10 Best Summer Reads for B2B Professionals

Summer is the perfect time to get lost in a good book. There’s nothing better than sitting out in the sun with a page-turner while working on that tan.

Those who know me know that I’m an avid reader, which is why they constantly ask me for book recommendations. I mostly read non-fiction, but I keep my selection pretty broad, from leadership and management to behavioral psychology and economics to sales and marketing. So, I decided to put together a list of some books I’ve been recommending to my friends and colleagues this summer.

Sidenote: my parents think it’s the funniest thing that I read so much (I even started a book club) because they couldn’t get me to read a single book growing up. Thank goodness for CliffNotes, otherwise, I’m not sure I would have made it through high school.

I’m also super excited for an upcoming webinar series Engagio and our partners are hosting: Summer Series: The Best B2B Books to Help You Lead Change in Your Organization. It’s a 3-part series where I’ve invited the authors of three books on this list to present their top ideas:

  • Thurs., July 25 at 10 a.m. PT: Turn The Ship Around by David Marquet
  • Thurs., August 8 at 10 a.m. PT: The Creative Curve by Allan Gannett
  • Thurs., August 22 at 10 a.m. PT: Dream Teams by Shane Snow

All of the books I’m recommending – especially the three chosen for the summer webinar series – are directly applicable to your everyday work.

What are you reading this summer? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders

turn the ship around Author: David Marquet
Category: Leadership
: 4.7 Stars (847 reviews)
Publication date: May 16, 2013
Length: 272 pages

This has become one of my favorite books on leadership.

Imagine a workplace where everyone engages and contributes their full intellectual capacity, a place where people are healthier and happier because they have more control over their work, a place where everyone is a leader. This book shows you how to make that a reality.

It’s the story of how David Marquet commanded a U.S. nuclear submarine and took it from one of the poor performers to one of the top performers in the fleet. Each chapter includes a story from below deck along with the leadership lesson that non-naval managers can take from this. You’ll learn the “leader-leader” model, the importance of clarity and communication, and how to empower your people to take responsibility. If you take just a few of the principles from this book into account, you too can build a culture of excellence.

I recommend this book for anyone who is in or wants to be in a leadership position. 

This is one of the books in our Summer Series: The Best B2B Books to Help You Lead Change in Your Organization

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From Impossible to Inevitable: How SaaS and Other Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue, 2nd Edition

Authors: Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin
Category: Business, Entrepreneurship
: 5.0 (6 reviews)
Publication date: June 5, 2019
Length: 336 pages

Are you growing your business as fast as you know you can, or are there big opportunities you know you’re missing? Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin are seasoned veterans who are now distilling their seven Ingredients of Hypergrowth into actionable goals: nailing your niche, creating predictable pipeline, making sales scalable, doubling your deal size, being sure you can do the time, embracing employee ownership, and defining your destiny.

I read the first edition when it came out and quickly realized why people were calling it the Bible of Silicon Valley. When Aaron reached out to me, saying he was releasing a second edition, I was stoked. This second edition dives further into examples and includes many case studies that help illustrate the principles they’re teaching.

I recommend this book for anyone starting and scaling their business.

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Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart

dream teams Author: Shane Snow
Category: Management
: 4.6 (63 reviews)
Publication date: June 5, 2018
Length: 304 pages

The best teams are more than the sum of their parts, but why does collaboration so often fail to deliver results? There is no “one right way” to build a high-performing team. In classic Shane Snow fashion, he educates and inspires you with compelling stories across a wide range of topics, from the story of Malcolm X and the dominance of a hockey team, to the history of the Wu Tang Clan and the failure of DaimlerChrysler.

You’ll learn lessons you can apply to build your dream team, like how to recruit for “culture add,” not “culture fit,” how to build bridges by sharing personal, emotional narratives, and how to foster just the right amount of friction for your team.

(P.S. You should also check out his book Smartcuts, as it’s another one of my favorites!)

I recommend this book for anyone building a team, from work to sports to special projects. 

This is one of the books in our Summer Series: The Best B2B Books to Help You Lead Change in Your Organization

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Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell

trillion dollar coach Authors: Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and  Alan Eagle
Category: Management, Coaching
: 4.5 (146 reviews)
Publication date: April 16, 2019
Length: 240 pages

What makes great companies great? It’s not the product. It’s not even necessarily the culture. It’s the people that help to build that culture.

Bill Campbell was a business executive in Silicon Valley and legendary coach to the who’s who of Silicon Valley executives, including Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, Sundar Pichai, Brad Smith, Marissa Mayer, and Dick Costolo, to name a few.

This book explains the principles of coaching and managing people and illustrates them with stories. You’ll learn how to create higher performing and fast-moving cultures, teams, and companies wiith lessons from 1:1s to networking and from trust and safety to hiring and firing people.

I recommend this book for anyone who is managing people or building a team. 

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The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time

creative curve Author: Allen Gannett
Category: Creativity
: 4.9 (475 reviews)
Publication date: June 12, 2018
Length: 288 pages

Why are some people considered “geniuses” and others not? What do they have that make them ripe for flashes of insights or sudden aha moments? Allen Gannett busts popular myths around “creative genius” and offers a framework to reverse engineer creativity.

In this book, you’ll discover the point of optimal tension between the novel and the familiar – everyone can better engineer mainstream success. Allen covers the four laws of the creative curve: consumption, imitation, community, and iterations. We all have the power to be creative – all it takes is a commitment to your craft and understanding of the creative curve.

