Great Leadership Comes From… Sales?

Believe it or not, an essential part of effective management is actually sales -- not selling to clients or customers, but selling to your employees. Or, more accurately, getting your employees to buy.


And what are they buying? They’re buying your company. Your leadership. Their own job satisfaction. Loyalty, commitment, and being part of your team.


Every time you propose a new plan or make a significant change -- like choosing to partner with a professional employer organization (PEO) to handle your core benefits and payroll functions -- you need your employees to go along with you. Sometimes it’s as simple as communicating important information; sometimes you need to get them to buy in to the concept.


But what are the best ways to sell your leadership to your team, especially so that it’s comfortable for everyone?


Remember, You’re Not Selling. They’re Buying.


This might sound like a simple distinction, but it’ll make or break your efforts. No one likes a bad salesman, and they can spot one a mile away. It’s even worse when you’ve got to spend 40 hours a week with one.


Even though sales is a lynchpin of leadership, you don’t want anyone to feel like they’re being sold to. Instead, process all of your thoughts and actions as creating the conditions for your employees to buy in. What are their motivations? What are their needs? What makes their life harder, what are their pain points?


You won’t have to sell anything if your leadership consists of addressing your employees’ concerns. They’ll want to buy. That difference is everything.


It Starts With You


Your attitude will determine whether your leadership initiatives are communicated clearly and whether your employees go along for the ride. Both sales and leadership start in your own head. If you don’t think it’s going to work smoothly, it probably won’t.


Your employees need to see that you’ve sold yourself on something before they’ll commit. Who’d be eager to follow someone who lacks confidence? Arrogance and bravado are undesirable -- that’s too much -- but a little confidence goes a long way. Your belief in yourself will be obvious, and that kind of mood is contagious.


Plan and Prepare for Your Employees


Great salesmen put a ton of work into the prepping process. They outline their expectations. They detail the presentation they’ll use. They anticipate questions from the customer and make sure they know the answers.


But when it comes to selling to employees, leaders tend to sort out their thoughts, make a quick agenda, and then talk. If prep for a sales call consisted of just that, how do you think it would go?


Leaders who are serious about cultivating buy-in with employees engage in meticulous preparation. They do their research, including talking to employees and managers to get a sense of what they’ll encounter. They craft a meaningful, efficient presentation that respects their employees’ time and engages them. They do their best to position themselves to answer all questions and assuage all concerns.


Engage Your Employees


Communication is best when it’s a two-way street. Too many leaders talk to their employees rather than talk with their employees.


Think of it like a sales meeting. If you threw out a lengthy monologue and left it at that, how well would you convert? When a salesperson talks to you endlessly and you can’t seem to get a word in, how does that make you feel?


It’s not all that different when it comes to leading your employees. Encourage their active participation. Bring them into the fold and make them part of the process. Ask them questions and ask for their input and analysis.


Remember, selling probably won’t get you where you want to be -- but creating the conditions for your employees to buy will. You’ll earn a reputation for being an excellent communicator and you’ll earn the respect of employees who realize that you engage with them and put time into involving them. In short, you’ll get that much closer to being a great leader.

Rodney Steele