As I mentioned before, my story begins in February 1985. I started with straight commission sales. I bounced around for the first 7 years by either knocking on doors or making phone calls to try and set up appointments. Sometimes it took 300 phone calls in one day to try and set up 50 contacts.
In 1992 I started in the packaging world. I took over a territory that already had about $77,000 a year in established sales. But, in that industry this is almost nothing. Over the next five years, before my company got bought out, I averaged a 100% increase in sales every year. When we were bought out I left. About 66% of my sales did not go with me, but the rest did. From that I doubled again and then doubled that once more. So for my first 8 years in sales I averaged 100% each year. Seven out of those eight years were in the packaging world.
At 15 years in sales I began to think about starting my own business. I knew in order to do that I had to be ready. That readiness actually started in 1987 when I began listen to everything I could with motivational tapes. In 1987 I actually listened to 150 tapes. I actually did not turn on a radio to listen to music till 2009. I was trying to fill my mind with all the information I needed to be successful.
In 2006 I started my own sales and marketing business. At that point I began listening to more leadership and entrepreneur subjects. These included, Dave Ramsey, Michael Hyatt, Tony Robinson, John Maxwell and such. I became aware that everything in leadership is actually a sales strategy. There is very little difference between leadership and sales.
The FIRST reason it is harder to start out in sales than in leadership is the audience.
The is the main difference: The Audience. The theories, the perspective, the reasoning, these were all the same as in sales. I think that most people would not have any problems calling themselves a leader or manager, because there is clout in that title. But, most people do not want to call themselves a salesperson. This title brings to mind liars and cheaters to many.
I was listening to Michael Hyatt the other day and he said something to the effect of, “I hate to say it, but you have to sell your audience on your vision”. I thought to myself that he had the wrong definition of sales. If you have to apologize for using the word, sales, than you have the wrong definition. And, I really like Michael Hyatt.
Calling yourself a leader is easy, but to call yourself a salesperson takes humility. To be a good salesperson you are going out and helping people, not manipulating them. A salesperson must use empathetic listening. Caring about the person and their needs to get them what they want and what the need.
The idea of sales being harder than leadership comes from John Maxwell. John Maxwell is one of the premier leaders in the world. He teaches leadership. He has authored over 70 books. He has been doing this for decades. The first of his teaching that I listened to was The Five Levels of Leadership.
Level One is Postion. People must follow you do to your position. Such as you are their boss. Sales people have to step right over this one. They must go directly to level two. Because their potential clients don’t have to see them.
Level Two is Permission. This is a relationship. They follow you because they want to. This is critical in the difference between leadership and sales. In sales you just don’t get instant credibility. In sales you are adding to that company.
The SECOND reason that it is harder to start out in sales than in leadership is that prospects turning into actual clients is much harder.
So much of our electronic world makes correspondences easily ignored. Getting the correct information in front of the right person can be very difficult. Before people actually had to answer their phones to know who was on the other end. This made getting to a person a lot easier.
The key to sales is prospecting. Leadership is different than sales, because in leadership your audience is set, but in sales it is sought. That is reason number two.
The THIRD reason that starting off in sales is harder than leadership is the imperative need to connect very quickly with your client.
Time is very important. You just do not have much of it to make that connection. A manager or leader has months or years to build relationships with their audience, the employees. In sales that is not true. This is an art in sales. It takes years to figure how to do this with ease. In sales you have minutes, at best an hour, to connect with your new prospect.
Both leadership and sales are difficult, but sales is much harder to step into. But learning to have that emotional quotient, EQ, to understand people and read them quickly, is not only an art, but I finely honed skill.
I believe that great salesmen can be great leaders. But good leaders will not be great leaders until they learn to influence quickly and connect with their audience. A great salesperson has to do this immediately.