Is Leadership really Salesmanship?

In a recent statement to the press President Obama said: “if John Boehner can sell it to his people.”
The President did not say, convince his people or negotiate with his people, he said: “If he can sell it to his people.” In other words, it not just that he agrees, or is willing to make a compromise, does he have the sales ability or salesmanship to actually get his people to buy it. This article is not intended to debate any political issues or choose sides, rather it is intended to take a look at salesmanship and how it is an essential leadership skill.
Some politicians are referred to as slick, smooth, or glib, and many salespeople are referred to the same way. As any sales manager will tell you, the sale does not go to the slickest, but to the best prepared and the most customer-focused. Every sales training program is filled with systems to prepare the salesperson for the sale. The same is true for leaders, employees know when someone is just going through the motions, or has not given any thought to how a new plan affects them, or giving them a “sales Job”
You can have the best leadership ideas in the world, but if your employees do not buy in, it is not going to happen. Employees are just like customers they want to believe that you have their best interest at heart and they are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt the first time.
Employees actually want to buy into new ideas and new ways to do things, but they don’t want to be sold unreasonable demands, or rehashed old ideas presented in a clever new way. As sales speaker “Jeffrey Gitomer” is fond of saying: “No one wants to be sold but everyone wants to buy.”
So, how do you sell your ideas without your employees feeling like they are being sold or even worse – sold out?
Here are three salesmanship principals that apply to leadership.
Number one, be honest.
As trite as it sounds telling the truth goes a long way in making a sale and it goes an even longer way in keeping a sale. The inevitability is that your customer will find out you lied and so will your employees. A customer may choose to confront you or never buy from you again if you are caught lying to them. An employee will simply find ways to work around you if they can’t trust you.
Number two, believe in what you are selling.
I like it when a salesperson’s optimism for his or her product is almost infectious; I almost want to help them sell me. Employees who see you are excited by a well thought idea can’t wait to jump on board and are willing to bring other employees with them.
Number three, know your competition.
You can’t just know your product inside and out, you have to know your competitors product as well. You can be honest, and you can believe in what you are selling, but if it is not competitive or is deemed irrelevant, you will not make the sale. The same with your employees, they know competition can make or break them, they know how fast your market is changing. So be prepared to give them the facts and figures to back up your strategy.
So, as you crunch the numbers, develop a new model and prepare to send out the word, don’t forget the most important part of the process, salesmanship.