Topic Reading Lists


This page collects links to blog posts, articles and books about startup sales management.

If you lack a basic understanding of sales management and personal selling, see the resources at the bottom of this list. They don't address the startup context specifically, but they provide an excellent introduction and overview of the sales function. A hat tip to my colleague Frank Cespedes, HBS's expert on B2B marketing and sales, who referred me to most of these basic readings.

Educators designing courses on startup sales may wish to review the syllabus for the Harvard Business School MBA elective, Entrepreneurial Sales and Marketing.

Companion pages listed to the right and also in the nav bar above cover resources and insights related to lean startup logic/methodsproduct designproduct managementbusiness development; and marketing, among other topics.

Startup sales management: general issues
Account selection and management
Managing conflict with other functions
Sales senior management: who to hire/when to hire them
Sales reps: how to hire, manage and motivate them
Personal selling
Managing inside sales
Enterprise/SaaS sales
Introductory readings on sales management and personal selling
  • My HBS colleague Frank Cespedes has written extensively about the sales function. His work includes a new book, Aligning Strategy and Sales, and many articles, such as “How to Identify the Best Customers for Your Business” and “Teamwork for Today’s Selling.” 
  • Neil Rackham, SPIN Selling. SPIN stands for “Situation. Problem. Implication. Need-Payoff” -- a classic framework used in sales training. The book presents a practical, structured approach for selling complex products in settings with multiple decision makers. 
  • Philip Delves Broughton, The Art of the Sale. Broughton interviews successful salespeople around the world and synthesizes research on personal selling. He does a great job of exploring ethical issues and psychological pressures confronting sales people. 
  • Daniel H. Pink, To Sell Is Human. Describes how technology and other macro trends are changing the sales function and summarizes behavioral research on the attributes of successful sales people. 
  • Aaron Ross & Marylou Tyler, Predictable Revenue, provides a practical summary of best practices for personal selling and sales management based on Aaron's experience at
  • A. Zoltners, P. Sinha, and G. Zoltners, The Complete Guide to Accelerating SalesForce Performance. A superb reference book that covers all the elements of sales management, including hiring, training, compensation design, territory assignments, quotas, etc. 
  • The research firm CSO Insights, run by former HP executives Jim Dickie and Barry Trailer (CSO = Chief Sales Officer), publishes frequent blog posts on a range of sales management topics.