achieving Success and Satisfaction by James M. Citrin and Richard Smith
As an extra addition to the list, we’re sharing our CFO, Sian Wang’s personal favorite. Although not directly related to online selling, The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers is filled with examples of leaders who have unlocked the secret of highly successful careers. These guiding principles will not only help you develop personally but also translate into increased value for the organizations you are affiliated with!
6. The Dip by Seth Godin
When faced with an obstacle, we always have to make a decision: forge ahead or call it a day? As Kenny Rogers once said, “You’ve gotta know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em.” That’s the subject of Seth Godin’s concise book of advice. According to Godin, strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations. Godin contemplates different approaches for strategic quitting, and what it means to recognize “the dip.”
7. Mindset by Carol Dweck
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has performed decades of research that have convinced her that what she refers to as a “growth mindset” can be leveraged to obtain success. If you’re taking on new business challenges, Dweck’s advice should prove very useful. Dweck’s theory is that having a growth mindset – a willingness to take risks in order to learn new things – is the secret of successful people. Her book is filled with motivating case studies on people from Michael Jordan to Beethoven.
8. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
An essential part of selling anything online is making sure you have a competitive edge. Well, the authors of this influential book don’t just want you to have an edge, they want you to “make the competition irrelevant.” The blue ocean of the title refers to the effect of establishing an uncontested market space, the so-called blue ocean, a space with endless possibility. The book provides analytical tools and frameworks to create your own blue ocean strategy and explores how to redraw the market boundaries to encompass your offering.
9. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, explores the different ways we think by breaking it down into two essential systems: 1) emotion and intuition and 2) logic and deliberation. The first is fast, the second is slow, and understanding how these two different ways of thinking impact our decisions is the key to making the right ones. With numerous examples to draw from, Kahneman outlines different techniques to ensure you’re assessing situations accurately – and strategically.
10. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell’s now classic book on the “magic moments” that can cause seemingly innocuous things to turn into massive trends, offers a wealth of insight to online marketers. Filled with engrossing stories to illustrate his theory about what creates the right conditions for an epidemic movement, this is the perfect book if you’re feeling poised make a big impact.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means. There’s always relevant reads coming out all the time. We hope you enjoyed this list – happy reading!