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

7 Unusual Ways to Motivate Your Sales Team

The first time I suggested we lower quotas to drive performance, my boss thought I was crazy. Until we did. Results sky rocketed. Why?

7 Ways To Motivate

  1. Lower Quotas – Out of reach quotas demoralize. Let them taste success. Most good comp plans include multipliers. When solid reps get a multiplied paycheck they understand possibility.
  2. Sell it For Them – “If my out-of-touch boss can do this, it can’t be that hard.” In my case, “if this HR chick now running our sales organization can do this, it must REALLY be easy.” Not my typical “wind beneath the wings” advice. Ensure you understand the obstacles first hand, and lead from there.
  3. Go Bird Watching – This week I stopped by the office of one of the most successful, results-driven sales leaders I know. His assistant told me he’d taken his entire team on a “bird watching” lunch. Perspective clears the creative thought process. Motivate with a surprise break and time to strategize.
  4. Stop Talking Money – “To motivate a sales person bring money.” True. But that’s not the only thing. Determine what else matters. Career growth? Prestige? Relationships? Have deeper conversations.
  5. Shave your head – I’ll admit, this is not my personal go-to, but I’ve seen it do wonders to motivate both sales and customer service teams across several companies. For some reason, teams can’t wait to see their boss’ bald head. You get bonus motivation if the team does the shaving.
  6. Make It A Team Sport – “Sales people are out to be #1.” Some sales folks also love being part of a winning team. It may mean more than the paycheck. Don’t underestimate the value of old-fashioned team rivalry. Cultivated well, they will help one another grow.
  7. What would you add?