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Rule 5: Start with a Leader's Perspective

What can you do as a sales professional to be sure you will succeed consistently over time? There is a principle to start with that we will examine in this chapter.

The Sales Leadership Principle

Sales leaders rely on individual qualities of success to lead their organizations in developing innovative customer solutions. The model described here has three parts, each part of sales leadership success building on the earlier one. Sales is a matter of serving customers. Leadership is a matter of serving colleagues (employees or other team members). Success is a matter of being of service to our families, our communities, and ourselves. To stand out in sales, you need skills, knowledge, and talent. But you also must be able to influence the customer, your organization, and the people who support you. That requires leadership. To be a great leader, you need to build on a solid base of individual success. The top row in figure 5 shows each part of the performance process. The bottom row shows the people who benefit.

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Figure 5

Sales leaders engage people to go in new directions at levels beyond what they thought possible, and do it with consistent performance. Sales leaders become exceptional by continually striving to learn and develop, to break through their own limits. Leaders encourage change. They are the catalysts for inspiring other people to rise above their limits, to rise to meet a challenge and do more than they thought possible. The first step to breaking through limits is to see a vision of what is possible, believe it can be achieved, and then believe in the people who must make it a reality. Sales leaders envision such breakthroughs for their customers. They get their organizations as excited as they are about the possibilities of delivering innovative solutions that address customer problems. They line up support to implement the solution and work to prevent or correct any implementation problems that occur. This is how sales leaders are able to deliver high-value, innovative customer solutions.

Sales Leadership Success Starts with Individual Qualities of Success

To be a great leader, you have to build on individual qualities of success. Let's test this principle. To be a person with individual qualities of success, you have to possess strength of character—integrity (doing what you say), identity (knowing your strengths), and values that allow you to model the behaviors of success you expect from others. You have to overcome potential or real weaknesses that can detour your success. For example, think of someone who has a strong product or technical background but who is not comfortable in managing relationships. That may be a limitation depending on how often the person must be involved with others. While everyone doesn't need to possess every possible quality, people often stand out because they excel in one or two character traits that others come to know and trust them for.

Strong leaders have a solid understanding of themselves. They have a firm grip on such areas as self-awareness, self-discipline, self-confidence, self-development, and self-control. To lead others to greatness, start with a foundation of personal success.

To Be an Outstanding Sales Professional, You Will Influence Others

A leader is someone who inspires others to action rather than forcing them into it. People who rely on position, threats, or manipulation may get what they want in the short term, but they will burn too many bridges to be around for the long term. Outstanding salespeople develop relationships with customers. The exceptional sales leader is often called upon to influence his or her organization to go beyond established routines and accepted practices, products, or services to meet customer needs. Exceptional sales leaders are able to get internal staff (marketing, IT, accounting, design, support, and so on) to provide outstanding service to their customers because they provide outstanding service to their internal staff. They treat them with respect, don't ask them to do anything they wouldn't do themselves, and recognize their expertise. When problems arise, the inside staff will go the extra mile for the sales leader who goes the extra mile for them and recognizes their efforts.

Look for the Win-Win-Win Solution

An outstanding salesperson helps customers take advantage of opportunities in a win-win-win approach (a win for the customer, a win for the salesperson, a win for the salesperson's company). Exceptional sales leaders do not accept the status quo without question, but look at things the way they are and question why they shouldn't or couldn't be better. To be able to sell effectively, you must be able to influence the customer and others. Some salespeople are more interested in what they have to sell than what the customer wants to buy. It's not easy putting your interests aside in favor of the customer's, especially when you're excited about what you offer or focused on how much money the sale is worth.

Begin at the Beginning

The limits to our success lie within us. Because they do, we can conquer those limits by understanding what they are and compensating for them. A leader builds on a base of individual strengths. A leader inspires others to action, getting them to make decisions or resolve problems when necessary. Exceptional sales leaders draw on sales skills and leadership abilities to deliver innovative solutions to customers and their organizations.

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