Most leaders don’t get the importance of effective salesmanship — inside their organization.
Recently, we’ve been working with a group of managers at one of Seattle’s largest companies. The focus: driving change initiatives.
What we’re finding is most of them aren’t effectively selling their projects to their troops. They want to see their projects come to fruition, and they sincerely want to lead change, but they don’t embrace the selling that’s needed.
The art of selling must be seen as foundational to the art of leadership. Why?
- If people don’t see passion from you about the change, they will doubt both the importance of the change and your ability to make it happen. And they can’t possibly get passionate about it themselves.
- Selling requires you to effectively articulate your case for change. Only when you try to sell people something do you really begin to understand why they might want to buy it — or not.
- Selling an idea shows respect for the audience. By thoughtfully and creatively presenting your idea, you signal to your audience that their support and engagement are critical.
- Selling shows you are a pragmatist — you understand that not every good idea will get support, and that there are not enough resources or band-width to get everything done. When driving change, you essentially compete for the resources needed to make your idea a reality. Go ahead — compete!
- Good selling requires you to be a good listener. When proposing an idea (or a product or a service), any good salesperson knows the value of deeply engaging with the customer’s concerns, aspirations, fears, and styles. Driving a project forward requires a deep understanding of your stakeholders. This not only helps to get your project moving, but does so in a way that strengthens relationships.
- Selling your idea is a nice way to create an “internal customer” culture, in which each person is seen as a potential or actual customer of each other person.
So, if you want to lead, sell! You can’t win people over with pure facts. They need to see your energy, your professionalism, your creativity and your commitment before they’ll jump on board.
YOUR PATH FORWARD: Think of an initiative or project you’re currently shepherding or intend to implement. Give it an engaging title, and jot down all the ways you can build enthusiasm for it. Create a presentation for your team — or with your team — to infuse some salesmanship into the effort. Then practice the presentation in front of a trusted ally(ies), and ask for honest feedback on your presentation skills.