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 Hard Sell Is Hard To Buy

If you want customers, stop selling. Hard sells exhaust. Aggressive pitches scream, “Do this for ME.” Every day, I close down down to parades of hard sells.

Last week I re-opened my mind to a sales exec who caught my interest by offering consultation to a real business problem. Two years ago, his predecessor pushed with a hard sell in the wrong context. I didn’t take the time to learn what the product was about. It took a long time to recover. This time it felt helpful and I’m listening.

Whether your’re selling a product or yourself. Approach matters. If you want customers or employers to listen, approach gently and solve problems.

From Hard Sell to Easy Relationships

Hard to Buy
“There are more fakers in business than in jail.”
~ Malcolm Forbes
  • Bringing the sales guy to the service meeting with a surprise agenda
  • Asking to expand the relationship, when performance is lagging
  • LinkedIn Spam emails
  • Follow-up Linkedin in Spam emails acting flabergasted that the first email was ignored
  • Sales pitches disguised as “Training,” “Workshops,” or “Webinars”
  • Sales people who don’t know the business or haven’t done their homework
  • Exagerated claims and manipulated data
  • Cold calls with creative tactics to get past the gatekeeper (burn those books)
  • Name dropping in interviews or sales pitches
Easy to Buy
“Stop Selling, Start Helping”
  • A track record of success in the current relationship
  • Networking through trusted relationships
  • Well researched analysis of problems, with creative solutions
  • Establishing non-sales professional connections in Linked and Social media
  • Helping without expectations
  • Showcasing what you can do
  • Sharing expertise
  • Intelligent questions

Executives turn down parades of hard sell approaches every day. We also tune into amazing networks of helpful people. How will you show up?