A discussion about two facts: leaders sell and sales lead
A career in sales can feel like you’re forever spending your time chasing prospects, leads, deals, and quotas. But the skills that sales professionals learn are a perfect fit for successful leadership roles in the future.
Leadership requires specific skillsets, many of which are shared with sales professional.
This article will discuss the top five skills that salespeople naturally develop to refine their leadership capabilities.
№1 — Hunger
Like leadership, sales plays a vital role to keep a company moving forward. It requires hunger, an appetite with energy, and resilience. Indeed, to be successful in any field, you have to be willing to push boundaries.
Steve Jobs said: "Stay hungry", his takeaway message to an audience of graduates at Harvard University.
Jobs was a Sales and Marketing guru. He was laser-focused. Sales professionals with the hunger to chase deals, who set high standards for themselves, will break down barriers and obstacles in their way to succeed.
№2 — High Integrity
Few associate integrity as a trait where sales professionals are concerned. The best people in any field have this trait in abundance, including sales.
Top sales professionals are trusted by buyers, without exception, that's the power of integrity.
For leaders, integrity is even more crucial. If a leader displays unethical or dishonest behaviour, they lose credibility, threatening the entire organization.
If the leader is fired or stripped of his or her title, the brand damage can ripple for years. Leaders with a poor reputation are just like salespeople. Those who leave ruin in their wake damage future prospects, future deals, which is detrimental to any business.
High-profile leadership scandals are frequent. Enron, Olympus, Nissan, and DeLorean are some examples, where unethical decisions culled opportunities, caused stocks to plummet or a company to collapse.
Sales professionals, who behave honourably and consistently to deliver value for their customers, are leaders in the making.
№3 — Strategic thinking
In business, numbers are everything. Sales professionals have to figure out ways to tailor a deal to reach a win-win situation for both parties. How to achieve this equilibrium requires a refined type of thinking.
Like leaders, salespeople are always evaluating every deal.
They question their approach to tackle a deal differently. They overcome obstacles, figuring out a way to work around any obstacle or objection that may present to maintain progress.
These are the same questions that every business leader asks every day:
- How can I increase revenue?
- How can we grow, evolve, and innovate?
- How can we make our company stronger, better than the rest?
The ability to reflect and map out a plan to formulate a strategy to tackle challenges as they arise is one of the most important skills of a leader, a skill that sales professionals do every day.
№4 — Motivation
Sales is a confidence game. A game that’s rife with setbacks. Leadership is no different. Sales inspire confidence in themselves, leaders inspire confidence in others. They both have an inner belief.
Confidence is contagious.
When a sales professional or leader meets a client they do so with an air of confidence in sharing what’s great about their product or service. They believe in what they say, convincing others to see things their way.
Sales rely on confidence to inspire their audience, like leaders who stand by others to keep everything on track — everyone on board every day.
№5 — Empathy
The most valuable asset that sales professionals have that make them great leaders is empathy. Yes, they tend to a high degree of empathy to understand the needs of others, their customers.
Sales is about people, empathy, it’s as simple as that.
The ability to convince others to get on board is grounded in empathy. Any experienced salesperson knows this, that emotion and human connection trump logic.
The best salespeople lead with emotion. Empathetic sales professionals are able to guide hot prospects to navigate the emotional terrain to reach the ideal outcome.
Great leadership is no different.
Both are “found at the intersection of wisdom, persuasion, and empathy.” Chris Myers notes that salespeople have a “unique understanding of the human element and tend to embody this mix of skills in just the right amounts."
Great leaders are great sales professionals, so by deduction great salespeople are or can be great leaders. Let me simplify:
- Salespeople sell a product or service to people
- Leaders sell a vision to people, their followers
Can you see the trend? Here are 5 leaders who started in sales:
- Gary Vaynerchuk
- Warren Buffet
- Mark Cuban
- Howard Schultz
- Nick Woodman
Even better, here are 5 Female leaders who began their career in sales:
On that note, let’s recap the 5 takeaways for leaders:
- Hunger — Your appetite, energy, and resilience is vital
- High-integrity — Behave honourably and consistently to deliver value
- Strategic thinking — formulate a plan to tackle challenges
- Motivation — Sales inspire confidence in themselves, leaders inspire confidence in others, both are grounded in self-belief
- Empathy — Your most valuable asset
Mariann Williamson's words captured the essence of those who make the leap from sales to leadership:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.