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  • Writer's pictureMegan Robinson

Sales Skills for Leaders

Why leaders need to embrace their inner salesperson...

Great salespeople don't fit the cliche stereotype of a salesperson. They never come across as pushy or insincere. Instead, excellent salespeople are curious, great listeners, and skilled communicators. Sound familiar? These are all the essential traits of strong leaders. 

Leaders are in the business of selling, too. They may not directly convince people to buy a product, but they inspire those around them to buy into something – to be effective, they need to "sell" their ideas, visions, and goals. 

Yes, you're in sales.

It might come as a shock, but embracing your inner salesperson can be a game-changer as you become a stronger leader. Let's face it: nobody really wants to feel like the stereotypical salesperson, but no one would like to feel like a stereotypical pushy leader either. In both cases, the "secret" to success is not to act aggressively but to find a way to connect authentically. 

Leaders are in a constant state of selling their ideas and strategies. It's true whether they're guiding their team (selling down), persuading superiors (selling up), or collaborating with peers (selling laterally). They find the right blend of persuasion and motivation for every audience.

Selling up, down, and sideways

Selling down to your team is the most straightforward concept to understand– you're working on getting your team on board with your vision. 

Selling up is a different ball game. Have you ever tried to convince your parents to let you borrow the car? You need to present it in a way that aligns with your superior’s priorities. (Dad, if I just drive, you can stay home and watch the game and won’t have to drop me off.

Lastly, there's selling laterally to your peers. Selling to your teammates fosters a more collaborative and enthusiastic team.

In each case, you use your sales skills to get buy-in, create excitement, and drive action. You take into account who you need to reach and tailor your pitch to what resonates with them. 

Sales skills in leadership settings

There are many skills that both great leaders and great salespeople possess, one of the most important being the ability to motivate others. Whether selling or leading, you have to be able to get people excited enough to act.

There's also listening – a skill that doesn't get enough credit in any situation. In sales, you listen to what the customer isn't saying just as much as what they are. The same goes for leadership. Being able to tune into your team's unspoken concerns or ideas and addressing it is a game-changer. 

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a bad sales pitch? Despite your hesitations or objections, the seller keeps plowing through, leaving you in an uncomfortable situation. Leaders who don't have buy-in but keep insisting on marching forward put the people around them in the same boat. 

Lastly, as we briefly mentioned above, there's the art of adapting your message for your audience. Great salespeople are like chameleons; they know how to tweak their pitch to resonate with different customers. In leadership, it's about knowing your team and tailoring your communication to connect with each person. It's never a one-size-fits-all message.

Communicating to Convince and Align

Beyond motivating, listening, and adapting a pitch, we also see great salespeople and strong leaders excel in aligning. Just as salespeople allow consumers to imagine how their lives will be improved with their product, experienced leaders can paint a compelling picture of their vision. 

Have you witnessed a manager who has decided they didn't need to "sell" their ideas because they were “the boss”? Teams in those scenarios often act out of obligation rather than belief in the vision. These employees can become unengaged, and getting to the final product takes much more effort. 

Instead, we see the strongest leaders don't operate with a mindset of authority. They lead by influence, not by mandate. They use their skills to engage and inspire the team to embrace their vision. Influential leaders understand, connect, and empathize with their team, framing their ideas in a way that encourages active participation.

Strong leaders align objectives with visions and ensure everyone sees how their role fits the bigger picture. Just as a great salesperson starts by listening to a customer’s unique needs to find the right solution, great leaders work with their teams to build their projects on a foundation of mutual respect and shared goals.

Embrace your inner salesperson

Adopting a sales perspective can transform how you lead. And by integrating these sales skills into your approach, you can become a more dynamic and effective leader. I encourage you to redefine what it means to 'sell' – you're not pushing a product but sharing a vision and inspiring, uniting, and driving your team toward success. 

Looking to bring more sales skills to your team? I’m rolling out a new workshop where participants will learn and practice adopting these powerful sales skills into their leadership process. Schedule a call to explore how we can integrate sales skills into your leadership style.


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