I was listening to a keynote speaker at a conference last winter when I heard the words “every leader needs to be able to sell.’
This one caught me by surprise. I had never thought that a leader needs to be a sales person. When I think of a sales person I think of the direct sales process and the traditional and most common definition of sales.
The selling skills required by today’s leaders are in one sense very different than the skills taught to us in Selling Skills 101: Planning/preparation, Questioning, Presentation, Overcoming objections, Closing.
On the other hand, these skills are actually exactly what our leaders need. They need to understand the plan – the ultimate goal and how we are going to get there. They need to know how to connect to the audience’s needs, how to present the concept and solution, how to overcome objections and certainly how to ‘close the deal’.
When we think about the skills required in a leadership role we assume the obvious (as I have been blogging this past summer):
• The Ability to Delegate
• Good Communication skills
• A sense of Humour
• Positive attitude
• The Ability to Inspire
No selling skills.
As I think, write and speak about leadership at all levels I realize now that the ability to sell is a key ingredient to good leadership. I would even suggest that the inability to sell could be a very large detriment to one’s ascension to a senior leadership level.
Think about typical roles that a leader will play:
• managing people and teams
• front-ending large and small strategic initiatives
• overseeing the acquisition of products and services
• spearheading the acquisition of or sale to another organization
• driving a new direction to the future of a company
• assisting in the close of a sales deal
And this is just the short list.
Look at each one of these roles and ask yourself if the ability to sell is not critical to the role.
In each of the roles above the ability to ‘persuade someone of the merits of’ is paramount. A good-to-great-to-awesome leader needs to able to take an idea, a concept, a product, a service or a future and make everyone involved believe in it and make it happen.
Here is a big caveat to all of this and please excuse me if you think I am shouting… YOUR BEST SALES PEOPLE TYPICALLY DO NOT MAKE GOOD LEADERS. I have seen many examples of organizations promoting their best sales people to sales managers or leaders of some sort. It does not work.
The ability to sell or influence or persuade is important but the ideal positioning of this talent is in a place of support to the really important skills as listed above. I just think selling skills should be on the list.
If you are a leader of any sort I challenge you to look at your selling skills. They need to be up-to-date, sharp and refined. If not already, you will be asked someday to use this important skill almost daily.
Potential leaders who know how to sell will have the leading edge to the next senior leadership position.
Can you sell?
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