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The Quintessential Salesperson.
By David Goldsmith
Tuesday, 28th September 2010
 
Success in any organization is directly proportional to your leadership selling skills.

You're sitting alone, eating your lunch. Having a few moments to yourself is a rarity these days considering how the business climate has fluctuated over the past few years. Your thoughts turn to a project idea that you've pondered in recent weeks, and you know that you're going to have to take action soon.

Because you've hired new front-office employees, that existing workspace has quickly become overcrowded. You will need to expand the space to accommodate the evolving needs of your business. Your mind now races with thoughts and questions. How can I convince the production personnel that stealing 1500 square feet from their inventory space to make new front-office space is a good thing? Will I be able to secure a larger line of credit from my bank to fund this project? How do I get around the fact that I'm not going to give the renovation contract to my spouse's brother, again, because his prices are highway robbery? How do I maintain staff morale amidst the mayhem and dust?

Notice how all of these questions are about how you will sell your project idea—a build out of new office space—to a wide range of people: your production crew, your office workers, your banker, and even your spouse! Every one of them will require you to come up with a different sales pitch, too. Perhaps you've never realized how often you are selling.

Selling is what leaders do every day, all day, throughout their careers. You've had to sell yourself, your ideas, and your credibility to gain employment or start a business, climb the ranks, lure key talent to your team, earn funding from lenders, garner government cooperation, and gain buy in on projects. Thanks to your ability to sell, you have a list of accomplishments to your credit. At times, you may actually be involved in the selling a product or service to a buyer, but more often, your range of selling situations is much wider than that of the typical salesperson. The more capable you are of selling yourself and your organization within that wide range of situations, the more success you're likely to achieve. (On the flip side, lack of ability will hurt you, too.)

For instance, I spoke with a partner in a high-tech business with a patented advanced technology to sell. To wrap my mind around his business, I asked a few questions. Throughout our conversation, I could tell that he was intelligent and knew his product, but at the same time, he struggled to frame his product offering in a fashion that made it exciting…or even interesting. His words were too techno, and his overall message fell flat. So even though he knew the product well, his inability to articulate his knowledge would offer up disadvantages like not securing capital investors or not building relationships with prospective distributors, since he couldn't convince others of the benefits of his products.

Furthermore, when you have a product or service to sell, you may not be the main salesperson, but you have to know the ins and outs (or hire people who know) well enough to make sure that the offering is priced right. In this conversation with the high-tech business partner, his marketing approach also let me to believe he'd (or those hired) not thought through the financial implications of his sales model, which could ultimately threaten his firm's ability to keep distributors, because if he were to license the product using his current gross-sales pricing structure, distributors would have to pay much more than they currently pay, and this price jump would force distributors to lose money on every product they sold.

So even though the partner knew his product and business, he had some weaknesses that could jeopardize the entire organization. He didn't see himself as a salesperson—he relies on a marketing manager to do all the sales activities—so he wasn't working on building and polishing sales-related skills.. He wasn't seeing licensing within the contexts of the bigger picture, so he wasn't making a necessary connection between his leadership decisions, leadership selling, and their impact on sales.

Despite the enormous impact that sales have on the success of leaders, my research shows that the majority of them, 96.4%, have never taken a sales course or read a book on the subject of sales. Perhaps the lack of sales education comes from decision makers' perceptions about selling, namely that they consider "selling" to be an activity reserved for salespeople and customer-service reps. But in reality, leaders are quintessential salespeople.

Of course, this truth extends well beyond the realm of the business arena. Take, for instance, leaders in military, government, education, and non-profit organizations, who sell to donors, investors, contributors, agencies, states and countries, servicemen/women, volunteers, and more. The art of selling is particularly important to master when you can't entice people with a product or a paycheck such as in a volunteer environment. So regardless of your organization, if you're a leader, you need to build and polish your sales skills.

Let's take a look at four ways in which you sell every day:

EXTERNALLY, you sell to people who can help your organization grow, such as vendors, allies, lending institutions, government boards, other business leaders, regulators, lawyers, panels, voters, the media. If you're in the military, you sell to funding sources, allies, government agencies within your country and outside, vendors, intelligence sources, media, and heads of State. Not for profit, education and government leadership are no different in that there are countless external sales being conducted every day. The not-for-profit leader who gains access to free advertisers and free flight tickets for a medical team is selling externally.
 
