The Leadership Playbook: How Selling Helps You Become a Leader

If you want to be a leader, there is no better place to start than in sales. The attributes and skills you need to develop to become a leader are required of you as a salesperson. Including the need to understand business, generate revenue, and build a profitable business.

Understanding What Other People Want

Selling is the act of helping people get what they want or need. To do that you have to understand what people want. What you need to know and understand is all contained inside your prospective client’s mind. You have to know how to gain access to their thinking.

To sell well it helps to have a deep understanding of human psychology. It also helps to be empathetic and to care about other people, both of which eliminate the self-orientation that destroys sales.

Understanding what people want and need and connecting with them will help you become a better leader.

Creating a Case for Change

Sometimes people don’t know what they want or what they need. Other times, perhaps more often, people don’t want to do what they need to do or what they need to do to achieve better results.

Much of the time selling means helping people develop a case for change and the commitment to do something different than they are doing now. In sales, this often requires an investment of money. But it also requires an investment of time and emotional energy. Change isn’t easy.

If you want to be a leader, you are by definition an agent of change. Selling will help you become a more effective agent.

Creating a Compelling Vision of the Future

What salespeople sell is a future state. They sell outcomes that aren’t presently being achieved. To do that, they create a compelling vision of the future that pulls the prospective client towards it.

This is also what leaders do. They develop and share a compelling vision of the future they are leading the people and organization in their charge towards.

A leader has to sell that vision. He has to convince others that it is the right future, and that is worth their investment of time and energy.

Building Consensus

Leaders make decisions. But they don’t make those decisions alone. They build consensus among the leadership team and among the people on whose support they will depend if they are going to generate that future state.

A salesperson must be able to bring people together around a common goal, mitigating any damage the change might cause some members, and asking people to set aside what they want for the greater good.

Leadership is about more than making decisions. It’s about making decisions stick, and executing once they are made. That requires consensus.

Accountability for Results

There are varied ideas about what is the most important thing a leader does. Many people say it’s vision. Others say it’s moral authority. If you had ten people in a room you would have eleven opinions on what makes a good leader. For my money, leadership boils down to accountability for a certain set of results.

Salespeople are accountable for producing the results they sell. They are accountable for the outcomes they promise their clients. And this, for me, is the essence of leadership: accountability. It’s stepping up and taking responsibility for producing a set of outcomes, something successful salespeople routinely do.

If you want to be a leader, sales is the perfect place to begin honing the attributes and skills you will need.

Filed under: Business Acumen

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