What To Read


I am a fan of continuing education at every level. Education is available in so many ways: the internet, books on tape, audio downloads, seminars and books. As a consultant in this great industry, I am often asked, “What books would you recommend to help jump-start my career in sales and marketing?” This is a difficult question to answer because each person absorbs information in different ways. For instance, I am drawn to analogous writing where the author compares an idea, task or concept to something else. I’m also very visual.

Recently I was asked if I could make some book recommendations to one of the Association’s members and that conversation spawned this article. While a multitude of exceptional authors dot the landscape—Seth Godin, Jeffrey Gitomer [who will be a keynote speaker at Expo East in Atlantic City in March], Rex Briggs and Harry Beckwith are among them—here are a few books that have helped my career on several fronts.

SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hard
Authors: Chip and Dan Heath

One of the biggest challenges in business is losing focus or direction. What needs to happen when this loss of direction occurs is to change something. As most would attest, change is difficult. We get stuck in the way we do things and get lost in the revolving door of complacency and mediocrity. As the authors say, “… people wear themselves out … what looks like laziness is often exhaustion.” Dan and Chip Heath do a brilliant job of explaining the three directions of change with their analogy of The Rider, The Elephant and The Path. It is imperative that we direct the rider, motivate the elephant and shape our path. The authors use real-life examples to succinctly show how others have made these transformations. They also provide actionable steps to help facilitate these changes. This book will help you with multiple facets of your life.


Act Now: A Daily Action Log for Achieving Your Goals in 90 Days
Author: Peter D. Winiarski

As I coach various individuals, I see that one of the biggest hurdles is time management. Winiarski does a brilliant job of laying out all of the obvious things we know such as defining goals and understanding daily actions, and he does it by breaking these down into very simple-to-understand language. In addition, what I have found useful is his Daily Action Log which helps track progress. I, for one, need to write things down and make lists—perhaps that’s why I found this book so effective. It has been said that it takes 20-plus days to change habits. I still find that many of the principles in this book guide my success for killer time management. This book will help keep you on track once you’ve decided on your path.


Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition
Authors: Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin

Let’s face it, our industry is amazing but highly competitive. Our clients and prospects can buy what we sell just about anywhere. What makes you different, special and unique? Why would or should people engage you and buy from you? In order to compete, many people sell at reduced prices. In the long run, this creates chaos on profitability, and it hurts the industry and the long-term success of your business. In this book, the authors share their brightest ideas and most up-to-date changes in the marketing sector to drive their point of differentiation home. A slew of case studies gives you real-life situations that you can embrace to help you create the needed changes to begin to differentiate yourself in a heavily competitive market space.

The need for differentiation is critical in this day and age. Ease of entry to the industry, low sales and business acumen by many and price cutting can make it difficult to make a successful living. If you want to ensure a sustainable business, you need to differentiate. Pairing this with a defined path and actionable steps will start you on the right road to success.

Idea Spotting
Author: Sam Harrison

Clients are always asking, ‘What’s new?’ or ‘Can you bring me some new ideas?’ This is what I see as the key differentiator for our businesses: offering creative and innovative solutions that go beyond product is essential. I am blessed to have won more than 23 industry awards for creativity and have helped many others win hundreds of awards for themselves. What’s interesting is those who embrace this process seem to have an epiphany—they understand that they can bring so much additional value to their clients. But where in the world do you come up with ideas? It begins with you and changing your mindset—that’s what I did. Sam Harrison’s book helped me see beyond the obvious product and look at new ways of using that product—ways that had a more positive outcome for the client and myself. His 10 points for “idea spotting” are brilliant: borrower, explore the masters, imitation, looking at others, taking notes, look to the past, nihilist (you’ll need to read the book to appreciate this), open-mindedness, picking up the trash and staying still. This book is engaging, fun and spot-on. In a crowded market, having brilliant ideas—and lots of them—is a key differentiator, and clients and prospects will come to love your “beyond-the-catalog” thinking.

Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty
Author: Patrick Lencioni

At times, we can be our own worst enemies. Now, more than at any time in history, our clients and prospects have more choices and more accessibility to information. As the younger generation begins to take the reins as buyers and decision makers, loyalty seems to have all but disappeared. Lencioni shares the three major fears—fear of losing the business, fear of feeling embarrassed and fear of feeling inferior—and puts them in the context of developing what he calls the “getting naked model.” He further discusses the importance of creating a transparent environment with regards to client interaction. Censoring feedback and avoiding difficult situations creates an impediment to loyal clients. Not owning up to mistakes or openly sharing your thoughts and ideas so as not to feel embarrassed prevents your growth. I am amazed when I get folks to open up about their creative ideas in my seminars and workshops. Their ideas are often brilliant, but they don’t want to share for fear that people will find them stupid. When you do this, you hurt no one but you and impede your growth on many fronts. I also encourage you to find and read the poem “Our Deepest Fear” by Marianne Williamson. It sums up this point brilliantly.

I am blessed that many of my colleagues are always suggesting books, blogs and webinars. I embrace those suggestions and read as many books and blogs as I can, as well as attend education events at the PPAI Expo and other shows, and embrace other educational venues. Essentially, I drink up knowledge and I encourage you to do the same. Correct your path, drive your business with passion and accountability, be different, generate amazing ideas and be the very best you can be with your customer service, and you will be amazingly successful.

Cliff Quicksell, Jr., MAS+, serves both as a consultant and acting director of marketing for distributor iPROMOTEu. He has been in the promotional industry for the past 32 years in various capacities. Additionally, Quicksell is president of his own international speaking and consulting company, speaking, coaching and consulting on ways and methods that companies can grow, expand and prosper. He has helped and spoken to audiences in more than eight countries and has published two books and more than 800 articles on sales, marketing and creativity. He can be reached at 301-717-0615, via email at cliff@quicksellspeaks.com or on his LinkedIn profile.


>>Hear Cliff Quicksell Live At The PPAI Expo

All sessions are free to member show attendees and free to nonmembers with a ticket.

Sunday, January 11

Questions Are The Answer: Interviewing The Client

2:30-3:30 pm

Becoming A Brand Architect And Not The Supply House

4-5:30 pm


Monday, January 12

Six Reasons Why Marketing Fails And How To Prevent It

8-9 am

Maximizing Your Trade Show Experience

9:20-10:20 am

Differentiate Or Go Home: Setting Yourself Apart In A Crowded Marketplace

10:40 am-12 pm


Tuesday, January 13

Offer Packaging: Gain HUGE Profits

2-3 pm


Thursday, January 15

Building A Successful Marketing Campaign From The Ground Up

9-10:30 am

One Response to What To Read

  1. Hi Cliff,
    Enjoyed your recap of these 5 books. Not sure if you will be in Canada for the National show ( who wants to be up here during the winter anyway) would love to say hi if you do come up . Took a pass this year on Orlando and Las Vegas since we have some heavy planning to do for our 30th anniversary . Hope all is well …
    All the best & warm regards

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