Sales Leadership Begins with You

I am by no means an expert on leadership. This is a topic addressed thousands of times every year by experts (and some who think they are experts). It’s a theme, a style, and a mantra, and we all have our own leadership styles, I suppose. I did some researching (very minor, I must say) looking at definitions of leadership, and one that I found that I like was actually from Wikipedia. It defines leadership as “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” I like this because it speaks directly to my teachings that sales culture starts not only with every salesperson but also with every person in the company demonstrating sales leadership through influence. Is this new? Will I get the Nobel Peace Prize because I just pointed this out? Nope. Not a chance, but I do like the simplicity of it.

In dysfunctional companies, where silos are present and entrenched, people are busy doing whatever their job title is and keeping below the radar. There is a misguided belief that this guarantees job security. We all know that nothing is guaranteed and a culture where people are allowed to show sales leadership at every level makes the company stronger. That’s because there is a common, unified focus on how what every person does every day impacts the client and helps them say “yes.” In other words, the sales team does not own sales leadership. Every single person does. I have been speaking to this for years, and it’s how we break down the silo and build up the company.

Here are four rules for us all to follow to be sales leaders:

  1. Selling IS social influence. We all have a job to accomplish every day, and the way we get that done is by influencing (selling) others to be a part of what we need to get done. The word “sales” gets a bad rap. so if it makes you queasy, then think of selling as your absolute need to influence and convince people to be a part of your team. This is not an optional skill; you must know how to do this. When you do this well, you are a leader and you are selling.
  2. Sales leadership is proactive. I think great leaders are very proactive people. They don’t just react to the latest problem or challenge; they are always looking for ways to stay ahead. When you stay ahead, your customers and prospects stay ahead – and they say “yes.” Reacting doesn’t usually mean more sales. It often means you are behind and your competition is ahead. Great leaders don’t practice “recency” as a skill – in other words, they don’t take the most recent thing they heard or saw as truth and react (sometimes inappropriately) to it!
  3. Sales leadership begins with good hiring practices. So much hiring is done on the basis of a job description and (occasionally) multiple interviews to get a balanced perspective. Okay, that works to a point, but I believe that it stops short of getting an idea about how new associates would be at selling themselves to others – and at participating in the critical sales dialogue! The interview is of course a sales call, and it’s a good indicator of how they will sell to others. I recently helped a client reshape how they hire every employee by instilling a series of questions to ask. Those questions will help them see if the person can assume sales leadership by engaging and influencing others to work with the rest of the company and team to help the customer say “yes.” One of my favorite questions is “How do you contribute to revenue?” This is always thought provoking and will give a very clear indication if people see themselves as a sales leader or not.
  4. Sales leadership is participating IN the sales dialog. Sales conversations are happening every day at every level. They don’t always look and sound like a sales conversation. They are, in fact, every conversation, whether planned or serendipitous, because their output systemically makes its way to the client’s desk. Those conversations are not the province of the sales team – they belong to everyone. And because they belong to everyone, you need to participate and offer what you do and your expertise to help the customer say “yes.” When you do, you are in sales and contributing to revenue. Please enjoy my video on this topic by clicking here.

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