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7 Sales Skills For Leaders

7 Sales Skills for Leaders

Sales gets a bad rap. No one wants to be that smooth-talking guy pushing a vacation club or spamming us on LinkedIn. By the way, if you’re that guy, please stop, I will never buy a program from a LinkedIn spammer.

But the truth is, leadership and sales have a lot in common: Inspiring a vision; building genuine relationships; finding creative solutions. Selling well is about caring and helping others achieve what they imagine. Leaders can benefit from honing some of their “sales” skills.

How I Became a Sales Leader

I’d been in HR for years when the Sales VP encouraged me to interview for a Sales Director gig. I was shocked. “Oh, I’ve never done sales…how could I lead a large sales team?” She just laughed, “Karin, you’re selling all the time. You’re constantly convincing us to take time out of the field to invest in leadership and HR programs. Trust me. That’s selling.”

She was right. And as it turns out, leading a team of several thousand sales people was one of my favorite gigs.

Today I find the advice I gave to new sales people useful in developing leaders as well.

7 Leadership Sales Skills

First, recognize that you already know how to sell. You’ve been selling from the very first time you convinced your parents to let you stay up past your bedtime. Think about all you’ve sold in your life, and use that to bolster your confidence.

If the thought of “selling ” your vision, your concept, or your idea sill intimidates you, here are some selling 101 tips that can help.

  1. Be confident in your “product” – If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, your “customer” won’t either. If you find yourself spinning the truth or speaking with strategic ambiguity consider your motives and your leadership. If you don’t buy it, they won’t (and shouldn’t).
  2. Create genuine connection – Relating on a human level and demonstrating that you truly care is much more important than any sales (or leadership) “technique”.
  3. Be truly humbleConfidence without humility will turn off “prospects” every time. False “humility (e.g. stupid self-deprecating remarks will make them gag.)
  4. Ask great questions – Find out what they truly need. Help them clarify their vision based on their scene, not what you’ve got to give. Listen more than you talk.
  5. Focus on helping – Work to find creative solutions that solve people’s problems
  6. Don’t sell past the close – Once the “customer” says yes, say thank you, and wrap it up. Don’t over-stay your welcome

Top 10 Sales Tips for Non Sales Professionals

Your Turn: What sales skills do you think are important for leaders?
Filed Under:   Authenticity & Transparency, Career & Learning, Communication
 
 
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt is a leadership speaker, consultant, and MBA professor. She's a former Verizon Wireless executive with two decades of diverse cross-functional experience in sales, customer service and HR. Karin was named as a top 100 Thought Leader in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. She is author of, "Overcoming an Imperfect Boss: A Practical Guide to Building a Better Relationship With Your Boss." Karin knows the stillness of a yogi, the reflective road of a marathoner and the joy of being a mom raising emerging leaders.
 

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What People Are Saying

David Tumbarello   |   19 March 2014   |   Reply

Number 7.1 — Satisfy a need. Sometimes the customer (follower, charge, player, student) doesn’t realize their own need. Maybe they need to be contribute, to grow, to have fun, to have less distraction, to have more time, to share artistic pursuits, to hit a home run, to hit a single. An effective leader will understand the customer, learn what motivates them, and appeal to a specific need.

letsgrowleaders   |   19 March 2014   |   Reply

David. GREAT add. So true leaders help people discover what they need and grow from there.

Steve Borek   |   19 March 2014   |   Reply

Be a servant leader. You won’t have to sell a thing to the constitutents. They’ll enthusiastically enroll.

letsgrowleaders   |   19 March 2014   |   Reply

Steve, Amen.

bill holston   |   19 March 2014   |   Reply

Great! Of course in the non profit world the clearest example of sales is development work. Believing in the product is the most critical on that list for me. When I was considering this position and thinking about fundraising my best friend made a great point, He told me that I’d be able to raise money, because I believe passionately in the mission. He was right. In the last two years I’ve had to stand in rooms of friends and ask for money. But because I KNOW how careful we are with the money and the lives we touch, I can do it.

letsgrowleaders   |   20 March 2014   |   Reply

Bill, Thanks so much for sharing your experience. What a beautiful example of really sales made easier because of a passionate cause.

Matt McWilliams   |   19 March 2014   |   Reply

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever criticize the prospect’s (or team member’s) thinking. Same goes for other companies, managers, team members, etc.

letsgrowleaders   |   20 March 2014   |   Reply

Matt, YES, YES, YES.

LaRae Quy   |   19 March 2014   |   Reply

So sad, but so true…sales gets a really bad rap.

We all think of sleazy salespeople who use flattery to inveigle their way to a sale…

Honest connection with others is so important…without it you cannot establish trust.

Great post.

bill holston   |   19 March 2014   |   Reply

You are so right LaRae, sincerity, I’m seeing a theme here on that.

letsgrowleaders   |   20 March 2014   |   Reply

LaRae, Thank you. I was talking to a sales VP the other night. He shared how he never thought he’d end up in “sales” because of the worry that “that’s where people go when they don’t have the expertise to make it in their chosen field” yikes…. He was fantastic at building deep trust and connection, and is doing just fine. We need connectors who care.

Terri Klass   |   19 March 2014   |   Reply

Great salespeople are authentic and believable. I hate to deal with salespeople who are pushy and make me feel as if I am not knowledgeable.

So I would add: be yourself and never push the customer around.

Enjoyed the post, Karin!

letsgrowleaders   |   20 March 2014   |   Reply

Terri, Great add…. being authentic goes such a long way.

Alli Polin   |   21 March 2014   |   Reply

Love “don’t sell past the close.” I worked with people that taught their entire team ABC (always be closing) but there is a time when it’s enough.

I used to do sales training and discovered that out of all of the sales philosophies out there the ones that were truly about listening, getting curious and creating solutions (vs pushing product) were by far my favorite.

So true that’s what great leaders do naturally!

letsgrowleaders   |   21 March 2014   |   Reply

Alli, Hmmmmm…..yeah, I’m leary of the ABC model…. it’s important to ask for the “sale” but too much closing can feel pushy. Thanks for sharing your insights!