Top Managers are Good Salespeople

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top managers

Motivating employees helps them excel and exceed expectations

It is often said that good salespeople do not always make good managers. As a sales director and publisher, I’ve found this to be true. However, I do believe all good managers must be good salespeople.

I came up through the sales ranks in my career to land as a publisher. More often than not, I have relied on my sales skills to motivate and engage my teams. In leadership positions, as in sales, you must be passionate about your subject. To truly engage, you must transfer that enthusiasm to your team or customer; know your product inside and out, and be able to explain the bigger picture; and be well-versed in how it all comes together.

I have always felt that for anyone to trust and follow me, it is essential to have my facts correct and to use data to maintain credibility. I also am a strong believer in leading by example. It is rare that anyone who works for me has not been engaged in a hands-on way. If I say, “Let’s get our hands dirty together,” it always makes for a better result.

Anyone who has children understands that one of the best ways to get them to follow you is to sell them on the idea or the required behavior by appealing to their head, heart and hands. By using all these parenting tools, I get results in my household every time.

Great Leaders Get Results

A great leader is a good salesperson at heart, according to Paul B. Thornton, author, management trainer and motivational speaker. Whether it’s a CEO, coach or manager responsible for motivating others, great leaders must sell ideas to shareholders, players and staff.

If an organization’s leadership isn’t constantly persuading the rest of the team to buy into an idea or a philosophy, the team is likely to splinter in different directions, said Thornton, professor of business administration at Springfield Technical Community College in Massachusetts. “Just barking orders doesn’t always get the job done,” he emphasized.

“Leaders don’t always have formal authority or positional power to compel people to do what they want done,” said Thornton, author of Precise Leaders Get Results. “In many situations, they need to persuade, convince and sell people on their ideas.”

To successfully influence others, leaders must tap into the strongest emotions an audience or individual is feeling in the moment, said Thornton, who has conducted leadership training programs for thousands of supervisors and managers. People are always thinking, so it’s important to appeal to their heads, hearts and hands, he said.

Having the right mix of facts, emotional appeals and involvement helps sell ideas and proposals. Once leaders have made their pitch, they need to close the deal by asking for commitments about what is being proposed.

Thornton makes these recommendations:

The head: Leaders can persuade people through rational arguments, including market research, customer surveys and case studies. They also should highlight the business benefits of ideas and how they will help employees. In some situations, it helps to explain the consequences of not changing.

The heart: This is an appeal to emotions. People change their behavior when doing so makes them feel better. The leader should connect to their need for status, order, honor, security and purpose. Engage employees’ hearts by making them feel they are part of something big and special.

The hands: This is persuasion through direct involvement. Give employees something to experience viscerally. This can be accomplished through demonstrations that help people experience the value and benefits of a particular idea or innovation.

I believe that if you learn to lead in this fashion, you and your team will enjoy the process so much more. You will build stronger rapport with your employees and everyone comes out a winner.

Engage the Team, Clients Will Follow

Managers who instinctively know how to lead are more likely to engage with their teams naturally. That’s the conclusion from Jake Herway and Jeremy Pietrocini.

In their online column for Gallup, “4 Steps to Creating Engagement Every Day,” Herway and Pietrocini report that engaged teams outperform unmotivated teams by an average of 20 percent in sales.

Herway and Pietrocini cite a Gallup Q Employee Engagement assessment, which reported that 87 percent of employees polled said they were not engaged at work.

The authors list four crucial steps for top managers to engage their teams.

Clarify expectations: Groups should be able to collectively answer these questions: Why does the team exist? What do we want to be known for? What do we need to change in order to fulfill our purpose and “live” our brand?

Recognize unique strengths: Teams that collectively review their strengths are better equipped to positively influence one another, which leads to needed changes, greater prioritizing and success.

Arrange activities to help teams succeed: The authors offer an example of one employee who was better at researching and analyzing client portfolios while a co-worker excelled at resolving client issues. “So they partnered,” the authors wrote. “She took his client complaints; he helped her with portfolio reviews.”

Focus on what all team members need to succeed: When team members have a firm grasp of what’s expected of them from their managers, they are better prepared to collaborate and share knowledge, resources and skills.