In today’s business climate, your ability to sell is your ability to lead. Companies’ stock prices climb and plummet based on leaders’ ability (or inability) to sell their day-to-day decisions to shareholders, and college sports programs live and die by the head coaches’ ability to sell the program to student athletes, boosters, and fans.
Leaders are constantly in selling mode, promoting their ideas, their company, and their vision. All eyes are on the leader, and what those eyes see had better be impressive.
There are four particularly valuable skills that are found in all great salespeople and leaders, and these are qualities you should strive to build for yourself and cultivate in your employees.
Leaders with great communication skills motivate people to believe and invest in their companies. Outstanding leaders can clearly articulate their visions and translate them into a practical reality.
Great leaders and great salespeople know what other people need before they do. Mark Zuckerberg saw the big picture when he spent $16 billion to purchase WhatsApp in February (and, more recently, $2 billion to acquire Oculus VR).
People said Zuckerberg grossly overvalued WhatsApp, even though the startup is set to reach 1 billion users by year’s end. With the $1 annual service fee users pay, Zuckerberg could make $1 billion, meaning he stands to earn many times his investment and push Facebook’s stock prices up even further. Zuckerberg saw potential in WhatsApp, and leaders need this type of long-term vision.
It takes a stubborn personality to make a sale, and that’s an attitude that can boost an entire organization. Observing a leader who refuses to take “no” for an answer sets a great example for everyone in the organization, from marketing to sales.
A confident leader makes employees, investors, and partners believe they have the potential to succeed. Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed confidence in the face of criticism after a few Tesla Model S cars caught fire in November. Musk went on the offensive, saying that the risk of death or injuries from Tesla cars was significantly lower than the risk from gas-powered cars. That’s the kind of confidence and salesmanship that makes employees and customers deeply loyal to a company.
4 Tools That Help Leaders Become Better Salespeople
Of course, in today’s world, there’s a host of resources that can make leading (and selling) much easier. Here are a few great tools to make salesmanship more natural for leaders:
1. Sales automation/CRM software: These tools allow leaders to automate their communication with customers to increase consistency and effectiveness. A CRM platform is critical to reaching a wide audience, staying organized, and closing more deals.
2. Social media platforms: As a leader, people aren’t buying from your company — they’re buying you. Create a professional identity that’s consistent across all social channels, and use these platforms to build your brand. Share articles that are relevant to your industry, and interact with other leaders.
3. Web meeting software: Online meetings through platforms like GoToMeeting are a great way to develop communication skills. Web meetings let you ease into public speaking slowly by helping you practice explaining content to an audience in a more controlled environment.
4. Presentation tools: Leaders need to be able to present their business or ideas at a moment’s notice. You never know whom you’ll be seated next to on a plane. Tools like Keynote for iPad make it easier to carry your sales materials with you to present on the fly.
Regardless of your role in an organization, it’s always the right time to start developing yourself as a salesperson in preparation for leadership. Every action a leader takes is essentially selling something. You can sharpen your sales chops even if you’re not technically a salesperson. As a leader, the best way to build your sales skills is by getting out of your comfort zone and tackling new challenges every day.
Janis Krums is the founder and CEO of OPPRTUNITY, a professional discovery platform that matches professionals based on real opportunities to do business. Janis is a serial entrepreneur, an advisor and an investor for startups. He can be reached on Twitter or Google+, or directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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