I recommend this book for anyone who wants to be more creative, especially if you’re “not a creative person.”

This is one of the books in our Summer Series: The Best B2B Books to Help You Lead Change in Your Organization

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Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World

nine lies about work Authors: Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall
: Management
: 4.5 (36 reviews)
Publication date: April 2, 2019
Length: 256 pages

What happens when “well-known truths” about organizations and leadership become so oversimplified that they’re creating new challenges stopping people from thriving at work? Too many leaders have bought into certain notions and stereotypes about what motivates and inspires people.

With engaging stories and incisive analysis, this book reveals the essential truths that very well may contradict what you think about management and leadership. You’ll discover that the strength and cohesiveness of your team, not your company’s culture, is what matters most. You’ll see why we should focus less on top-down planning and more on giving our people reliable, real-time intelligence. You’ll learn that rather than trying to align people’s goals, we should strive to align people’s sense of purpose and meaning. You’ll realize that people don’t want constant feedback, but rather they want helpful attention.

This is another must-read if you are managing people. 

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The UnAmerican Dream: Finding Personal and Professional Happiness Establishing Work-Life Boundaries

thee unamerican dream Author: Carlos Hidalgo
: Motivations, Entrepreneurship
: 5.0 (9 reviews)
Publication date: June 3, 2019
Length: 200 pages

There’s something about chasing “The American Dream” that is motivating. But, have you ever really stopped to think about what this pursuit is doing to our health and our relationships? This is a bit of a different kind of book on my list, but it is every bit as important. Carlos Hidalgo is a successful entrepreneur, speaker, and author, but is now asking us to define success on our own terms.

Through authentic, honest, and vulnerable storytelling, The UnAmerican Dream describes Carlos’s hustle to entrepreneurial success and the resulting negative impact on his closest relationships. He shares how he was eventually able to re-center himself, offering practical advice for those in a similar situation. The book also includes perspectives from a variety of executives and also from his wife, Susanne, who describes being on the other side of his quest for success.

I recommend this book for anyone who is seeking “work-life balance,” which is probably most of us.

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The Perfect Close: The Secret To Closing Sales

the perfect close Author: James Muir
: Sales
: 4.8 (167 reviews)
Publication date: September 7, 2016
Length:  284 pages

Surprisingly, 60-90% of all sales encounters end with no close, or no advance happening at all, but what if you could change that? The Perfect Close shows you how to conclude each meeting with an agreed-upon next-step that your buyer has strongly bought in to. I’m a huge fan of James Muir and his work. He’s a master of his art and one of the most genuine and trusted people in the sales industry, which has a reputation for not being trustworthy.

Recommending a next-step action is risky because it creates pressure and tension for the customer. If the prospects answers with a “no” your opportunity grinds to a halt. But it shouldn’t – this book teaches you how to change that. You learn practical techniques that can be easily implemented into your existing sales process to increase sales. Also, don’t forget The Perfect Close Workbook – it’s a game-changer!

I recommend this book for anyone in sales. 

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Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It 

never split the difference Author: Chris Voss with Tahl Raz
: Communication
Rating: 4.8 (2,237 reviews)
Publication date: May 17, 2016
Length: 288 pages

Imagine you receive a call one day, and the person on the other end says, “We have your daughter. Give us $1 million or she dies.” What will you do or say? This book teaches how to get your daughter back home safely.

I read this book a while back when it first came out, then we recently read it as part of the Engagio book club, and here I am again recommending it. That’s how good it was. But this book is not like other negotiation books. In fact, it will go against what you may think you know about negotiation. Voss teaches foundation for negotiation on the basis of understanding the other party through empathy and active listening skills. You learn negotiation skills that you can use in any situation in life, including buying a car, negotiating your salary, buying a home, re-negotiating rent, deliberating with your partner, and more.

I recommend this book for people who have a lot of interactions during their day and want to become more persuasive. 

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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion Author: Robert B. Cialdini
Category: Sales and Marketing
Rating: 4.5 (1,698 reviews)
Length: 336 pages
Publication Date: December 26, 2006 (revised edition)

Influence is one of my all-time favorites, and I constantly revisit it, so I couldn’t leave it off this list. Robert Cialdini explores psychological tactics used by “compliance practitioners” – from salespeople and waiters to card dealers and fundraisers – to influence our thoughts and buying behaviors. These tactics are reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking, and consensus.

Cialdini offers multiple real-world examples of these “weapons of influence” at work. More importantly, he also offers how-to guard yourself against these weapons being used on you. This is the perfect book for learning how to become a skilled persuader and influence the behaviors of others.

This is my most recommended book for marketing and sales professionals. 

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Don’t forget about the Summer Series: The Best B2B Books to Help You Lead Change in Your Organization that Engagio and our partners are hosting. The first session with Turn The Ship Around author David Marquet is coming up in just a few days!

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Honorable Mentions

Here are some other books that I’ve recently read and highly recommend checking out as well.

What are you reading this summer?

Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger is the Head of Growth at Engagio, the Account-Based Marketing and Sales platform that enables teams to measure account engagement and orchestrate human connections at scale. He is passionate about the intersection between tech and psychology, especially as it applies to growing businesses. You can follow him on twitter @brandon_lee_09 or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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