What images, thoughts and feelings come to mind when you think of or hear the word “salesperson”?
- Stereotypical, slick-talking, used car sales people
- Well-spoken financial manager
- The guy everyone loves who sells his wares on the golf course
Whether you have positive thoughts and feelings about salespeople or decidedly un-positive, the purpose of this article is not to suggest or defend any of these images or thoughts. Rather, my purpose is to state an iron-clad fact:
Leaders are salespeople.
And, more importantly, great leaders are great salespeople.
You may not buy my idea (after all, I am trying to sell it to you, but keep reading I plan to succeed). If you don’t buy this premise it’s probably because you have some beliefs/images/thoughts about sales people that contradict your beliefs/images/thoughts about leaders.
If you already buy my idea then you will love what’s to come. If you don’t, then let’s see if I can change your mind by the end of this article . . .
Salespeople can’t make you do anything; neither can leaders. Both realize they can inspire and inform, and they recognize the ultimate choice to take action belongs to the customer or follower. Great salespeople and leaders also realize that when they remember this fact they are less frustrated and more successful.
Salespeople are selling a vision and ideas; so are leaders. You may think salespeople are selling a product or service, but the truth is they are selling a vision of what that product or service will do or how it will make people feel as a result ownership. As leaders help people to see a vision of something different in the future, they are doing the same thing.
Salespeople know they are in the relationship business; so do leaders. Neither a great salesperson nor a great leader focuses on becoming friends with his/her Customers/followers, but all focus on building meaningful and trusted relationships. Why? Those relationships make their work easier and far more rewarding.
Salespeople realize they are in the change business; so do leaders. If no one buys, nothing changes. If no one follows, there isn’t much leadership. To be successful, salespeople and leaders study and understand individual and group/organizational change.
Salespeople are influencers and persuaders; so are leaders. Notice I didn’t say manipulators, but influencers and persuaders. When you sum up the other four points above you come up with influence.
Are there manipulative, short-sighted salespeople?
Of course. (The same can be said about some portion of the leader population.)
But, are those the salespeople that create long term success for themselves and their Customers?
Not at all. (Not in the leader population either)
The best salespeople are persuasion experts who influence through relationships, insight, great communication skills, understanding people and more. They strive to support and improve the lives of those they sell to, knowing when they do they have created a Customer for life.
Read that sentence again, and with just a couple of changes . . .
The best leaders are persuasion experts who influence through relationships, insight, great communication skills, understanding people and more. They strive to support and improve the lives of those they lead, knowing when they do they have created a follower for life.
Those are just five reasons why the best leaders are great salespeople.
Regardless of what you might have been thinking at the start of this article, it is time to embrace your inner salesperson.
But only if you care about being a more effective leader.