3 Reasons Leaders Need To Be A Salesman

August 26, 2013 — 31 Comments

When you hear the word salesman, what do you think of. The mind wanders to images such as a used car salesman, a clerk at Wal-Mart, or the kid next door hawking CutCo knives. The term salesman doesn’t get a lot of respect.

And yet every leader needs to hone their sales skills. They need to become an expert salesman to get the job done.

“How can this be?” you may ask. Truth be told, everyone is a salesperson at some point or another, Daniel Pink even sales this in his book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.

Every leader needs to be a salesman. There’s three reasons leaders need to learn to sell.

1. You have to sell the leadership vision: The vision of any organization is vital to it’s success. We must have a clear idea of where we want to go or we run the risk of perishing.

Once you’ve created your vision, you must be able to sell it to your team and get them to BUY into the vision. This means you’ve got to sell what you’ve got.

2. You have to sell your leadership ability: There are few people stepping up to be leaders. And the ones who aren’t stepping up are looking for leaders to lead them.

I know you’ve stepped into the role of leader. That’s great. It’s one of the first steps you needed to take.

Now that you’re a leader, you will have to constantly sell yourself and your ability to lead well. Practice great leadership and show them you know how to lead.

This will help them to buy into your leadership.

3. You have to sell the organization: People will take a job for the money. But that won’t keep them with the company long-term.

Leaders have to sell the organization to their team to keep them around. Let them know what the company is doing, how the company benefits their lives, and what the company can do.

When your team sees the company as more than an entity, they’re more likely to stick with it.

As you can see, sales is an important part of leadership. You can get your team to buy into the vision, into your leadership ability, and into the organization.

When you’ve combined all three, you’ll create a formidable team that’s ready to work hard and seek success.

Question: Why else is sales important in leadership? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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  • CutCo – you had to go there? Thanks, Joe.

    Selling in leadership has a lot to do with identifying and creating a sense of urgency around needs – the needs of the organization and the needs of the individual. If you can clarify for co-workers and team members the “why” and the “what” the sale becomes much easier.

    Just be sure you are selling the right solution.

    • Haha, I could have gone and said Kirby Vacuum cleaners. (-;

  • Often times I find the hardest and most crucial sale I need to make it is change. People are usually hesitant to change at first, we must be able to sell them on how change is for their best.

    • Paul, change can be a hard sell. People love the feeling of comfort and ease they’re used to. One great way to sell change is to show what the benefits will be for those involved in the change. When they begin to see it’s going to make things easier or better, change comes much easier.

  • Pingback: 3 Reasons Leaders Need To Be A Salesman – Joseph Lalonde | kwalitisme()

  • Exactly! TupperWare made selling more about social gatherings than anonymous approaches, and that’s what selling has to be like in our leadership journey.

    I started out as a pitch salesman; when I entertained people and personalized my pitch, they bought whatever I was selling– literally! I sold everything from hunting gear and accessories to the now-infamous ShamWOW all over the country. The art of the pitch– that personalization/social interaction/entertainment combo– has served me as I’ve moved into leadership. When I’m really passionate about something, the pitch crafts itself.

    • Justin, mentioning TupperWare brings up memories. My mom used to sell it and I can remember those gatherings. Companies like Lia Sophia and others have continued in that tradition and it works.

      • Did everyone’s mom sell TupperWare? Lia Sophia, Mary Kay, and the lot have continued that social selling model that endures and offers so many leadership lessons. It differs, too, from the pyramid-type sales organizations out there! A company (or a leader) who offers a product (or idea) you can believe in championed by people you know and trust will be successful time and again!

  • Joe Passkiewicz

    Sales is about influence yet ironically, most leaders do not aspire to these skills. I think that sales and relationships are the most powerful components in leadership even though they are often viewed as the softer side of the equation. It’s not what you know or who you know but how you can influence others to bring the best out of them to make the whole team successful! Thanks for the post!

    • That’s a great observation Joe. I hadn’t quite thought of it that way but sales is influence. Thanks for bringing that to the forefront!

  • Well you have to be able to see hope during the tough times and the most important one: sell yourself. People will buy your vision when they buy you. Sales and leadership is so key.

  • I think there is some amount of “sales” in self-confidence. I didn’t always believe in my self or my abilities so I had to “Sell my self on me.”

  • I’m finding it’s so much easier said than done! Being leader means being intentional, optimistic and persistent. While there are those who want us to succeed, there are also those (satan) who don’t.

    • Isn’t that the way most worthwhile things are? I find the important things are tougher than we think and we tend to push them away. You can go for and make the sale TC (-;

      • Sad but true…easier to stick to the comfortable than to push the limits and do more.

        With God’s grace, strength and so on…I’m tired 🙂

  • Laura Harris

    Sad that sales has a bad name. Hard part is staying in integrity and always doing what’s in others best interest. When that happens…all is well. Great article.

    • Yes, it is sad. There’s been too many people who have abused the sales process that everyone thinks it’s horrible. In reality, we’re all selling anyways.

  • You make an important point: we need to sell “who” we are, regardless of our position or title. Sometimes those titles are official and other times they are not. If we don’t have passion for what we’re doing or who we are, it will show itself in the way we sell what we’re doing and who we are. For me, it’s about having the passion first, and then the selling comes naturally.

    • LaRae, that’s an important part to selling: Having the passion. Without it, our selling comes off as cheesy or forced.

  • Joe, I think sometimes you have to sell yourself to yourself. By that I mean be your own number one cheerleader even on the days you don’t feel like it.

    • Fantastic observation Larry. We’re our own worst critic and it can be hard to know realize we’re spectacular.

  • Sales is a tough one for me – historically I’ve placed very little value there. However, the more I learn and study the more I realize that value is created in the sale. I now enjoy watching GOOD salesman do their thing. I don’t normally put links in posts, but I just wrote on this topic and I think it will help others interested in exploring your thoughts further. http://www.mondayisgood.com/are-you-afraid-to-sell/ Great stuff Joe!

    • There’s a lot we can learn from good salesmen. Zig Ziglar was a master and I’m not sure we could learn all he had to teach in one lifetime.

      And thanks for sharing the link. It’s great content.

  • Right on. It’s no doubt a worldview: am I serving the needs of the human I am talking to right now … or am I serving the crisp green dollar and my billfold. When I serve humanity the billfold is taken care of. When I sincerely serve humanity it clears the air, keeps pure the relationship, and simplifies life. Lovin’ it!

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head Arlen. When we take care of others, our needs are normally met as well.

  • I really resonate with #1 on your list. We need to sell our vision to our team members. When they get that, we can move forward in the same direction with more efficiency and effectiveness.

    • Thanks Jon. Helping our teams catch the vision is vastly important. How do you do that with your team?

      • Talk about it (repeatedly), and follow through on it. Share about it at department meetings. Write about it in e-mails to the team. Walk it in the halls of the office.