INTERNALLY, you sell to people who can advance your organization from the inside out, like department heads, board members, senior management, cross-functional teams, and front-line staffers. You need to address people who hold many different positions, such as guards, receptionists, blockers, legal, supporting services, the team that reports to you and those that report to others that impact you, in ways that gain buy in, cooperation, and results. Look around; each environment is different but the same concept applies.
 
PERSONALLY, you sell your reputation and credibility with the clothing you wear, your mannerisms and speech, how well you write, the speed in which you respond to others, the appearance of your desk, where you live, your track record of achievements, and your ability to inspire and lead others where they want to go. You also sell yourself with the choices you make about how you spend your time in different venues: at work, in meetings, on the golf course, or community service event.
 
ORGANIZATIONALLY, you sell by making sure that your organization is strong and functioning optimally, because the strengths of an organization affect the relationship between the organization and outsiders. Your role is to make that optimal performance possible by being a great leader. It's easy to believe that people buy from people, but the vast majority of purchases are the result of buyers feeling confident about the organization from which their buying, and that confidence is earned when the organization's collective parts work together successfully. Think about all the people you've purchased from in the past month. Most you only know because the organization made the sale collectively. Think utilities, telephone, airlines, clothing, food, jewelry, hotels, and software. I purchase from IKEA, GM, Nike, Wegmans, US Airways, Hertz, Toshiba, Amazon, Chase and so on, because the organizations put the mechanisms in place along with the systems and structure to deliver what I needed to where I need it.

I just want to reinforce and make clear the last point about selling organizationally. Many organizations lose more opportunities out their back doors than their front doors. They may have great sales teams that can pull in the sales, but then the organization (as a whole or in departments) drops the ball and either forces a canceled sale, a discounted sale, or a loss of a future sale. When you lead and manage others in ways that make them successful, you reinforce your weakest link and maximize the chances of success for your organization overall.

Along this vein, consider the concept that everyone in an organization is in sales. This statement doesn't mean that everyone must peddle product, but it does mean that everyone, from customer service to janitorial service, must perform in a way that contributes to the growth and survival of the organization; and their performance still rests on your shoulders. Say that you run a restaurant. You may not be the person who prepares the meal or delivers it to a patron's table in a timely manner, but you develop the systems and give people the tools they need to make this best-outcome scenario possible. You will still need to sell someone on your ideas and projects as you develop these systems and provide these tools, but when you perform in a leadership role, you are selling through the organizational strengths that you have created, too.

If you decide to share this idea that everyone is in sales with your staffers, be clear about your expectations of each individual, department, or business unit. Revisiting our restaurant scenario, you also would not want your head chef going out and selling each meal. The chef's contribution to sales is a meal delivered as expected and on time. Avoid misuse of the phrase so that you're not looking at unproductive staff members who can only shrug their shoulders in confusion or defeat, because they have no clue what they must do to fulfill their role in sales.

So if you haven't done so already, start asking yourself what you can do to improve your ability to sell. Start considering "selling" as an integral daily activity that requires you to continually improve your ability to pitch the right message to the best people to achieve your desired outcomes. You can start by paying a little more attention to the process of selling, by picking up a book on negotiations, sales, or different cultures as ways of expanding your mind and your skills

I'd even suggest taking a sales course where you can gain instant feedback on the ways in which you present yourself. And at the very least, begin practicing the art of selling with a heightened awareness of how you sell, paying attention to your voice, mannerisms, and body language. Keep track of how timely you are about addressing matters or returning calls. Pay attention to how you structure your messages, watching for times when you should get to the point quickly and times when you need to warm up your prospect first.

Throughout every day, stay aware of how (even more so than any salesperson,) you're always "on", your buyer doesn't fit into a tidy demographic classification, and your "product" is always evolving. Mastering art of leadership selling© is a necessity for any leader to succeed.

David Goldsmith, is a consultant, speaker, author, and professor who is known worldwide for improving decision makers' individual and corporate performance. Mr. Goldsmith has provided results for Fortune 200 CEOs, was recognized as NYU's Outstanding Professor the Year, was named one of Successful Meetings Magazine's 26 Hottest Speakers, and was awarded CNY's Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

To learn how you can improve your performance using these award-winning proven strategies and tactics, check out www.davidgoldsmith.com , email david@davidgoldsmith.com
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