All Leaders Need Sales Skills

Selling is not about coercing customers or manipulating others; it is about partnering to come to a mutually agreed-upon solution. This is true of successful leaders; they use sales skills to engage people to work effectively toward common goals. Leaders are selling themselves, their ideas, and their decisions all the time.

Sales is all about building relationships and successful sales people know there are four important skills to develop:

  • Asking good questions
  • Listening to understand responses
  • Planning what to say ahead of time
  • Dealing effectively with misunderstandings

Ask Good Questions

One of the most powerful skills a leader can learn is how to ask open-ended questions that elicit information and get to the crux of a situation. Questions are also effective in maintaining control of the conversation and allowing you to achieve the desired result. Asking questions in a calm, non-confrontational way will help build relationships and show that you care. One technique for discovering how people feel, or what went wrong, is to probe; asking “why” at least five times can help you get to the real issue.

Listen with Empathy

Listening to understand what people mean and how they feel goes hand-in-hand with asking good questions. Listening with empathy is more than just active listening; individuals want to know that you have understood their viewpoint. Understanding does not mean you have to agree with their viewpoint, but that they have been heard.

Plan Communication

In any critical communication it is important to plan what you are going to say. This will allow you to focus on the delivery in a genuine, authentic way. The first step is to determine the purpose of the interaction and the desired outcome. This is critical if you anticipate a conflict.

Deal Effectively with Misunderstandings

All these skills are required to deal expeditiously with any misunderstandings in order to avoid escalation and unproductive defensive behaviours. Plan what you are going to say by clarifying your expectations, explain your understanding, and then ask for the other party’s understanding. Listen to their responses with an open mind.

It does not matter whether you are in sales or a leader building strong relationships – the skills are the same. Leaders who use these skills treat everyone with respect and build strong trusting relationships, the cornerstone in sales and leadership.


October 1, 2018

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