PreSales book recommendations

I was asked by another person in the broad Solutions Engineering/Architecture world about books I would recommend. He called me a season professional, which raises lots of questions about his assessment of me because no one is calling me that!

But my response is worth jotting down here, because I don't really have much in the presales space specifically. Honestly, a lot of the authors, bloggers or podcasters in the space feel inexperienced and a bit grifterish to me. And SE doesn't have any explicit skills that aren't present elsewhere; it's just a mad mix of value selling (which any good rep should be doing) with technical acumen. So the books I tend to recommend steer away from domain specificity; since most books follow the 80/20 rule (80% filler, 20% stuff you take away). Read enough of them and those pockets of 20% usefulness build up!

The 3 I'll recommend here:

  • Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck
  • Unleashed by Frances Frei
  • Toyota Production System by Taiichi Ohno

The first is a great toolkit to get your mind into the right zone for growth, development and getting to the next level. That can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but there's no disadvantage to being in a growth mindset in any situation.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending The Leadership Consortium, led by Frances Frei. Her book talks about leadership, and provides tools and frameworks to articulate leadership to different types of people. I've had an unusual number of occasions over the past few years to quote her and draw her helpful diagrams on whiteboards!

Finally, Toyota Production System is a weird one. But it talks about core techniques and concepts that are relevant to all walks of life, not just large scale manufacturing. At work, we brought the "muda" concept to the fore of how we think about things. It refers to wasted work, time-wasting or just "busy work." Ideally you don't have any of that, but in lieu of being absolutely perfect all of the time, simply being able to identify and call-out the issue is a good place to be. Similarly, it talks about things like baton-passing. Which means being able to pass good work to the next person, but also being able to halt the production line (which can be software, selling, childcare, anything!) when there's a big enough issue. I've spent a lot of time explaining that concept to folks in the guise of identifying when or where we should "hit the big red button" on something.

Anyway, I hope these prove helpful. At some point I'll collate most of the books I've read or am reading into a single place and have it as a menu item.