The Sales Management Specialists

Friday, 26 June 2015

Leadership skills for sales professionals

Recently I participated in an excellent Australian Institute of Human Resources Webinar lead by Kim Seeling Smith (http://igniteglobal.com/speaking/about-kim-seeling-smith-keynote-speaker/) who talked about modern HR practices.

You may wonder why a sales professional would be interested in an HR presentation? The answer is that we become de facto leaders for our clients. The role of a leader is to:

  • Listen;
  • Coach;
  • Motivate;
  • Empathise;
  • Set and agree plans of action; and
  • Help achieve the outcomes.
Sound familiar? As sales professionals, this is what we do to understand our client’s needs and wants, and develop and progress solutions to help them achieve these.

We are not our client’s formal leaders and have no authority with the client. In leadership, authority is a bonus, not a requirement. HR knowledge is, therefore, an important skill for us to have.

During Kim’s presentation, she talked about the importance of successful leadership of ensuring that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. In sales, we must understand our client’s purchasing processes and how we can assist them to navigate these processes. Our roles need to be clear to our clients; we are there to support them in solving a business problem.

In sales speak, we want to be a strategic advisor to our clients, as distinct from the sales guy who competes on price alone. To get to this strategic advisor level, you need to use and tailor your leadership skills. We learn early in our sales careers the need to communicate in the language of our clients as otherwise, we do not give the client fair opportunity to express their needs. As sales professionals, we need to modify our leadership approach and style with clients and be cognizant not only of their organisational, cultural and personal needs, but also of their generational expectations.

During a sale of networking equipment to a large oil and gas company, it was clear that the client was struggling to verbalise the benefits of high-end networking equipment to his oil and gas trained “C” level peers. 

Using leadership skills, the client was coached in how to present these benefits. In conjunction with the client, a plan was developed to help him develop and execute the internal sales strategy. The result was successfully closing this deal, and subsequently becoming the sole IT supplier to the organisation. This occurred as a result of being the strategic advisor to the client and the opportunity to do so came from applying effective leadership skills.

Take some time out in your day to have a look at leadership and HR articles. The AHRI is a great source of easy to read digest knowledge (www.ahri.com.au). Otherwise, come along to a Growth in Focus sales training course where you will learn about how to position yourself as being the strategic advisor to your clients (http://www.gifocus.com.au/academy).


David Black BBus MBA GAICD FAIM
Growth in Focus Pty Ltd


About David

David leads our Consulting Sales and Sales Tools team, bringing more than 25 years of experience to each client. With more than 25 years sales and management experience. His expertise is within many industry sectors including Mining, Oil & Gas, Utilities, Finance and State and Federal Government sectors. 


David has held sales roles in include Denver Technology, Ajilon Australia, Datacom Systems, NEC, Permeance Technologies and Yenem Engineering Services.