The Center for Sales Strategy - Sales Strategy Blog

Professional Development Books to Help Build Your Business Library

Written by Deborah Fulghum | June 8, 2020

Whether you’re a veteran in your career or just starting out, one of the most helpful things you can do is continue your professional growth. Our team enjoys many forms of professional development, and we find one of the quickest ways to grow is by reading.  At The Center for Sales Strategy (CSS), you’ll find a book in our hands most of the time. 

Reading helps you develop empathy, gain valuable exposure to other perspectives, and increases verbal intelligence—all of which make you a better leader. Some of the most influential leaders make reading a top priority and understand the importance reading has on their success. Bill Gates reads at least 50 books a year! He is instrumental in getting other business leaders to jump on the “reading bandwagon.” If you’re ready to broaden your mind and expand your professional development, take a look at these books that our team recommends.

5 Benefits of Reading for Professional Development

Time spent with your nose in a book is never wasted. Reflecting on the importance of reading in business, there are several great reasons to pick up a book.

  1. Develops you into a better thinker
  2. Builds your people skills
  3. Stimulates creativity
  4. Strengthens analytical skills
  5. Reduces stress levels and improves mental health

To help get you started on the “reading bandwagon,” our team compiled a list of books that we found noteworthy to pick up when building your professional development library. Here are a few to get you started:

1.What You Do is Who You Are

       By: Ben Horowitz

        Recommended by John Henley

The best cultures are defined by actions, not words. Your culture is how your company makes decisions when you are not there. What people do when you are not looking. If you see something that is off culture and ignore it, then your culture has changed.


2. The Dip

        By: Seth Godin

         Recommended by Greg Giersch

If you didn’t read this the first time around, it’s an oldie, but goodie. Seth illustrates in a short little book, how being focused and strategic in quitting and sticking is the secret to successful people and organizations.


3. Excellence Wins

        By: Horst Schulze

         Recommended by Mindy Murphy

Excellence Wins is an inspirational book from Horst Schulze, co-founder of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, who shares his methods on creating a culture of excellence. No matter what industry you are in, you will find valuable lessons in this book on setting employees up for success and establishing a service-oriented organization.


4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

        By: Patrick Lencioni

         Recommended by Stephanie Downs

A great book in understanding the importance of building trust as the foundation of the organization. Once trust is at a very high level amongst all team members, achieving company goals is easier and more likely to happen.


5. The Ideal Team Player

By: Patrick Lencioni

Recommended by John Henley

A great read on the importance of surrounding yourself with ideal team players--those who are hungry, humble, and smart (smart about people).



6. Frenemies

By: Ken Auletta

Recommended by Trey Morris

Frenemies chronicles the epic disruption in the media world. Ken takes you inside the largest media companies in the world and provides insight into what is happening to our industry, but maybe more importantly, where we're all headed.


7. Give and Take

       By: Adam Grant

        Recommended by Stephanie Stoll

Adam Grant focuses on the fact that how we interact with others plays a large part in our success at work. This book talks about the idea of reciprocity and how givers, takers, and matchers interact and fare in the workplace. Grant discusses and explains his research around how we deal with others and the impact it has on the individual and the organization as a whole. It is a great read that touches on the important themes of leadership, collaboration, and culture.


8. Great Mondays

By: Josh Levine

Recommended by Deborah Fulghum

Developing a positive culture is extremely important in successful businesses. True employee engagement is key. One of my favorite quotes from this book is, “Culture isn’t shaped by one choice, but 10,000 decisions. Be the culture change you want to see in the world.” Great Mondays is full of ideas to keep your employees engaged and excited about coming to work every day, especially Monday.


9. Nine Lies About Work

       By: Marcus Buckingham

        Recommended by John Henley

Focus more on your findings than the philosophies of others. For example, it is often a mistake to focus on cascading goals through the organization. Great leaders focus more on cascading meaning. People don’t need to be told what to do; they need to be told why they are doing it.


10. Scaling Up

       By: Verne Harnish

        Recommended by Matt Sunshine

Scaling up is a “how-to” book, loaded with lots of details on how to effectively scale your business. Verne goes in-depth on the four fundamentals of a successful business: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash. Whether you’re a CEO, small business, or entrepreneur, this book will help greatly reduce growing pains and enable key turning points in the structure of your business.


11. Start with Why

       By: Simon Sinek

        Recommended by Tirzah Thornburg

Start with Why encourages organizations, from upper management on down to analyze their reason for being. It all starts with clarity.  You have to know WHY you do WHAT you do. If people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it, so it follows that if you don’t know WHY you do WHAT you do, how will anyone else?  If the leader of the organization can’t clearly articulate WHY the organization exists in terms beyond its products or services, then how does he expect the employees to WHAT to come to work?  From there, the author guides the reader through turning why into motivation as a company and as individuals. This is a great book for anyone who is trying to develop or change their company culture.

12. Tribes

       By: Seth Godin

        Recommended by Beth Sunshine

An inspirational book about daring to be a leader, Tribes demonstrates that leaders can come in a variety of forms and often only need to heed their calling. Great leaders are not necessarily outgoing, outspoken, and comfortable at a podium. The best leaders can instead be softer-spoken as long as they have a clear vision and they are able to connect like-minded people to move a cause forward. Seth Godin also shares a smart distinction between crowds and tribes: “A crowd is a tribe without a leader. Tribes are longer lasting and more effective.


13. Trillion Dollar Coach

       By: Bill Campbell

        Recommended by John Henley

You can’t be a good manager without being a good coach. Not just coaching people but coaching teams. The more talented a person the less likely they are to follow orders just because you said so. If you are a great manager your people will make you a leader. You can’t become a good leader until you become a good manager.


14. Show and Tell

       By: Dan Roam

        Recommended by Isha Bell

Whether you're trying to pitch a new idea, explain a tough concept, report on new findings, or inspire a new perspective—this book gives you the template to create memorable presentation through the vessel of impactful visuals.


15. To Sell is Human

       By: Daniel Pink

        Recommended by Amanda Meade

Even if you're not in sales, you're in sales. No matter what industry you work in, you're going to walk away with great advice that can be applied to your everday role. If you are in traditional sales, this book is going to help you do your job better. You're going to know how to prepare an elevator speech/pitch and ask more (and better questions) that will help uncover challenges of your customers before they arise. Pink notes that really good salespeople want to solve problems and serve customers. With that in mind, you're going to learn how to communicate better and form relationships rather that just "sell."


16. Creativity, Inc.

       By: Ed Catmull

        Recommended by Beth Lawson

Have you ever wondered how Pixar, Steve Jobs, and Disney were connected and how they changed an industry by using creativity in their management styles? Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, explains how managers can be creative when leading employees and building a creative career.

Developing yourself personally and professionally is a lifelong endeavor. Regardless of the type of stories you choose to read, reading will help you understand others better. Learning the strategies used by some of the world's most successful business leaders is sure to have a positive impact on your career. These books listed are just a few of the many titles out there that will help teach and motivate you through your career.