Use Salesmanship to Energize Your Organization
What do Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, have in common? Not only are both shrewd businessmen who have increased the net worth of their respective organizations substantially, both serve as de facto CSOs, “chief sales officers.”
Jones personally makes sales presentations to prospects interested in the luxury suites at the brand-new $1.2 billion Cowboy Stadium. During one pitch, Jones punctuated his spiel with a combination of charm and Cowboy lore. Ballmer is the relentless sales leader for Microsoft who once exhorted his sales staff so vigorously that he injured his vocal chords. Today he is more subdued, but is always pushing the Microsoft brand at conferences, media events, and to customers.
The sales techniques that make these two so successful with customers can also be used to create enthusiasm internally. Energizing an organization begins with selling the dream, and leaders need to employ some good old-fashioned salesmanship to accomplish it.
Link to aspiration. Appeal to one thing that many of us crave: legacy. Effective salesmen, and leaders, connect to people’s aspirations for something more, something bigger than themselves. If you need to generate enthusiasm for a new initiative or product launch, focus on how much better the company will be when the transformation occurs or the new product drops. Savvy leaders make it known that such good things can only occur when talented employees join together to make good things happen.
Address the negatives. There is always resistance in the sales process. From a transactional viewpoint, employees (like customers) may prefer the status quo because even if things are uncomfortable, they are known. You can’t ignore the negatives — deal with them head on. Acknowledge them and defuse them with an effective argument. Also, never over-promise.
Sometimes it’s possible to turn negatives into positives. For example, reorganizations always provoke thoughts of downsizing. Acknowledge that notion then either dismiss it because it is untrue or acknowledge its validity. Then, talk about how the reorganization will cause short-term pain in the interest of creating long-term gain like increased opportunities for individuals to maximize their skills and achieve more for themselves and the company.
Sell from the top. When employees see their leader selling to a customer, or pushing an initiative through the organization, it sends a message that no one is too big or too important to engage in salesmanship. Any member of an organization should consider selling, or more realistically, promoting the work of the company. Do this by talking up the work your organization does, what good products it makes, and how those products help make the lives of others better.
Be forewarned, however, that too much salesmanship can appear to be slickness. Avoid this by tempering your enthusiasm with periodic reality checks and remember to listen to stakeholders. It’s a part of sales process that is often overshadowed by sheer enthusiasm.
Effective salesmanship shouldn’t be confused with leadership. Salesmanship rests on persuasion; leadership is based on good example. Leaders can use sales techniques to bolster their organization, but must remember to then set an example that leads to trust.
Original post here, by John Baldoni @ Harvard Business Publishing