Brain Food – We all need it

Books as brain food

I’d like to take you on a guided tour of some of the world’s most inspirational sales, marketing and business resources. We all need to hear new ideas and fresh insights sometimes, not ones that necessarily give us answers but ones that make us think about new questions and work out our own answers. Some of these ideas will be new, innovative and unproven; others well tested, well-honed and as effective now as they always have been. Whichever we prefer (I like a combination of both), it’s about making us think and making us reassess what we do. It also keeps us mentally fresh.

If you have not yet discovered TED, you’re in for a treat. Started more than a decade ago as a conference for the sharing of new ideas, it now has hundreds of presentations given at conferences worldwide by brilliant speakers and thought leaders (Bill Clinton is perhaps its most famous). The rules are great: no more than 18 minutes; material must be new; must challenge the status quo; must inspire its audience to action. You can search for content by speaker but the best way I find is to search on their categories, such as ‘most inspirational’, ‘funniest’, ‘most thought-provoking’ and so on.

It’s probably more about business than sales directly but it’s a cracking 20 minutes of brain food once a week as I eat my lunch. I’ll give you 3 to get you started: Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Spaghetti Sauce’ (brilliantly different explanation of how to understand consumer behaviour before tailoring products); Sir Ken Robinson’s ‘How schools kill creativity’ (subject matter obvious from title – this is brilliantly done and hilarious too. It’s the most-watched presentation on TED); and Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’ (great businesses are created through the focused pursuit and delivery of their ‘why’, rather than their ‘what’ or ‘how’).

How to win friends and influence people, Dale Carnegie

From cutting edge thought leadership of today’s world to a book from 1930s, this is a must-read for anybody in sales or in business generally. It is brilliant. Carnegie, as a businessman, trainer and business mentor was often asked whether he ran any courses on ‘how to get along well with people’. He didn’t and was unable to find any such courses or any books to recommend to his clients. After the umpteenth request, he set about writing that course, followed by this book.

I can almost guarantee, even for experienced salespeople, that you’ll adopt at least 3 new behaviours or habits that will help you influence people more successfully.

Seth’s blog – Seth Godin

Godin has written loads of books on marketing and those I’ve read are very good. His most digestible and useful format, I find, is his daily blog. I know, daily!? Most blogs that come weekly or monthly seem too regular and you don’t even read them. Seth’s are usually short (no more than 150 words) and almost always challenging, interesting, inspiring or controversial.

Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr Robert Cialdini

Find out how charity contributions were increased 70% just by the offer of a glass of water; how toy shops can almost double sales in January by not stocking certain toys pre-Christmas; and how residents of a US town became convinced that a huge road sign in their front garden blocking views and sunshine was the least they could do to help cut speed on their roads. All through the use of at least one of Cialdini’s six ‘Weapons of Influence’.

Cialdini didn’t create these weapons but his work as a psychologist is the best explanation of what they are, why they work and how they can be put into action on a daily basis. It’s the best sales book I’ve ever read.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey

I avoided this book for years as it sounded like just the sort of corporate claptrap I’ve always disliked. How wrong I was. It’s a brilliant book that helps you understand how these habits not only improve your business and your sales but also your life. The style is accessible, concise and fluent. I wouldn’t suggest reading it from beginning to end like a work of fiction as it’s best to put the ideas into practice as you go. Read one habit at a time and, if you see its benefits, put it into practice.

I’ve included my top 5 tips for brain food here but I’ve loads more. The point about brain food is that it must either make you think differently or make you act differently. It’s like training in that way. If it merely confirms what you already know or do, that might be reassuring but it’s not working your brain very hard.